A fictional prose narrative is what we can say about a short story. It usually has a single incident, a single plot & deals with only a few characters. Edgar Allan Poe a short story as the one that can be read in one sitting of half an hour or two hours. It differs from anecdote in its use of plot.
A short story is focused on a single plot expressed with a few significant scenes or episodes unlike a novel the has a plot that revolves around multiply characters also has sub plots. It gives us a realistic portrayal of characters & excludes any aspects of a complex plot, encouraging a setting the supports concise narrative.
The history of short story can be traced back to oral story-telling tradition, which we loved when our grandma used to tell a story to us. The art of story telling perhaps rose out of human curiosity. Early human beings narrated tales of hunting or story gods & demons to one another. To aid himself in constructing or memorising tales, the early story teller often relied on colloquial phrases, fixed rhythm & rhyme. The very reason why oldest narrative are mostly verses. Tales, fables, anecdotes, parables, etc., were thus transmitted by word of mouth from one generation to another generation to the next.
Some of the earliest examples of such narratives are: the Egyptian tales – The Shipwrecked Sailor & The Two Brothers; the famous Babylonian tale, the Epic of Gilgamesh (also considered as one of the earliest surviving epic poems) & the earliest narratives from India, like The Jataka Tales (a collection of stories of Buddha’s earlier births) & Panchatantra Tales (a collection of tales about animals with moral in the end). These, along with the Aesop’s Fables, stories in the Bible & the tales from the Arabian Nights, are considered as the primogenitor of the short story.
During the beginning of the 2nd, 3rd & 4th centuries BC, the Hebrews first wrote down some of their narratives which are now a part of the Old Testament. Nearly all the ancient tales are didactic & presents an ideal for the readers to imitate. Exemplum, a widely respected ancient writing form; straitlaced tale usually intended to dramatize or otherwise instigate model behaviour.
In Europe, the story telling tradition began to develop into written stories in the 14th century, most notably with Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales & Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. Both books composed of the short stories having humorous anecdotes to well-crafted literary fiction. Short stories were very popular in middle ages.