Short Story Structure & Planning

Short story structure - post feature

Once upon a time there was a …. a … yeah! So you have to write a short story but you don’t know what to do, where do you start.

Well, the simplest place to start for a short story would be understanding its structure. Think of it as something a little bit like this. From start to end, you’re always rising until you come to your conclusion.

The way your short story should start is with your exposition. This is when you’re introducing your story. Then your rising action. As the tension rises, so does your action, until you reach your climax, which is when all your action comes to a head.

Then your action starts to fall and this is called falling action, which culminates in your resolution. Now this is a very simple way of thinking of how your story should be structured but what exactly do these entail?

Do you know let’s start with the exposition. This is basically your:

  • who
  • what
  • when
  • where
  • why

So who is your character? What is happening? When is this happening? Where is it happening, and why is this happening? Now why should the reader want to start reading about this character’s life story.

Short story structure pdf infoThen we come to the conflict. Now this is a problem, more than likely a problem that your character has to somehow solve, but how does he solve it. This is your rising action as play. As your story rises in tension, so does your character start to solve his conflict, and then the tension comes to a head in your climax.

Your climax is the highest point of your piece, as well as the turning point for your character. This is when your character action starts to fall. For your character, everything starts to wrap up and we start to understand what has been happening this whole time.

How to Structure a Short Story

Video Transcript: (cont’d)

As the action starts to fall this, does not mean the tension drops. It just means the action is wrapping up. So as the action starts to fall we reach the resolution, and the resolution is the conclusion to the whole story.

It’s not necessarily happily-ever-after but it comes pretty close, like in a fairy tale where the princess gets the prince or Prince gets the princess. However, you want to look at it – how we wrap it up in our story and that is quite simply how you write your story.

It’s a very simple way of thinking about it and it is one way to suffer through an assignment or an exam and get to have fun.

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How to Write a Short Story

How to write a story. Right – it’s a mess. It’s chaotic. You didn’t understand that before you do it. You don’t sit down and say ‘once upon a time’ and then, you know, two hours later ‘and they all lived happily ever after’.

In fact, you never use those words in fiction because nobody lives forever after, and so the happy part has gone. It’s like it’s, you know, there’s a sadness at the center of our existence which writers acknowledge and that is that we die.

Everything we love vanishes. We can’t hold on anything and so there, that’s a given. So that’s the sadness at the center of our life but the nobility at the center of our lives is that we face that sadness and we go right on trying to hold on to everything that we love.

And go on falling in love again and all that sort of thing, and cherishing life and and honoring it and giving praise to the world around us. We, you know, those of us who write, do it by writing stories about it.

Short story structure elements planningSo the first thing you do when you want, if you want, to write a story, sit your ass in the chair. You sit down and you do it. And you pick up a pen, and you got a blank piece of paper, or you sit down at a blank screen and you set it up.

I usually start with a character – that’s him I had imagine who somehow intriguing to me. Something about this character is intriguing. Could be the way he looks. It could be something he said. It could be the house he lives in, whatever.

I start with a character and I give that character some trouble, and that the plot has to come out of the desires, wishes, behaviors, motivations of the characters. They drive the plot. There’s a moment in every story when your character does something that you didn’t expect him to do, or says something that you didn’t expect her to say.

That’s the moment you’re writing for, because that’s when you now have, like a human being at work on the page. You freed your imagination. In other words, when your imagination has taken over and the critic is not at the table anymore. You’ll re-engage the critic later on when you’re reading it over and trying to assess what’s working and what’s not working.

But for right now, the creative part of you, the intuitive and imaginative part of you, is taking over. People have a romantic notion about writers, that the muse comes in and you write. You’re inspired and then you write, but they’ve got it absolutely wrong.

You write, and then you are inspired. It doesn’t happen the other way, and if they were a Muse, that Muse would only come to the writing desk, would not be at the football game, with you tail-gating, or would not be, you know, at the party. The muse comes to the desk. If you’re not there, too bad!

How To Write A Short Story

Hello, I’m Jurgen Wolf. I’ve been a professional writer for about 25 years and I’m the author of these two books – ‘Your Writing Coach’ and ‘Your Creative Writing Master Class’ and today I’m going to share some writing tips with you.

How to write a story? Now one of the first things you have to decide is how long a story are you looking at? They can be very short. In fact a classic, supposedly the world’s shortest story, was written by Ernest Hemingway and it was:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Pretty tragic for six words or however many words it is, so you can go from that and there’s a lot of that about these days, these very short, flash fiction it’s sometimes called, to ten thousand, fifteen thousand words.

Planning Short story structure worksheetOf course, that will affect what shape your story has, but the key thing you have to decide first of all is who’s your main character and what are they like and what happens to this person?

