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You may have typed “The End” on your completed short story—but at Writer’s Relief, we know that sometimes the story is actually just beginning.
After spinning your tale in 3,500 words or fewer, it’s time to proofread and edit. And as you reread your short story, you may find yourself thinking: Hmmmm…this might make a great novel!
But how do you know if your short story is really ready to be expanded to novel length?
Signs Your Short Story Could Be Developed Into A Novel
A large cast of characters. If your story has five, six, seven, or even more characters, it will be easier for you to turn it into a novel. Or, you may not have many characters in the short story, but you can easily see the potential for adding more. Just keep in mind: only add characters who will contribute to the story, not detract from it. If a new character is just rehashing another character’s struggle, you may want to reconsider including that character in your plot.
Of course, there are novels that have fewer characters, but having more makes your job easier.
Potential for multiple subplots. If your short story has more than one major theme or storyline threading its way throughout, you might have something on your hands that could make a good novel. Consider what backstories or additional subplots you might organically add to increase the scope of your story.
A detailed world. The setting for your story may have the potential to become almost a “character” in its own right. Are there more places for your characters to discover? Explore the world you’ve created to see if, with a bit more detail and expansion, it can support a novel.
Readers ask for more! If people are reading your short story and telling you they “wish it didn’t end,” then listen to them! That’s a very good sign that a novel born out of the story will also be something your readers love.
The story seems like a great beginning. Is your short story all wrapped up in a neat bow and completely resolved by the end—or are there more places that your protagonist could go, and more action ahead? If so, your short story could become the beginning of a novel, or a prequel to the “main” action. Search your plot for elements that could benefit from more elaboration or conflicts that can be changed to further the key themes.
Or, the story could be a great resolution. Maybe your short story feels final and settled. Everything has come to a satisfying conclusion. But what might have happened before your short story opened? You still may have the good “start” of a novel…it just might be that you’ve started at the end!
A sizeable timeline. If your short story spans years, decades, or even centuries—or has the potential to—you have plenty of opportunities available to dive deeper between the scenes and write more about what’s happening. What other driving events could have occurred that will affect your story’s outcome? When you lengthen the timeline, you’ll have the ability to fill in more of the blanks in the action and in your characters’ lives.
You feel like you have more to say. Even though your polished short story seems complete, you still feel you have more to say about the characters, the setting, or the conflict. If you still feel committed to your story and your characters, you may have the makings of a novel on your hands.
Sometimes A Story Is A Good Short Story
Not all short stories should be expanded into novels. With short fiction, your goal is to tell a story concisely. On the other hand, a novel often involves using about twenty-five times the number of words found in a typical short story. So if you don’t see the signs of a novel in your story, the best thing to do is keep it short and sweet.
Question: Have you ever considered expanding a short story into a novel? What elements of your short story seemed to suggest the potential for a novel?