How to write a short story

Telling stories is an indispensable part of our history. Without it, we would not be where we are as a society. Follow the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Virginia Woolf, and Anton Chekhov and unleash your creativity and hone your writing. A short story is a short piece of narrative that can be finished in one sitting. Typically between 1000-7500 words, a short story focuses on an isolated event or series of events in order to evoke emotion or a certain effect from the readers. Owing to its relatively short nature, a lot of discipline and creativity is needed if you want to know how to write a short story.

Tips on how to write a short story

  • Know your story’s tension or conflict.
No one yet knows how to write a short story without a conflict. Truly, the conflict is what drives the story. Without it, there is nothing to be resolved, and the plot line would be but a straight line. Even with stories where it seems like nothing is happening, there is always a conflict. Conflict may be internal or external.
  • Foreshadowing.
The key to a great short story is to include only the necessary details. Everything that you mention in the story must be of importance to the plot or to the meaning of the story. This is best explained by Anton Chekhov:

One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it… If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

  • Know your protagonist, if there is one.
The protagonist is the main character of the story, and where the story inevitably revolves around. As the author, you must know your character well—how he/she will act under certain circumstances, his/her motives and backstory, everything. This will enable you to depict him/her realistically.
  • Choose your point of view.
The point of view is the story’s defining factor. This is the lens through which you will present your story, so how your reader understands and reacts to the story is dependent on this. Each point of view evokes a different effect, depending on what they can reveal and what they cannot tell. Some of the short stories that successfully manipulate point of view are EA Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”
  • Write the perfect first line.
As readers, you should know that the first line is crucial for capturing your attention. An intriguing first line will keep your reader going, so it’s important for the first line to be, for lack of a better word, perfect. Pay close attention to your first line; revise it as needed.
  • Research and revise.
This goes for both language and content. Your language needs to be clear but beautiful, so revise like you’re Hemingway. Research on even the minute details of your story—it’s important that your story is realistic or believable and without any loopholes in order to suspend disbelief.
  • Keep reading.
Different writers have their own style, and exploring these would keep your horizons growing. Ultimately, no one can tell you how to write a short story or how not to write it. You, as the author, need to figure out what works for your short story.

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