short story. A fictional prose tale of no specified length, but too short to be published as a volume on its own, as novellas sometimes and novels usually are. A short story will normally concentrate on a single event with only one or two characters, more economically than novel's sustained exploration of social background. There are similar fictional forms of greater antiquity—fables, lais, folktales, and parables—but the short story as we know it flourished in the magazines of the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in the USA, which has a particularly strong tradition. [Baldick 1990]