29 December 2013

10 Tips For Writing Short Stories

Don’t be fooled.  Short story writing is not an easy task.  Unlike a full length novel, you only have a finite number of words you can use in order to convey a vibrant story.  So, you have to make EVERY word count.

Even though you have only 1,000 to say 3,500 words at your disposal, the basic elements of a short story are the same as a novel.  You need a beginning, middle and an end, along with engaging characters, structure, theme, plot, and conflict.

It might help to think of your short story as a three act play.  Act 1 you introduce your character(s), setting and conflict.  Act 2 Complications arise.  Tension builds.  Act 3 All questions are answered and the protagonist reaches his goal.

No wonder it’s a daunting task!  Nevertheless, here are 10 tips to help you on your way:-

  1. Make your title enticing and relevant to your story. It's a calling card that, if compelling enough, will nudge a potential reader's curiosity.
  2. Limit yourself to three characters at the most.  With little room for character development, 1-3 characters is an ideal number because you will then be able to give each one the attention they deserve.
  3. Work with one, possibly two settings because, again, as you're working with a low word count, you will still be able to describe your setting(s) and bring them to life.
  4. Only have one conflict.
  5. Don't have too long a time period for your story.
  6. Have one point of view POV character and make him the character who is central to your plot.
  7. Start your story with a hook, preferably in the first couple of paragraphs. Your reader needs to be asking questions from the very beginning.
  8. Show the reasons that will prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.  This will add a level of tension and keep your reader reading!
  9. Make every sentence move your story forward.
  10. Have a twist at the end.  Readers love to be surprised!
Can you think of any other important points when writing a short story?


  1. This is a great short story with excellent advice on how to write a short story Jill! Love the caricature of the woman at the writing desk. I admire those who can write a good short story. I have problems with it but will take your advice and try again. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Anna. I haven't written many short stories and probably need practice too. And probably a difficult exercise if you tend on the side of verboseness. Happy New Year, Anna.

  2. I still have problem with making twist. Could you give me advice for that, Jill ?

    1. Hi Tyastlc, Thank you for commenting.
      A twist is important in a story, particularly a short story. Make it believable and not too outrageous. To make a twist, give some thought to what your readers expect will happen and create a different outcome. It can be to do with a particular character or a situation.
      An example would be one of my short stories call Ashes to Ashes. If you contact me by email, I can send you a copy of it. Best Wishes, Jill