Steps to Write a Short Story


In a short story, it is important to give the essential details of the characters, setting and plot and to resolve the conflict in a meaningful way. To successfully write a short story, you need to learn the goals of narrative writing and the strategies to achieve those goals.

The subject matter for the post is taken from the writing workshop model of Glencoe’s book of World Literature. To get exciting tips on writing, visit

In the process of writing you have to follow the basic steps of story writing such as prewrite, draft, revise and presenting. During the process you can always go back and forth when you come across a new idea. Try to follow few professional models of short stories and find whether these ideas present in them and capture the places how the writer maintain the suspense and use figurative language effectively to bring out the overall theme.


Gather Ideas: You might try thinking about people, places and experiences in your own life to help you generate story ideas. Use your imagination to add details and develop a unique and engaging narrative.

Imagine characters: whom is your story about? Choose your main character and the necessary minor characters. Consider what the characters will look like, how they will speak, move, and behave, and what they will try to achieve.

Create setting: Where and when does your story take place? Use vivid details to establish your setting.

Develop plot: once you think of a possible character or situation, consider some what ifs to help you formulate the plot. What if your character got lost? What if your character is not the person everyone thinks he or she is? Keep the plot simple and focus on a conflict the main character faces. The conflict can be external or internal. Before you begin writing, fill out a plot diagram like the one below to plan your short story. 


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Choose a point of view: Point of view is the perspective form which a story is told. You can use first-person point of view if you want to tell the story from the narrator’s standpoint using I and me. Or, you can use third-person point of view to tell the story through the eyes of a narrator who stands outside the action.

Show your style: Use figurative language, irony, symbols and imagery to help develop your characters, setting and themes. As short story is a compact model of a story, use of techniques enhances its quality.

Build suspense: Suspense is the tension a reader feels about what will happen next in a story. To create suspense, you might use an eerie setting, slow the pace at a crucial moment, use flashbacks or change the scene. Keep in mind that suspense is a balancing act: too many hints might spoil the surprise, but too few might confuse the reader.



Get going: As you draft, use your plot diagram as a guide, but if you find yourself getting stuck, try altering some aspects of the plot you can add or delete details when you revise later.

Tips of strong writing

  • Ideas: message or theme and the details that develop it.
  • Organization: arrangement of main ideas and supporting details.
  • Voice: writers’ unique way of using tone and style.
  • Word choice: vocabulary a writer uses to convey meaning.
  • Sentence fluency: rhythm and flow of sentences.
  • Convention: correct spelling, grammar, usage and mechanics.
  • Presentation: the way words and design elements look on a page.


Using dialogues:

  • Write your dialogue in words and phrases appropriate to each character.
  • Make your dialogue easy to follow by using clear attributions: ‘he said,’ Dialogues in short stories are rather short and written in fragments to keep the economy of the words. Dialogues help the reader to understand the characteristics of the characters in the story; so plan them carefully.



Peer Review: When you finish your draft, meet with a partner to exchange papers and discuss ways to improve your story. Make sure the story includes a conflict that is resolved in a meaningful way. Use the checklist below to evaluate and strengthen your story.


  1. Do you use descriptive details to create a setting and characters that are clearly defined?
  2. Do you introduce and resolve a conflict and communicate its significance?
  3. Do you use narrative details and present events in chronological order?
  4. “Do you maintain a consistent point of view?


Peer review tips:

  • Are the characters and conflict clearly presented?
  • Is the sequence of events easy to follow?
  • Is the setting clearly described?
  • Does the story have a satisfying ending?


Edit and proofread

Get it right: When you have completed the final draft of your story, proofread it for errors in grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling.


When I rummaging through the books to teach my students about writing a short story, I found this interesting article on writing a short story and decided to share it with our literature readers. Total credit should go to the original writers of Glencoe’s World Literature and you can visit their website to read similar exciting tutorials on writing.

Ultimate goal of a literature student should be producing a piece of writing. Hope this post would give you a glimpse of help to start off. Share the post if you find this useful to others.

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