Should Short Stories Include Big Character Changes?

headshotJacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty published short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder. To find out more, visit her website at



Pet Sychic Valentine FlattenedI was writing a Pet Psychic short story for St. Valentine’s Day. It seemed like the perfect time to have Bowers propose to Frankie, but I wondered if that would be fair to readers of the series. On one hand, it would encourage people to keep up with the shorts. On the other hand, not everyone enjoys shorter fiction, so they might be confused when they picked up the next novel.

I’d run into this problem before with a Harlow Brothers short mystery, also involving a romantic situation.

In both cases, I took out the big changes and will use them in future novels. Did I do right? Should I have gone with what felt natural?  In the Pet Psychic instance, I’ve thought of ways to incorporate the proposal in a more creative environment, so maybe my concerns about including a marriage proposal in a St. Valentine’s story came from my creative muse.

So, I am curious. Do you think the short stories in between novels should include major changes to the character’s life? Or should those only appear in the novels?

6 thoughts on “Should Short Stories Include Big Character Changes?”

  1. So far, I’ve used totally different characters and story lines in my short stories than in my novels. But I’m thinking about taking some minor characters from my novels and featuring them in short stories. I’m also thinking of a “prequel” short story where I show how a couple of the main characters in my novels met and began their relationships. But these stories would stand alone from my novels. I think I would keep major life changes only in the novels. Like you said, not everyone reads short fiction.


  2. Do you know whether those who read your novels also read your short stories? If they’re pretty much the same readership, it might not matter where you make major changes. But in general, my preference would be to save big changes for novels where more background and explanation would be easier to include.


  3. The long and the short of it… Since the short story can (and should) stand alone, you can handle it any way you wish. Fans of your novels (of which I am one) should enjoy both versions. If you think the novel reader won’t read the short story, you can still make mention of the new plot additions in the next novel. Frankie can explain to a friend or relative what happened to bring them up to speed and then continue with the novel story. I have actually linked my characters in all three of my detective series and even my spy novels to one another. They all know each other. I even make mention of characters in other stand alone novels to these folks. It’s their world. And it’s your world. You can do what works for you.


  4. Interesting topic for thought, Jackie. I’ve half started some short stories for a new protagonist I want to write a book about and I think developing the characters (in my mind at least)–but do intend to finish shorts one day! You’ve gotten me thinking…


  5. I agree it’s better to keep short stories as stand-alones and save the major developments for the novel. That advice is echoed by ‎Jerry Siegel‎ and ‎Joe Shuster, creators of Superman. All side stories were relegated to special editions or the Lois Lane/Jimmy Olsen comics. Just saying.


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