How To Write a Good Short Story

Short stories can be just as solid and affecting as longer works of fiction. Some think this form can have an even more significant impact because short stories can convey their primary idea in a single, memorable blow. 

If reading a novel is like turning on all the lights in the house, then reading a short story is like turning on a flashlight to shine a light in a dark place.

What Is a Short Story?

Short stories are complete works of prose fiction that aim to teach a lesson, record an event, or provoke an emotion. 

Short stories frequently have a stronger focus because every aspect—plot, character, pacing, story structure, etc.—must work together to achieve it.

There are always exceptions to the rule about the word count, but the average word count for a short narrative ranges from 1,000 to 5,000. 

While there is a distinction between short tales and novellas, flash fiction is a type of creative writing that can have as few as five words (typically 30,000 words or more).

Types of Short Stories

There are several different categories of short stories, each with a unique set of traits.

  1. Anecdote: A brief recounting of an intriguing and frequently hilarious event used to illustrate a point. They perform similarly to parables, short stories with a central moral instruction.
  2. Drabble: A short story of roughly 100 words whose primary goal is to gauge the author's proficiency with prose and the ability to convey a significant idea in so few words.
  3. Feghoot: A short humorous narrative with a pun at the end.
  4. Fable: A brief story with anthropomorphic creatures—typically animals—whose moral lesson is revealed at the conclusion. (Note: A fable nearly typically uses animals to illustrate a lesson, whereas a parable does the same thing without doing so. A good illustration is Aesop's Fables.)
  5. Flash fiction or micro-fiction: Short works with fewer than 1,000 words are referred to as flash fiction or micro-fiction. The following short tale, which is sometimes attributed to Ernest Hemingway, is one of the most well-known instances of the genre: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
  6. Sketch: A piece of writing without a plot is referred to as a sketch. Instead, the goal of a sketch is to shed light on a specific person, place, or thing.
  7. Vignette: A vignette is a brief scene that may be included in a more extensive body of work. A vignette's purpose is to highlight a particular instance or aspect of a story's characters, ideas, or objects.

What Every Good Short Story Must Have

Several elements appear in all literature, but short stories mainly include:

  • A distinct emotion or feeling. This can be a theme (adultery, childbirth, life lessons), a genre (humour, romance, horror), or an emotion (loss, grief, joy). Or it might be a combination, provided it is coherent and makes sense.
  • Clear, descriptive language that immediately and effectively introduces the story's theme.
  • A small cast of characters with at least one major surface and one or more supporting characters must be essential to the plot.
  • It must have a compelling argument. Be clear about the point you want to make with your short narrative. Consider what you want readers to feel or think when writing a story. Ensure that the report reflects this point of view.
  • Innovative components. Short stories don't necessarily have to adhere to traditional storytelling conventions, so feel free to experiment with some of them. A short tale doesn't need to have every scene have a "turn," which involves transferring the emotional intensity to its opposite, despite the conventional recommendation. Do not be afraid to break a few rules to find what works best for you.

Steps to writing a Good Short Story

To write an excellent short story, adhere to the steps mentioned in this article below.

  • Decide on the feeling you wish to evoke. Your goal in writing a short tale is to elicit this response or emotion in your audience, and all the components will come together to accomplish this. What sort of tale do you intend to tell, and why? 
  • Make use of your creativity. A short story begins with brainstorming, just like any other genre of writing. The procedure for creating a short story is identical to different types of writing, such as essays and presentations.
  • Make a powerful starting statement. You won't have much room for exposition because of the limitations of the short narrative format. Consider beginning your story in media res—a writing technique that places the reader in the middle of the action and allows for the later addition of details—to get around this. You are immediately brought to your crucial scene.
  • Remember that you only have so many words when you build your story. Save your time and space. The short story needs to have a purpose for everything. Every statement should be read several times, considering whether it is essential. Does it further the more important goal of enhancing the mood of your story? "A short narrative must have a particular tone, and every phrase must build toward it," Edgar Allan Poe famously stated.
  • Winning the conclusion. This crucial moment has been the culmination of everything. Focus on the atmosphere you want to establish when you write the conclusion of your short tale, and consider what would be the most rewarding approach to accomplish this. Keep in mind that even though it's short, a story, the plot still needs to make sense, and nothing should be too obvious. Does the story's conclusion naturally flow from its beginning? Do you understand it?
  • Edit carefully. Take a break from your story, then return to it later with a new perspective. Remember the primary mood you're aiming to convey once more. Reread your short tale at least three times, focusing on how the storyline, characters, dialogue, scenes, and settings all contribute to achieving the main objective. Take note of any contradictions and eliminate or rectify them. Remove everything that feels unnecessary or hinders the pace.

Confidently share your story. Each of us is filled with a story. You become an author by writing your narrative, and even the most experienced writers occasionally require assistance identifying grammar errors and other writing-related problems. 

Write what's on your mind and in your heart, then when it comes time to edit, point out any errors you may have overlooked, highlight unclear language, and offer suggestions for the best phrasing to convey your story. 

This way, you can effectively write an excellent short story. Go on, write a story.

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