There is a lot of work involved in writing a short story, and very little time to tell it. These are some of the topics that we discussed: Outlining, Character Development, Pacing, and more.

We’re going to talk about what it means to write a short story, and you’ll be surprised to find out that it can be more complicated than you think. A short story is not just a step to writing a novel, it is an art form entirely characterized by its many twists, turns, and other words that are sharper than knives. Writing short stories requires some discipline, some imaginative thinking, and plenty of planning, so let’s get going while we are still ahead.

What is meant by short stories?

Short stories are a confusing and misunderstood thing. The traditional short stories that are written by traditional authors have between 1,500 and 7,500 words. But even that is not written in stone. Others say that short stories can be up to 5,000 words, but others still say that 10,000 words is a good number.

Short stories are always fiction that show a glimpse of the world that surrounds us. It is possible to make them from any genre, as long as they stay in the length range. So, short story writers must have only a very short window of time to write. They must pick and choose just the most important aspects of the short story. Edgar Allen Poe once wrote, “In a short story, there must be a mood that everyone expresses, and every sentence must build towards that mood.” You must allow that advice to guide you as you embark on your short story-writing journey.

What do you need before you start writing a short story?

Keep that in mind while you are writing, and you will always shoot straight. From the collection of A-Z Quotes.
Keep that in mind while you are writing, and you will always shoot straight. From the collection of A-Z Quotes.

Before diving into your outline, it’s important to understand your story. That will include creating a character, a setting, and a problem. Once you know what/who they are, you’ll be ready to outline them.

It is possible to create people that are memorable in short stories.

So, even if the short story is short, the main character of the story should be as well-rounded and as realistic as the other characters in your short fiction. That includes all the characters, side characters and villains, but depending on the length of your short story, you may just have one character. People must have motives, fears, and morals that they must have in order to make decisions. It all sounds heavy, right? Do not worry: there’s a very easy way to figure out all these points, without boring your audience (or yourself!).

Questions that you should ask your protagonist.

You learn to know someone by talking to them and by asking questions about their lives. Building and understanding the characters of people is no different. These questions should not be included in your short. However, they should be for your own use when you decide what your character wants and what actions they take. Here is a list of questions that will help you understand how you really feel about your character.

  • What is the biggest strength of theirs and what is the biggest weakness of theirs?
  • Do you think they have any secrets?
  • How do they want people to perceive them? How are they perceived by others?
  • What do you want your character to desire? What is the main aim of their organization?
  • Why are they afraid?
  • What is the best memory that they have and what is the worst memory?

Again, the answers to those questions do not necessarily need to be told to your readers. However, they will be useful in determining how your characters make their decisions and the reasons why and how they decide to act on those decisions. When I write short stories, they are only portrayed as a snapshot of one character in their life. Often that character has a problem in their life, but they still need to have depth and humanity, or else they will not be believed to be believable.

It is important to create a realistic, immersive environment for a short story.

The location of your story is an important factor, because it can and will influence what your characters decide, the emotions they feel, and also the obstacles that your characters will have to face.

When people read a book, they are often grounded and enchanted by the setting. But it is important that you describe it in enough detail so that the reader knows what the place is like, what the mood and feel of the environment is, and any other story-based tidbits that the setting might help the reader understand. Suppose that you are constructing a story set in a space station, orbiting one of Saturn’s moons. The population has just lost 90% of their water supply, so being in a space station that is isolated illustrates the enormity of the issue. In a story that involves a groggy vampire enjoying the freedom of his tomb in Transylvania, that is also possible to happen. Perhaps the mood and feeling would be more lavish and leisurely, although the people there may be just as thirsty.

You are the one who has the job of putting the reader into your world. Source: Is now novel.
You are the one who has the job of putting the reader into your world. Source: Is now novel.

Below are a few tips for creating a setting that is captivating.

  • Use the five senses. What are your characters seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching?
  • If your setting is a real place (i.e., New York City or your grandma’s house), be sure to do some research to find out all the details and tell about it accurately. Some stories that have been written in Manhattan, there are no true alleyways there. So you would not want to see a character running through an alleyway in order to escape from a bad guy. Adding these details to your story will make it seem more real, and your readers will appreciate the extra touches.
  • Don’t forget the emotions! How do I feel about this place? Is it beneficial for them, or do they just want to get away? How do those feelings fit into the overall story?

Do not need to describe every detail you really do not need to, but your reader should know where they are at when they begin reading your story. Make sure that you ground all the details in some sort of time, place, and emotion that they evoke.

One of the things that I wanted to solve was to create the conflict in a short story.

Without conflict, you have no story. There are six different types of literary conflict, and it depends on your characters and your setting. You will determine which one of these conflicts will make the most sense for you to tell your story.

Source: Youtube, nour-Zikra.
  1. Character vs. the ’embarrass’. A character who is in conflict with another character. You know, clark kent vs. Lex Luthor.
  2. Character vs. the ’embarrass’. When you are dealing with a conflict inside you, it is important that you take care of the inner conflict, and this includes emotions and desires. Do this: Imagine an angel and a devil with two sets of glaringly different advice.
  3. Character vs. the ’embarrass’. God, when the protagonist is going up against the fate that awaits him. A great example is Odysseus in The Odyssey.
  4. Character vs. the ’embarrass’. A society: when a protagonist fights against injustices in their society. Sometimes dystopian, but not always. Katniss Everdeen comes to mind.
  5. Character vs. the ’embarrass’. When the protagonist is fighting against some powerful natural force. Think about disasters, oceans, and conquering land. The story of Moby Dick is a classic example.
  6. Character vs. the ’embarrass’. The most challenging part of a fight is when the protagonist is fighting against some superpowerful machinery or some science that is threatening to mankind. Think about Dr. Frankenstein and the electrically-charged monster that he created.

