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Using this template in conjunction with the following steps will give your short story the best chance at success.

The Writing Cooperative

For some, a short story needs to be very short. I like to keep short stories to around words or less. These are easily read and digested in a single sitting, and if done right, will pack a punch in a short period of time. By definition, however, a short story can be up to 10, words. Beyond this, you are looking at a novella. Short stories are fun to write, fun to read, and can be extremely profound. They are also often studied in classrooms as they display powerful examples of writing techniques as well as interesting and provocative world views. However, they are not nearly as popular as the novel.

Novels are easily the most well-read and lucrative area of fiction. Many authors come out with short story collections. These are a single book that contains multiple short stories. The stories are sometimes connected, while other times they are all entirely stand-alone. Authors often do this after they have already published and sold a successful novel.

This way, their short story anthology can ride on the success of their novel a little bit. The author already has attention on them, so their short stories are easier to market and advertise for. Other times, writers will contribute one or two short stories to an anthology comprised of work from several different authors. In this case, the contributors will all share in the profits when it sells.

Either way, there are methods with which to sell your short story. These short tales have gone down in history for their ingenuity. They did such a fantastic job at setting the atmosphere, bringing their character to life , and awing the reader, that they will forever be remembered. One thing a short story has in common with a novel is the need for an outline. Can a short story be written without an outline? Yes, it can. And, your chances of being successful without an outline are much greater with a short story than with a novel.

However, knowing how to write a short story outline will reap you some benefits and save valuable time. The main difference is in the complexity. A short story outline will be clear, direct, and concise. It will tell you the main points of the story, and where things are headed. Once you map out these basic elements, actually writing it will become a breeze. Above is a basic template for your short story outline. It prompts you for all the key information.

Fill in the specifics of your story, and things will start coming together. This is a popular piece of general writing advice. However, in a novel-length piece, a little bit of telling can be okay too. Not so in a short story. I always encourage writers to be bold, creative and break the rules. This is what can separate good fiction from great fiction.

The Short Story Collections Everyone Should Read

That being said, some essential elements are included in almost every short story. Short stories are rarely written for no reason. Yes, they are meant to entertain. But they should also leave a lasting impression on the reader. Think about the message behind your short story. What are you trying to say? What is the strongest emotion behind the story?

Are you writing about love, hatred, bitterness, sadness, anger, or something else? This main emotion and the message you want to get across will be what drives your story. A short story should not have a large cast of characters. Most of the time, they will focus on one or maybe two main characters. Too many characters within a short story will become confusing and overwhelming. Because of the shorter length, you will be jumping back and forth between them too often.


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Whether told from the first or third person, it is best to keep the perspective the same throughout. A sophisticated and well-developed plot is something to be praised and admired — but it is usually found in a novel. Your short story should feature proper plot development, but it needs to be short and to the point. Even if you keep all of these things in mind, your story will still probably end up being too long. This is why editing is essential. Once your first draft is done, be as ruthless with your editing as you were with the characters.

Cut out absolutely anything and everything that is not essential to the plot. And then, go back for another round. This will get you down to the bare bones of your story. This is what will make it both short and effective. Any book will indeed come with a good hook. However, it is especially important with a short story that the beginning be strong and impactful.

A good opening can be done a few different ways:. Anything that is interesting, shocking, or creates immediate questions will make for a good hook. If you can hook your readers, they will always want to continue on to the end. Lastly, you need a strong ending that leaves a lasting impression. The goal with a short story is to make an impact on your readers. Short stories can be incredibly powerful when executed well. You may already know exactly how you want it to end — but it still needs to be done well! There are a few strategic ways to write a powerful ending to a short story:.

Even the craziest twist endings need to make sense in some way. An important theoretical example for storytelling analysis is provided by Walter Benjamin in his essay The Storyteller where he argues about the decline of storytelling art and the incommunicability of experiences in the modern world.

