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Short Story Writing

Short Story Writing


It is important to note the word count when writing your short story. In his book, Short Story Writing: A Practical Treatise on the Art of The Short Story, Barrett describes a short story as being less than 30,000 words, although he states that being below 10,000 words is more common. Typically, short stories will reside between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Many short stories break these bounds but it is important to note nonetheless (Barrett, 2007).



When writing a short story you must identify the plot. What do you want your story to be about and how do you want the story to progress? In short stories, the plot will most likely be much smaller than in a longer piece. Identify where you want your story to begin and end or if there is a particular event you want your story to be about. It will be difficult in a short story to provide a lot of background information or world-building so it may be easier to start with a scene and build off of it.

Another important aspect of the plot you may want to consider is the climax. The story needs an event to build up to and then be relieved of. The climax will usually come at the end of the story followed by a conclusion. In short stories, the climax may be more abstract compared to a longer work. In longer stories, there is more time to build up to an event. Regardless, building up to a climax can greatly help your story feel complete and also be pleasing to readers (Barrett, 2007).



Who is your story going to follow? Short stories are special in that they can convey a message or emotion in a short amount of time. They can leave a lasting impression on the reader. To do this the character(s) need to be strong and defined. The reader needs to be able to connect with the character(s) in the story and understand who they are. You will need to include a lot of detail when describing your character(s) and show how they react to different situations. Be creative about how you describe your character(s)---don't dump all the details at once. You may be able to slowly introduce details of the character(s) throughout the story (Smith, 2008). 

When describing a character(s) personality, something to keep in mind is the idea of showing rather than telling. You can show how a character chooses to react to a situation to give the reader a glimpse into the character's personality. Rather than telling the reader the character(s) is brave, show a heroic act being performed and the reader will be able to grasp the concept from the scene.



There are several ways you can choose to narrate your short story. You may choose to tell the story as one of the characters (first person) and use "I" when referring to the character or you may want to be more distant from the story and tell it from an observational point of view (third person) and use "he/she/they". There is no right or wrong answer for which point of view you want to tell the story. However, it is important that once you pick a point of view, you stick to it. Switching from points of view in a short story can be confusing and will lack clarity. Barrett states that writing in the first person, specifically for a novice writer, may be more difficult and harder to achieve a complete and fulfilling story. (Barrett, 2007). This doesn't mean you should always stay away from a first-person point of view, but keep in mind it may be harder to write with.