If It’s Good Enough for Edgar Allen Poe, Then It’s Good Enough for Me!
Edgar Allen Poe is a respected writer and reviewer. He is considered the originator of the short story (short prose narrative) genre. In his essay, “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846), Poe explains that short stories, a fictional work of prose, should be read in one sitting.
In Poe’s “Review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales” (1842), Poe claimed the following about the proper length of a short story:
"We allude to the short prose narrative, requiring from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal.” -- Edgar Allen Poe
Short Stories Keep Me Occupied While Waiting
My attraction to reading short stories stem from being able to read a story from beginning to end while sitting and waiting – at the doctor’s office, at the dentist’s office, at the airport waiting for a flight or during the flight. I enjoy being able to pick up a book, read it from cover to cover, and then put it down -- being done with it before the nurse calls my name or before the airport attendant calls for boarding. As I am attracted to reading short stories, I am equally attracted to writing short stories.
Short stories are, well… short.
A short story usually has a single event with one or two characters. Every sentence matters. A good writer moves the reader toward the end of the story succinctly, without a lot of fluff.
While there are no hard and fast rules for determining the length of short stories, generally short stories are anywhere from 3000 words to about 10,000 words. Some scholars suggest that a short story can be as long as 20,000 words. Any longer than 20,000 words, the story edges into the Novella (a short novel) category.
Average Reading Level
Reading experts have determined that the average person has an eighth grade reading level, and according to a Staples study, the average person reads about 250 words per minute.
Based on the average reading level, a short story can be read in a period as short as twelve minutes to an hour and twenty minutes.
Are You an Average Reader?
Try it! I did it! It's quick, easy, and informative.
I enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing. Writers who inspire me the most are the writers who are well-known for their short stories. I admire such writers as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, E.T.A. Hoffmann, O. Henry, and Edgar Allan Poe. The majority of these writers devoted their writing time exclusively to the short story genre.
Keeping it Short
One day, I aspire to write a novel. But, for now, I shall write what my heart desires – short stories. My first attempt at writing and publishing short stories was a success (in my mind, anyway). If you get a chance, please read my first short story book titled, “The Mountain of Love” and tell me what you think about it. According to the Staples Reading Survey, if you are an average reader, you should be able to read the book in approximately 32 minutes.
Sources of Information:
Wikisource – Hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikisource is an online digital library which consists of free content. I used this source to obtain a copy of Edgar Allen Poe's Review of The Philosophy of Composition (1846).
Eldritch Press – Eldritch Press is a resource for accessing free online books. I used this source to obtain a copy of Edgar Allen Poe's Review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales (1842).
Staples -- Staples is a US office supply chain store with a fun tool to help e-Readers see how fast they can read a novel from cover to cover. I used this source to obtain the Staples eReader app.