Want to Write an Amazing Short Story? Here are Some of its Distinctive Features

I just learnt that our devoted writer Saahil Foolchund is working on a short story, so I now feel inspired to give some tips on short story writing.

I’m quite pleased because at the same time this changes from my usual posts on poetry writing tips.

Here we go:

  • A short story typically takes the form of a brief fictional work.
  • It is usually written in prose.


Characteristics of the short story

  • Length: Well, a short story is first of all… short


Short stories typically range from 1,600 to 20,000 words.


Short Story writer Edgar Allan Poe even suggested that a short story should take 30 minutes to two hours to read.


  • Subject: Short stories usually focus on a single subject or theme.


Subjects or themes may range from something as mundane as a daily activity or as thrilling as a ghost tale.


A single, easily contained plot is one of the hallmarks of the short story and helps shape its other characteristics.


  • ‘In medias res’: Short stories usually take place in a single setting and begin ‘in medias res’.


This means ‘into the middle of things’ in Latin.


In general, short stories tend to begin and end abruptly, with little to no prior information and no major lapses in time.


As they involve just one plot line and are limited in word length, there is little room or need for the extended developments we frequently find in novels.


  • Limited number of characters: Due to the limitations of the genre, short stories typically focus on just one or a couple characters.


As short stories usually cover such brief periods of time, even a single character may never be fully developed.


As you see, short stories are less complex than novels.

Usually, a short story will:

  • focus on only one incident
  • have a single plot
  • have a single setting
  • have a limited number of characters
  • and cover a short period of time.


In longer forms of fiction (novels or plays for e.g), stories tend to contain certain core elements of dramatic structure:

  • the exposition
  • the complication
  • the rising action
  • the climax
  • the falling action
  • and the resolution 


Because of their short length, short stories may or may not follow this pattern.

Some do not follow patterns at all.

For example, modern short stories only occasionally have an exposition.

As with longer stories, plots of short stories may have a climax or turning-point.

However, the endings of many short stories are abrupt and open and may or may not have a moral.

But of course, as with any art form, the exact characteristics of a short story will vary by author.

So don’t hesitate to experiment and add the little spark that reflects your personality…


Rachel Martin


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