Even if the conflict is large and epic, it should matter to your protagonist. That is the most important advice that you can receive on this subject. Your conflict just needs to be absolutely important to them, in order for your story to be compelling and captivating.

How do I write a short story outline?

There are many things that you can keep track of, but a chart like this will certainly help you out. Other sources of information on the internet are unknown.
There are many things that you can keep track of, but a chart like this will certainly help you out. Other sources of information on the internet are unknown.

If you want to write a short story, you should know where you are going. When you write a novel, you have the luxury of time and length, so you can include side quests and downtime. Short stories are concise. Writers must get in and out of each scene quickly. After each scene is written, each scene must propel the characters to a predetermined ending.

Here is a basic outline that you can use to figure out how to fill in the rest of your short story. In this chapter, the author goes through the phases of inciting conflict, plot, and resolution. He takes care to develop a theme and character.

  • World setup: shows the characters briefly in their world before the fighting starts.
  • Inciting incident is the beginning of a conflict.
  • Rising action: Events that lead to the climax of the story. It must include conflict, change (internal or external), and choices.
  • The end of a story is the highest point of tension. When your protagonist has made a decision.
  • Resolution: What to do after the climax and the crises?

Write down a few bullet points about each section on the list and explain what will happen in each section. After you get that done, you can get a head start on writing the story.

How important is it for writers to pace short stories?

Just like you have read earlier, short stories do not have the luxury of a word count that is unlimited. That is, make sure that the reader believes the characters, the setting, and the circumstances of the story, right out of the gate. If that happens, you will present them with the main conflict, with the result that the conflict ends with the person who is telling the story to them, and you will eliminate that person asap. When you tell the story, every scene, every action, and every dialogue must either help the story go further or reveal something about your character, or, if possible, both. No one wants to read a barrage of action sequences without any time for reflection or character development. Mix it up by showing and telling stories.

You can think of pacing as the speed at which someone tells a story. You can compare it to the swell of waves in the ocean. It is also evident that there is a rhythm, and that all the pieces of this story work together to create the rhythm.

A variety of factors can affect the speed of your pacing, such as, but are not limited to:

  • The length of each sentence and the variation of each sentence.
  • Dialog and exposition.
  • Flashbacks/flashforwards
  • There are also some number and length of scenes.

By incorporating all of these elements together, your story will become more rhythmic and more texture. How you layer and when you add all of those components will determine the pace.

A great example of clear pacing is Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The adventure starts when Goldilocks finds a house that is mysterious. The pace slows down when she enters the house and realizes that nothing fits her needs. One bowl of porridge may be too hot, one bowl may be too cold. All the beds that they make are either too firm or too soft. As soon as she finds the bed and tucks herself in, the story starts again. A bear family comes home, and Goldilocks must deal with the consequences of breaking and entering the house.

How do you write a title for a short story?

Finally! So, you have come up with a character, a setting, and a problem. You’ve planned to tell your story to your heart’s content, and you’ve written it using the elements that are essential for good storytelling. Now comes the most difficult part: titling your short story.

A good title should be concise, memorable, and it should also contain vivid imagery and clever phrases. You do not want to give away all of your story, but in your title you should include some piece of the story that you are telling.

...You have my attention, James Kirkwood. Goodreads is the source of my book.
…You have my attention, James Kirkwood. Goodreads is the source of my book.

All’s Well that Ends Well is a great title. Some words are repetitive, and we play with the words, which makes them pleasing to the eye and to read. It also summarizes the overarching message of this play and of all the shakespeare comedies: Essentially, do not worry about small stuff, because everything will all work out in the end.

One old-fashioned way to titling your work is to comb through the work to find some good dialogue, some strong images, or witty phrases. Do you think that there is one piece that is unique and stands out among the rest? Is it possible for me to say the overall message of your story? If that’s the case, you’re on the road to becoming the man who holds the perfect title.

Sometimes things are not always so easy. If you are unable or do not want to use the things that are in the story, brainstorm. What are the themes in your story that you have chosen, the deeper meanings, the major themes? So, if you wrote a blog post about x and your message was y, then your theme is z. What are your themes that you weave through in your work? The title of your story should include a reference to the message or the setting that is embedded in the story. Frankenstein is just the surname of the protagonist in Mary Shelley’s story, but it’s taken on a significance greater than that because people resonate with it so much.

As long as the title is unique and somehow connected to your short, you are good.

Lastly, some final thoughts on writing a short story.

Reminder: There are no REAL rules to writing a short story, except for the word count. Even if you go too deeply into it, you can still finish it. You could make a collection of short stories that you set in the universe or the setting that you created. Or you could do whatever else you want to do with it. It is yours, after all!

When you write a short story, it should be fun. It is a fun exercise in allowing your imagination to run wild. It is a way to experiment with new techniques and ideas. Do not overthink it, and do not sell yourself short. It is just a matter of typing one word after another. Draft, edit, and repeat until the length of your short story explodes off the page and into the hearts of your readers. Tell Poe to move over, because there’s a new author in townyou!