Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crafting a Short Story

There are both similarities and differences in creating a short story rather than one of novel length. I began writing short stories in high school and found them too constricting. I tend to be wordy and I enjoy adding lots of description to bring life to my stories. Novels were what I wanted to write. After writing novels for several years, I decided to give short stories another try. I enjoyed the experience much more than I had when I was younger. There are several ideas for stories that sometimes just don't have enough to stretch into 70,000 words. But, you have to be aware of what's needed to make a short story work.


Your hero and heroine need to be well-rounded and fully developed, but it's not necessary to give a complete background history of them. Although you still need to know that information, there's no need to develop a full psychological profile into the story itself, just enough to indicate who this character is and why they behave and react the way they do.

Point of View

With the limited amount of words in a short story, shifting point of view for more than one or two characters is enough. Too many points of view become confusing to the reader. Primarily, readers want to see through the hero and heroine's eyes, and possibly the villian if necessary for the plot. Any other minor characters's viewpoint crowds a short story and potentially slows down the pace.


Describe your setting enough to give a taste of the location of your story. Many people have an idea what New York City looks like and maybe you want to add a specific building but the reader doesn't need to know the history of the architecture of the building unless it plays an important role. If the gargoyle towering over the heroine's apartment building doesn't shape shift into the hero, it's probably not necessary to include it in your story.


Beyond the main plot, you may be able to weave in a minor subplot or two. Any more than that will add too many complications for the characters to resolve. More complications equal more words. The major conflict of the story needs to be resolved by the end. Leave no loose ends.

When it comes to writing short stories, it's really about what works for the author. How deep do you want to delve into your character's lives and the situation you've put them in? How much time do you want to spend creating the world they live in? It's useful also to expand your own set of writing talents. If you prefer crafting novels, challenge yourself by writing something shorter. Same if you've never written something of longer length. You might discover something about your writing that you never knew.


  1. Mark Twain said: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."

    Short stories are a greater challenge for me. Could be why there are so many novels lying around my office. =) Keeping word counts down takes practice and great craft, not to mention a clear idea where the story needs to go before you write it.

    Great article, Tricia! I'm glad you shared your insights.

  2. Thanks, Ash! I love that quote by Mark Twain, it's one of my favorites. Sometimes short stories may be difficult to write but I know you can do it!