Short Story Writing Tips

For many, writing a short story is difficult because it’s short and needs to have a theme. The space doesn’t leave a lot of room for rabbit trails. If you’re trying to write better short stories and want to improve your writing, you can. Continue reading for some suggestions about ways to improve your writing by making it stronger, more realistic and more interesting.

Tips on Character Development

When you begin writing a short story, one of the first things you need to do is identify your main characters, namely the protagonist and the antagonist. Identify what the protagonist wants and how the antagonist is trying to stop the antagonist from achieving his or her goals.

When you develop the characters, get to know everything about them. What’s his most embarrassing moment? What’s her relationship like with her parents? How did he meet his significant other? What do your characters look like? Saying that she’s “beautiful” or he’s “ugly” isn’t enough. Instead, find specific ways to describe them. Write down the things that make the person attractive or unattractive, including personality traits. For instance:

  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • The green sheen on his teeth
  • The dirt under her nails
  • The way she bites her lip when she’s nervous
  • The way he bosses people around

Tips on Plot

A good short story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Before you begin writing, think about what your protagonist wants and how you can turn it into a story. How can you introduce the problem? Will he or she achieve this goal or not? And, whether it ends well for your character or not, how do you get from the problem to the end?

Consider creating a story arc, marking important events along your character’s timeline. Include conflict, tension into the story line. How do the events of your story change your character? How does getting a new job influence change? What about moving? Getting married? Having a baby? To create a good story, your character needs to change by facing his or her fears, whether or not she succeeds. How does your character change?. Maybe your character:

  • Realizes she’s better off without her boyfriend
  • Decides to join the military, after all
  • Moves in with her parents to save money
  • Chooses to do something for himself

Other Tips

Decide who’s telling the story. Is it your main character? First person or third? Is a narrator? Can the narrorator see into everyone’s perspective?

Decide how to end the story. You know what happens, but how much are you going to tell to the reader? Consider an open-ended ending that allows your readers to decide what happened. For instance, “Ali nodded at the police officer, but ignored him, staring out the window at the crashing waves”

You can also have a clear-cut outcome that explicitly states what happened. “Karen loaded up the car, ignoring her husband’s pleas.” Dialogue is another common way to end a story.