The difference between an essay and a story.

Literary genres, despite the abundance of characteristic features, do not have strictly and clearly defined boundaries. The creative process even ignores these dotted lines, or even self-confidently erases. Sometimes it is almost impossible to determine how an essay differs from a story or an essay: Turgenev wrote his "Notes of a Hunter" more than a century ago, and literary critics are still arguing about the genre.


Story is a genre of short narrative prose, characterized by a small volume, a limited number of characters and a single storyline. Has, as a rule, a strict composition.

Literary essay is considered a subspecies of the story and is often contrasted with the novella. It is characterized by the absence of acute conflict and large-scale descriptiveness, as well as by a wide range of used visual artistic means.

With the development of periodicals, an essay appeared, called a newspaper. When magazines became a platform for discussing socio-political issues, it was at this point that artistic and journalistic genres blended. The difference between an essay and a story in this context is especially pronounced.


An essay is always characterized by the presence of a clear, pronounced author's attitude to the problem or heroes raised. In the story, the author is emphatically neutral, and his personal opinion is reflected in detail through the chosen artistic means.

The story as a genre leaves the author with the right to fiction, even if the plot is based on a real story. The literary essay is more documentary, its characters interact with the writer in life. Publicistic essay implies a minimum of deviations from the factual material. The novelist can retell events from the words of a third person, while the essayist speaks only of what (or those) that he personally witnessed.

The composition of both artistic and journalistic essays can be free to the extent that the author's idea allows it. The story, however, has a clear structure in accordance with one of the types. Thus, O. Henry in his short stories preferred a hinged one (according to Weller's classification), when the event defining the culmination of the text is removed from the text and revealed only in the finale. Any essay is more of a narrative and descriptive character, while a story must have a dynamic plot. An artistic sketch may not have one at all: in a similar way, for example, everyday life and moral descriptions are built.

The story can cover a significant time period, interrupt it arbitrarily, include descriptions of past events. An essay is characterized by focusing on a short period of time. The place of action in the story can be conditional or constantly change, following the plot, while the essay is locally limited.

In the process of determining what is the difference between an essay and a story, some researchers mistakenly endow the images of the first with specificity, and the second with typing. This opinion is based on the relationship of the genre with the documentary base. In fact, it is the images of a fictional sketch that are typical - otherwise the narrative would be completely uninteresting to the reader.

In the story, the author's rate is placed on a pronounced conflict and psychologism, and it is unacceptable to overload the plot with details, inquiries, reflections and digressions. The essay allows the writer to roam about in this respect; journalistic (depending on the stated topic) contains elements of large-scale research, includes reference and statistical information, answers questions.

The gradation of literary genres is rather arbitrary, and therefore it is much more pleasant to understand the differences between an essay and a story when reading them. Take "Evening was..." by Galina Shcherbakova and "Debt" by Inna Rudenko, "One-story America" ​​by Ilf and Petrov and "Voice of the Big City" by O. Henry - and no darkness of theory.


Essay Story
Genre at the junction of fiction and journalismGenre of fiction
Based on factual material, largely documentaryAllows fiction
Expressed author's attitude to the phenomenon, problem or charactersNeutral author's position
Free compositionClear structure
Lack of a dynamically developing plotA sharp conflict, completed storyline
The action is localized, a short time period is describedAble to cover a significant time period, the action can be transferred
It can contain reference and statistical information, a large number of detailsphysical method