3 Basics Parts of a Short Story


I tend to write character driven stories. Plot just happens for me. Or it doesn’t. Usually I have a plot in my head from the beginning and I try to get it all out as fast as I can before the muse of inspiration leaves me and I am left not wanting to finish a story. It’s when I don’t get to finish or I don’t know where a story is going that I need to go back and look at plot and conflict, or general story structure.

Coming up this weekend, I am teaching a workshop called “The Nuts and Bolts of Writing and Selling Short Stories.” Based on my experiences selling over a hundred short stories, I will share what has worked for me and what hasn’t. People commonly ask how a short story is different than a novel and how to boil a plot down to 1000 words or 5000 words after writing 140,000 word novels for years. My answer is to stick to the basics.

No matter what the length, when I read a story and it is boring,  confusing or not working on some level, it is often because it lacks one of the basics needed to create short story.

As far as plot goes, here are my nuggets of wisdom for what a story needs to make it a story:


Basics of a short story



Plot (problem and solution)

*Conflict is plot and character development

*Give a character something he/she wants, obstacles that get in the way, and that creates conflict

*Try/fail cycle–that means the girl doesn’t just meet the boy fall in love and get married, there is some kind of trial: flirting but putting her shoe in her mouth; getting his attention by sending naked selfies–and then getting arrested; and then killing the current girlfriend and succeeding at winning his love. (Ha ha! I don’t know if this is humor or horror.)


Dissecting Plot/Conflict Activity

Read the story that is featured in the photo and figure out what the main elements of the story are.



Problem/character’s goal



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