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I have just started working on a collection of short stories that I may or may not attempt to publish in the future (it is currently a side project while waiting for agents to reply to my novel queries). To keep my ideas straight, I have organized them into ten stories, of which two are complete.

While these stories are connected by genre (sci-fi) and setting (the same galaxy, planets, technology, etc.), they vary greatly in terms of characters and "concepts". While most are in the same viewpoint style as my main novel (third-person limited, present tense), the concepts for some suggest a different style may be needed, such as a character's journal entry (first-person, past tense), or a story about a mysterious character whose name cannot be stated (first-person, present tense).

I have researched both coherency within short story collections and changing viewpoint styles within novels. I am aware that changing viewpoint styles like this within a single novel is rare, if not difficult to make work. Furthermore, while my collection shares the connecting threads of genre and setting, I do not know if different viewpoint styles will disrupt the stories too much to fit well together in the same collection.

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  • Read "The Cloud Atlas". You have nothing to worry about in regard to POV.
    – Erk
    Dec 29, 2023 at 13:24

2 Answers 2

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Changing the viewpoint between short stories in a collection, both style and POV, is fine. It would be expected that a set of short stories wouldn't all be told by the same character. As long as the stories are written well, changing the style and the voice and the tense and the narrator is a don't care.

For collected stories, all set in the same universe, re-using characters between stories can be helpful. Minor characters in some stories can be major characters in other stories. If you are going to change the tense between the stories, an interesting idea is to include references to common events in the stories. For instance, John dies in one story, but is alive in a different story, while in other stories John died years ago. This approach can help cement the temporal relationships between the stories and establish that lived-in feeling that is so hard to create in short stories. Common events can do some of the heavy lifting needed to make the worlds feel more real.

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A collection of short stories is just that: a collection. It is disparate to some extent by definition. A collection of short stories is not a novel.

Usually collections of short stories are not completely random. They have some unifying principle that includes some stories and excludes others. This principle can be thematic (e.g. feminist urban fantasy), historical (e.g. 19th century criminal fiction), regional (e.g. writers from Baltimore), place of publication (e.g. the best stories from Playboy), and so on and so forth. In your case, the criterion for inclusion is the author: all stories are written by you.

But within this category, the stories in a short story collection must be as different as possible. Because the main selling point of short story collections is that they are:

  • similar in some way and
  • different in another.

Readers who buy short story collections usually want different takes on the same subject. They buy a collection because they are interested in the unifying principle (the theme, the historic context, the region, or the author), and they want variety within that frame. People who want one consistend unvarying kind of story don't buy short story collections. They buy novels where they can immerse themselves in more of the same for many pages.

There are novels that are made up of different textual parts in different styles. For example, Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin appears to be a collection of stories, rituals, poems, and the commentary by an ethnologist. It is unclear from your question whether your stories are completely unrelated (except being set in the same universe) or if they form different parts of a larger story. Both is possible.

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