Which do you prefer? Short stories? Or full-length novels?
Far and away, I read novels more than short stories—though I’ve got a few collections on my shelves (two are Persephones—Dimanche and Other Stories, and Good Evening Mrs. Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes. And there are a few stories that I’ve read that have stayed with me for a long time ("The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates are standouts in my mind).
However, I think the reason why I read novels more, and why a lot of people choose to do so, is that there’s a lot more room in novels (and even novellas) for character development.
This is actually an apropos question to ask this week, as I’ve been reading another Persephone, a full-length novel called The Crowded Street. While the novel is about spinsters and their place in society, there’s a scene where the main character, Muriel, is having a discussion with another about short stories. Here’s the exchange they have:
Martin Elliott: “Don’t you think about the books in most circulating libraries that they are nearly all the wrong way round. Short stories with happy endings and long stories with sad ones. Quite wrong.”
Muriel: “Why that?”
Martin Elliott: “Ah, surely, the short story should end with tragedy, for only sorrow swoops upon you with a sudden blow. But happiness is built up from long years of small delightful things. You can’t put them into a short story.” (p. 115)