When Lill mentioned the topic for this month I was a bit happy, to say the least. What are the chances that she would pick the same topic I gave a talk on back in February? Pretty cool.
So what are the differences between short stories and long ones? Let's start with the similarities.
1. They're both stories with a plot and characters.
2. They need character development.
3. Sentence structure has to make sense. Just b/c you have a short story doesn't mean you get to scrimp on the basics.
Moving on to some differences that make short stories stand out.
1. It helps in a romantic short story if the characters know each other, although this is not always necessary. This is b/c you don't have as long to write about them so the conflict needs to be up front. My shorts break this rule. :)
2. Use well known assumptions, like in my short story there is a ranch. Now we all either know about ranches, or think we know about ranches. But if the ranch was set on Pluto we'd have to describe much more about ranching on Pluto than we would if the ranch was in Texas. Which is fine in a longer novel, but might take too long to describe how it works in a short story. Now, I'm not saying that you can't have your ranch in your short story on Pluto, just saying it might take longer to describe.
3. Can't have many plots b/c you don't have time to explore them all.
There are plenty of examples outside of romance of short stories. For instance: Edgar Allen Poe; O'Henry; my favorite in high school was The Chaser by John Collier; and fables, or stories with morals. Here's a great morality story:
The teacher gave her 5th grade class an assignment: Get their parents to tell them a story with a moral at the end of it. The next day the kids came back and one by one started to tell their stories. The teacher was pretty bored until they came to Tony.
"Tony, do you have a story?"
"Yes, ma'am. My daddy told a story about my Aunt Karen. She was a pilot in Desert Storm and her plane got hit. She had to bail out over enemy territory and all she had was a flask of whiskey, a pistol and a survival knife. She drank the whiskey on the way down so the flask wouldn't break and then her parachute landed right in the middle of enemy troops. She shot fifteen of them with the gun until it ran out of bullets, killed four more with the knife until the blade broke and then she killed the last one with her bare hands."
"Good heavens!" said the horrified teacher. "What kind of moral did your daddy tell you from this horrible story?"
"Don't mess with Aunt Karen when she's been drinking."
Whichever kind of story you write, have fun with it!