How to Write a Short Story

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How to Write a Short Story

Say you need to write a short story for a school project, or you want to write a short story just to unleash your creative potential.  You have your inspiration, you have your characters, and you have just about everything you need, except that you don’t know how to write the story down.  Here are ways and tips that can help you write a short story.

Structure of the Story

There is no one way to write a short story, but it helps to have a structure to make writing your story more convenient.  Think of the structure as the “frame” or “skeleton” where you fill in the details with plots, characters, and other events that make up your short story.

A typical short story follows the same pattern of a dramatic sequence:

  • The exposition provides an introduction to your story.  Here you can introduce some characters, describe the setting, and provide a background to the events that will take place in your story.
  • The rising action narrates the pace of the story as it reaches its turning point.  Here you can provide some conflicts, use plot devices, or write down the story as it goes along.
  • The climax is the turning point of the story.  Think of the climax as the height of the story, where you draw out emotions and impressions from the reader.
  • The falling action is where the story winds down, and gives the reader an idea of how the conflict is resolved in the story.
  • The resolution, also called the dénouement, is where the story ends.  You can opt to give your story a happy ending or a sad ending, although some authors prefer not to give their short story an ending at all.

Make It Simple and Interesting

There’s a saying among writers that goes, “Write to express, and not to impress.”  Unlike novels, a short story is meant to be read quickly, but land a lasting impression on the reader’s imagination.  Avoid using long sentences and complicated words.  Always simplify your sentences and phrases; if there’s a way to simplify the thought, then you should always go for the simpler choice.

Just because you’re keeping things simple doesn’t mean that your story should sound childish.  While you’re not out to make life-changing epiphanies, your story should be meaningful enough to land a lasting impression on whoever reads it.  Keep the plot straightforward, but at the same time give your readers the room to think about your story.

Maintain Focus

It’s often easier to write a long story or a novel than to write a short story.  You may feel the urge to cram as many details about events and characters into your story, to the point that your story becomes longer than expected.  Think of a simple short story as an action-packed narrative of a single episode; instead of cramming in details about events and characters, you should focus on one or two events surrounding one or two characters.

When writing your short story, focus on the plot, the conflict, and how it is resolved.  Don’t allow yourself to wander off into too many directions; your story should be tight, concise, and descriptive.  If it’s your first time to write a short story, it may help to focus on only one plot thread.  Remember that even the most experienced short story writers are very challenged when forced to work with two plot threads in a single story.

Whether you want to express thoughts or experiences, or if you’re filing applications for a short story-writing contest, these tips should help you write your story the way you best want to express it.