Short stories date back to oral storytelling traditions which originally produced epics such as the Ramayana , the Mahabharata , Homer 's Iliad and Odyssey. Oral narratives were often told in the form of rhyming or rhythmic verse , often including recurring sections or, in the case of Homer, Homeric epithets. Such stylistic devices often acted as mnemonics for easier recall, rendition and adaptation of the story. Short sections of verse might focus on individual narratives that could be told at one sitting. The overall arc of the tale would emerge only through the telling of multiple such sections.

The other ancient form of short story, the anecdote , was popular under the Roman Empire. Anecdotes functioned as a sort of parable , a brief realistic narrative that embodies a point. Many surviving Roman anecdotes were collected in the 13th or 14th century as the Gesta Romanorum. Anecdotes remained popular in Europe well into the 18th century, when the fictional anecdotal letters of Sir Roger de Coverley were published. In India, there is a rich heritage of ancient folktales as well as compiled body of short fiction which shaped the sensibility of modern Indian short story.

Some of the famous Sanskrit collection of legends, folktales, fairy tales and fables are Panchatantra , Hitopadesha and Kathasaritsagara. Jataka tales , originally written in Pali , is a compilation of tales concerning the previous births of Lord Gautama Buddha.

Should You Write a Novel or Short Story?

The Frame story or frame narrative or story within a story is a narrative technique which probably originated in ancient Indian works such as Panchatantra. In Europe, the oral story-telling tradition began to develop into written stories in the early 14th century, most notably with Geoffrey Chaucer 's Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio 's Decameron. Both of these books are composed of individual short stories which range from farce or humorous anecdotes to well-crafted literary fictions set within a larger narrative story a frame story , although the frame-tale device was not adopted by all writers.

Secret Keeper Girl Tween Writer's Workshop: 3 Things Every Short Story Must Have

At the end of the 16th century, some of the most popular short stories in Europe were the darkly tragic " novella " of Matteo Bandello especially in their French translation. The mid 17th century in France saw the development of a refined short novel, the "nouvelle", by such authors as Madame de Lafayette. In the s, traditional fairy tales began to be published one of the most famous collections was by Charles Perrault. The appearance of Antoine Galland 's first modern translation of the Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights from ; another translation appeared in —12 would have an enormous influence on the 18th-century European short stories of Voltaire , Diderot and others.

There are early examples of short stories published separately between and , but the first true collections of short stories appeared between and in several countries around the same period. The first short stories in the United Kingdom were gothic tales like Richard Cumberland 's "remarkable narrative" "The Poisoner of Montremos" Nathaniel Hawthorne published the first part of his Twice-Told Tales in Edgar Allan Poe wrote his tales of mystery and imagination between and Poe is often given the credit by scholars such as M.

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Abrams of establishing short story as a genre of literature. In " The Philosophy of Composition " Poe argued that a literary work short story should be short enough for a reader to finish in one sitting. In Germany, the first collection of short stories was by Heinrich von Kleist in and The Brothers Grimm published their first volume of collected fairy tales in Hoffmann followed with his own original fantasy tales, of which " The Nutcracker and the Mouse King " and " The Sandman " are the most famous.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the growth of print magazines and journals created a strong demand for short fiction of between 3, and 15, words. Rudyard Kipling published short story collections for grown-ups, e. Plain Tales from the Hills , as well as for children, e. The Jungle Book Wells wrote his first science fiction stories in the s.

One of his best known is " The Country of the Blind " At that same year, Matthews was the first one to name the emerging genre "short story". Another theorist of narrative fiction was Henry James. In the s Kate Chopin published short stories in several magazines. The most prolific French author of short stories was Guy de Maupassant. Nikolai Leskov created his first short stories in the s. Late in his life Fyodor Dostoyevski wrote " The Meek One " and " The Dream of a Ridiculous Man " , two stories with great psychological and philosophical depth.

The greatest specialist of the Russian short story, however, was Anton Chekhov. Classic examples of his realistic prose are " The Bet " , "Ward No.

How to Write a Short Story in 7 Steps

Maxim Gorky 's best known short story is " Twenty-six Men and a Girl " In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in India, Rabindranath Tagore published more than short stories, on the lives of the poor and oppressed such as peasants, women and villagers under colonial misrule and exploitation. Tagore's contemporary, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was another pioneer in Bengali short stories.

