The Elements of a Short Story

I often get asked if there is any sort of checklist for writing a short story.  And yes, I think there is.  Here is what I think a short story should include:

A character who has a problem/conflict which must be resolved by the end of the piece in an unexpected way.

In fact this definition could, very roughly, be applied to all fiction.  If one or more of the elements are missing the story won’t quite work. Don’t take my word for it.  If you have a story that doesn’t work, try running this checklist against it. Are the following elements in place?

  • Character
  • Conflict
  • Change
  • Resolution
  • Surprise

If a story isn’t working, I very often find that one of the last two is missing. Another common problem (oh the irony) is that there simply isn’t enough conflict, i.e. the character doesn’t have a big enough problem for the length of the piece.

Don’t take my word for it. If you have a story that doesn’t quite work, apply the checklist and see if you can fix the missing element and get the story to work.

Happy Editing!

Della xx

PS if you would like some more help with identifying what’s gone wrong with a short story I’m running two summer workshops in Bournemouth on Saturday 21 July and Sunday 26 August.  You can bring along a story of up to 2000 words for detailed feedback.

  • Venue: Kinson Community Centre
  • Time 10 till 4.00
  • Cost £40
  • Email me via this website to book.





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