Short story “how to” guide

Short stories are a fascinating genre. It is amazing how authors of short stories are able to provide the audience with a vast amount of detail and plot line in such a short number of pages. You might be wondering, how are they able to do this? Well, this blog post will give you some insight into how short story authors work their magic!

To help write my own short story, I analyzed three short stories to use as models. Here is a what I learned from them:

“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn is a dystopian short story told from the first-person point of view—like my short story. This was an important model to use because I learned the correct way that dialogue should be included in short stories. Not all short stories are written this way, but  Vaughn mainly uses dialogue as the diction in her short story. It is important to note though that the dialogue is not in block quotes, but rather precise lines back and forth between characters. This is a key aspect of short stories because since they are short, the dialogue must be short, yet meaningful. There are also no long paragraphs for this same reason. These stylistic aspects in this short story served as a good model for my short story.

“Billennium” by J.G. Ballard is another example of a dystopian short story. This short story was helpful for me to create my own dystopian short story because it gave me a model as to how to structure my story. In “Billennium,” it was important for the author to give a thorough introduction so that the reader understood the context of society. Without this context, the plot would mean nothing. The reader needed to know what type of world the author was writing about, since dystopian worlds are foreign to the readers.

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut is a dystopian short story with an outstanding introduction. Like my short story, Vonnegut had to describe a dystopian world in which no one reading the story is familiar. Vonnegut does an incredible job of describing this world in an effective, yet precise way. He sets up his world in only a short three paragraphs. I tried to used Vonnegut’s short and effective writing style when creating my introduction and describing the society I am writing about.

Here are some quick tips to know when writing short stories:

  1. Short stories have all the meat that longer stories have, but less pages to include it on. This means that short stories must be precise and impactful. Since words cannot be wasted, each word matters to move the plot forward.
  2. Short stories can only focus on one plot line. There is not enough time to develop more than one plot line because in doing so, each would not be fully developed and make a poor short story.
  3. Character development in short stories can be tricky. Authors do not have space solely for describing a character. Instead, the author must use the plot to not only move the story forward, but to also work on character development as well.
  4. Just like full length stories, short stories have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning introduction must be brief, yet also set the scene for the story because the plot in the middle comes right after this brief introduction. The middle, which is the plot, is the story the author is telling. The ending serves as the conclusion, which can either simply be the ending of the story, or in my case, also reiterate the main point the author is trying to get across.
  5. Short stories can include dialogue, but it must be brief since the whole story cannot be made up of dialogue. Only what is important to enhancing the plot should be included.
  6. The rhetoric that makes up short stories will differ for each short story. This is because short stories can have any audience, topic, and meaning the author wants it to have.


2 thoughts to “Short story “how to” guide”

  1. Chloe!
    This was a great blog post. I feel super equipped in writing a short story if I needed to! One thing that stood out to me that I probably didn’t do, was you made it clear what was special in each model. Further, your “quick tips” were thorough and direct. Your first point, where you say “since words cannot be wasted, each word matters to move the plot forward.” After reading your sample excerpt Introduction, it is clear you used this tip in your own writing. If anything, having zero fat in your writing made your introduction super direct, urgent, and successful. Great post!

  2. Hi Chloe!

    Great blogpost! Your quick tips are direct and so helpful, and it really crystallizes the elements I find present in all my favorite short stories. I think you did a great job learning from your models in how to write a good, direct, yet comprehensive intro to set the stage for an unfamiliar dystopian world for your own experiment. The necessity of dialogues to be short makes me think of my own chat fiction piece a little too! I think dialogue has a lot of potential to move the plot forward very quickly, sometimes quicker and in less lines than narration. I am curious as to how you would like to do that, considering the tone of your sample seemed very letter-y. I think it would play out in a fascinating way! Perhaps moving between letter and flashback? So many possibilities! Great work 🙂

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