Before you read this blog post, please take the time to read The Lottery if you have not already. It takes only a few minutes to read and you will not regret the time spent, I promise you.
In one of my previous posts, Are short stories content? Or filler?, some rather interesting comments about short stories were made. James Everington said, "Would 'The Lottery' by Shirley Jackson be six times better if it was six times the length?" Shana Hammaker later commented, "I think I was in the seventh grade when I was required to read that, and I'll never forget how I felt when I finished it: horrified, nauseous, and really, really excited."
James' observation really stuck with me. Like Shana, I had to read The Lottery when I was in high school. That was the first short story that I had ever read. Before reading that story I no idea that I had a taste for stories with slightly twisted endings. Even though his question was rhetorical, my answer is that The Lottery is the perfect length.
Shana pointed out, "There just isn't a better example of a perfectly encapsulated short story than The Lottery." I totally agree with that. So many authors these days set this arbitrary cap on how long a short story has to be before they would consider publishing it as a standalone story. Even worse, readers will thrash a short story because of its length alone; regardless of whether or not they enjoyed reading it.
The Lottery is 3,773 words long. That's about 2,000 words shy of what a lot of authors consider to be "appropriate" short story length. And yet, Jackson's story is one of the most famous in the genre. Would it have been better if it was a 22,638 word novella? Personally, I think it would have been worse. Some stories are more effectively told in fewer words.