That usually forms the story. Often times, there’s also conflict within a story and there are many different kinds of conflict possible. So if you’ve got a person, they may be in conflict with another person, or they may be in conflict with nature.

For example, man against the elements. They may be in conflict with themselves. This is internal conflict. So someone, for example, who has, let’s say gambling problem, has that impulse to gamble but he knows it’s costing him his doom, his marriage and his family life.

Yet that conflict exists and it fights back and forth, so the conflict at the heart of the story often is what really makes it interesting and makes it people want to find out what happens at the end. That’s another thing to think about – what you want to have happen at the end.

Short story structure powerpoint presentationIn stories, sometimes things have changed or sometimes they’ve stayed the same, but the reader has a deeper understanding of the kind of characters or situation that you’ve been writing about.

Don’t try to copy anybody else’s style when you do your story. Just write it their way you would like to and your own style will emerge. Do also remember to refer to several senses. In other words, refer to what people are doing so that we can see it, we can hear them talking, we can perhaps have an emotional response to what they’re doing.

You may even talk about certain smells, for example, hospitals. There’s a smell – or schools, so those things all help a story to come alive. Just to summarize now. To create a story, decide on who it’s about.

Who’s your main character? What happens to them? Often this means conflict, and what is the end of the story. In the process, make it come alive by using details and appealing to all the senses and that’s how to write a story.

Tips for Writing Short Stories

Hello, my name is Alex. I’m a patchwork nerd and now insert a clever and quickly response about the beverage that I am drinking!

One of my favorite things to write is short stories and this is very hilarious, because back when I was little, and I first started out writing, I refused to write short stories. I thought they were too limiting and they were just an insult to my craft, because I had such grand ideas.

“How dare you try to force me to contain it within 5 pages?” I was a very strange child. As I’ve grown older, I have discovered I absolutely adore writing short stories. Short stories allow me a great opportunity to explore an idea really fast, and just give you a glimpse of an idea and then leave you wondering and wanting more.

Creating a Short story structure diagramSorry, there was a bird that decided to pass a kidney stone or something outside my window, but I think it’s done, or at least faintly in the background. So let’s continue. Because of this love that I have for short stories, I decided I’m going to help encourage you to try writing short stories, and that is why today we are going to discuss 3 tips for writing short stories.

Let’s get started. My first tip is to surprise yourself and this is whether you’re plotting or pantsing. You might want to make an outline for a short story and you might decide to just jump in and go.

With novels, I feel like it’s really hard to pop in surprises without either unraveling everything you’ve built up so far, or needing to go and backtrack and try to fix everything to make it make sense. With short stories, it’s not a lot to edit, so it’s not a big overwhelming task if you throw in a random surprise.

Just let yourself have fun and go wild, and see what random, fun, cool things can pop into your story. Tip number 2 is to not over complicate a short story. You don’t need 50 subplots. As a matter of fact, you probably shouldn’t have subplots in a short story, unless it’s a very long short story.

Teaching short story structure for beginnersAt that point, you might be branching into novella territory. Don’t feel like you need to have huge back stories, or gigantic world building. Just enjoy the idea that you’re exploring. Treat it more like a sweet little flame that you’re nurturing, as opposed to trying to build this gigantic fire.

Because that’s gonna get really difficult to contain in the fire pit that is a short story. Just nurture your little flame. Don’t over complicate it. Don’t throw gasoline on it and it’ll make your life a lot easier.

Tip number three actually comes from this fantastic book that I read back when I was in college, and I’ll put a link to it below. I’m pretty sure you can get an on Amazon but it’s called ‘Ron Carlson writes his story‘ by an author who writes a lot of short stories.

He walks you through his process of writing short stories, and one of the biggest pieces advice that he gives that I still to this day hold there dear. When you are writing a short story, stay in the room. Don’t abandon the story. Keep going and don’t stop.

Short story structure explainedWhen I write a short story, I try very hard to write it all in one go, because you get this extreme flow going with a short story. It’s very difficult, I find, to pick that energy back up the same way you would with a novel, because it’s just so contained.

I think that’s the word of the day – contained. Just try to write the whole short story in one go, so that way you can keep feeding off of that energy that you feel at the start of the story. So definitely stay in the room.

I hope you enjoyed three tips on how to write short stories. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments down below, or you can tweet me at patchwork nur. If you have written short stories, please let me know about them in the comments down below.

Also, you can join me every Sunday at 10 a.m. Central Standard Time for Writers Patch on Twitter, where we have a fun old time talking about writing and making new writing friends.

If you’d like to see more of my videos, please hit that happy little subscribe button down below and until I see you next time, remember keep writing, keep laughing and keep encouraging each other.

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Short Story Structure