Writing a Short Story A6
What is a short story?
A short story is a short, self-contained work of fiction that generally falls between 1,000 and 10,000 words.
Because of this length constraint, short stories tend to be less complex than longer works—in certain ways. In a short story, you can build a world, but not as elaborate as you can build a world in a (longer) novel. Similarly, you can have multiple fleshed-out characters, but you can’t give every character a full backstory and meaningful character like you can in a lengthier work. Generally, long, intricate plots with multiple subplots are better suited to novel-length works than a short story.
This doesn’t mean that your short story’s theme can’t be as deep as a longer work’s theme. You don’t need an extensive world with a complex magical system and an entire cast of three-dimensional characters to express a theme effectively. While short stories have fewer words, simpler settings, and smaller casts than novels, they can have just as much of an impact on readers.
5 elements every short story should have
There are some common elements across all fiction writing, but short stories specifically feature:
1. A clearly defined mood or feeling.
This can be a genre (humour, romance, horror); an idea (adultery, childbirth, life lessons); or an emotion (loss, grief, joy). Or it can be a combination—as long as it is cohesive and the point is clear.
2. Clear, descriptive language that sets up the concept of the story quickly and without being superfluous.
3. A small cast of characters, including a main character and supporting character(s) who must serve a vital role in the story.
4. A strong point of view.
Know from the beginning what it is you want to say with your short story.
Ask yourself: what do you want people to feel or think as they read your story? Make sure this point of view is clearly reflected throughout the story.
5. Experimental elements.
Short stories don’t necessarily have to stick to traditional storytelling techniques, which means that you can feel free to play around with certain conventions. For example, while the general advice is that every scene in a story should have a “turn”—shifting the emotional charge to its opposite—this doesn’t have to be the case in a short story. Don’t feel shy about breaking a few rules and see what works best for you.
You are going to write your own short story. It should be between 1000 - 1500 words. You can choose one of the following topics, but if you have a really interesting subject of your own you may consult with your teacher to seek approval. Upload your finished short story to your e-portfolio.
Topics (they are not titles):
- Becoming Justice: Your country has been taken over by a narcissistic tyrant, and a powerful relative has offered you a role in his downfall – but not as a human.
- Lost Time. You were told you wandered off as a child for a few minutes but later discover you were gone far longer than that. One person knows why, and he’s in prison. A young prodigy becomes orphaned.
- Stopping Time. You’re a barista with a gift that could cost you your life, but could also help the people of your community to fight back against those in control
- Who’s there? You have just moved into a new house. You wake up one night to the sound of Siri respond to a query. You turned off your phone before you went to sleep.