Short Stories

Short stories test your skill on describing, articulating and range of vocabulary. It’s essentially a trial on how well you can develop a story line which can display your level as a writer. Here’s a brief guide to writing them.

The first paragraph should of course be an introduction, giving the reader an insight into what you’re going to write about. It does not necessarily have to be revealing (as in reveal the whole story line) but the first few paragraphs should set the scene for the story, for example a countryside if you chose a relaxing story, or an abandoned warehouse if you chose a horror one. You should pay attention to detail and let your imagination run wild – make your description of the place in question detailed, but not detailed to the extent that it’s boring. For example, “glittering green leaves” is fine, ┬ábut “glittering, shining, wonderful, lovely, beautiful, splendid, magnificent green leaves” is not. Try to avoid cliche descriptions that you’ve ripped out of a book, like the classic “all the joy in the world” or “the endless ocean glittered like the infinite stars in the sky” – truthfully, it’s disgusting to read and has zero creativity involved, which sort of spoils the whole point of the task.

Now, you begin on the main body of the story. Here is where you start introducing the characters for the first couple of scenes and the first major event. Since you should now have given the background to the main events, you can obviously start to progress up to them in the manner you have planned. Build-ups in short stories are very important – you can’t just skip straight to the main event. Building up tension can’t really be explained in words – it’s experience you get from reading other things and then developing your own way of creating suspense. A lot regarding tips to this can be found in the Literary Features and Techniques section linked above.

The last few paragraphs either move away from the climax of the story, meaning the tension and suspense fade away, or instead build up to it. In a lot of modern stories, tension builds up to the final moment and the final sentence is essentially what destroys the tension within a few words. Endings like this are significantly harder to create but are very effective in getting you marks.

The above is the typical structure of short story writing. There are of course, many more different types, for example the increasingly popular flashback writing style, where the story starts off with the near the final climax, and then flashes back to present all the events leading up to it. The final conclusion of the story often initially happens a very short time from the beginning of the story, so to speak – this type of writing often involves the use of tension and suspense, depending on how to open the story.

I know these structures may be hard to understand by simply reading explanations, so I have attached two very well-written short stories – links are below. I recommend reading both – they are definitely worth the time.

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