Chattopadhyay's stories focused on the social scenario of rural Bengal and the lives of common people, especially the oppressed classes. The prolific Indian author of short stories Munshi Premchand , pioneered the genre in the Hindustani language , writing a substantial body of short stories and novels in a style characterized by realism and an unsentimental and authentic introspection into the complexities of Indian society. In he wrote " A Legend of Old Egypt ". The Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis was the most important short story writer from his country at the time, under influences among others of Xavier de Maistre , Lawrence Sterne , Guy de Maupassant.

Writing about the former slaves, and very ironical about nationalism , Lima Barreto died almost forgotten, but became very popular in the 20th century. In Portuguese literature, the major names of the time are Almeida Garrett and the historian and novelist Alexandre Herculano. Hector Hugh Munro — , also known by his pen name of Saki , wrote satirical short stories about Edwardian England.

Somerset Maugham , who wrote over a hundred short stories, was one of the most popular authors of his time. Wodehouse published his first collection of comical stories about valet Jeeves in Many detective stories were written by G. Chesterton , Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Short stories by Virginia Woolf are " Kew Gardens " and "Solid Objects," about a politician with mental problems. Graham Greene wrote his Twenty-One Stories between and A specialist of the short story was V.

Pritchett , whose first collection appeared in Arthur C. Clarke published his first science fiction story, " Travel by Wire! Evelyn Waugh , Muriel Spark and L. Hartley were other popular British storytellers whose career started in this period. In Ireland, James Joyce published his short story collection Dubliners in These stories, written in a more accessible style than his later novels, are based on careful observation of the inhabitants of his birth city.

What are the steps to write a short story?

The demand for quality short stories was so great and the money paid for such so well that F. Scott Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to short-story as Matthews preferred to write it writing to pay his numerous debts. His first collection Flappers and Philosophers appeared in book form in William Faulkner wrote over one hundred short stories. Go Down, Moses , a collection of seven stories, appeared in Ernest Hemingway's concise writing style was perfectly fit for shorter fiction.

Dorothy Parker 's bittersweet story "Big Blonde" debuted in A popular science fiction story is " Nightfall " by Isaac Asimov. Katherine Mansfield from New Zealand wrote many short stories between and her death in In Uruguay , Horacio Quiroga became one of the most influentials short story writers in the spanish language, with a clear influence from Edgar Allan Poe , he had a great skill using the supernatural and the bizarre to show the struggle of man and animal to survive. He also excelled in portraying mental illness and hallucinatory states.

In the latter wrote " A Hunger Artist ", about a man who fasts for several days. In India, the master of the short story in the Urdu language, Saadat Hasan Manto is revered for his exceptional depth, irony and sardonic humour. The author of some short stories, radio plays, essays, reminiscences and a novel, Manto is widely admired for his analyses of violence, bigotry, prejudice and the relationships between reason and unreason. Combining realism with surrealism and irony, Manto's works such as the celebrated short story Toba Tek Singh are aesthetic masterpieces which continue to give profound insight into the nature of human loss, violence and devastation.

Another famous Urdu writer is Ismat Chughtai whose short story "Lihaaf" The Quilt on a lesbian relationship between an upper-class Muslim woman and her maid servant created great controversy following its publication in Also, novelist Graciliano Ramos and poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade have significant short story works.

The New Yorker continued to publish the works of the form's leading mid-century practitioners, including Shirley Jackson , whose story, " The Lottery ", published in , elicited the strongest response in the magazine's history to that time. Cheever is best known for " The Swimmer " which beautifully blends realism and surrealism.

Cultural and social identity played a considerable role in much of the short fiction of the s. Wallace Stegner 's short stories are primarily set in the American West. Stephen King published many short stories in men's magazines in the s and after. King's interest is found in the supernatural and macabre. The s saw the rise of the postmodern short story in the works of Donald Barthelme and John Barth.

Traditionalists including John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates maintained significant influence on the form.