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Crafting a Compelling Narrative

The Elements of Story for Short Story Writers

By Barbara KingPublished 4 months ago 3 min read

All writers at one point in time or another started with short stories.

They didn't just sit down one day and decide to write a novel and write it from bringing to end, most started long before they even knew writing was a profession with short stories. 

The first short story I remember writing was in my 5th-grade math class that ended with it getting confiscated and my parents being called in to talk to the principal - but that's a whole story for another day. 

Short stories are an art form all their own. They require writers to distill their ideas down to the bare essentials and to tell a compelling story in a limited space.

Short stories fall between 1,500 words and 7,500 words. That may not seem like a lot, but it'll be enough to get out the story you want to tell without having to commit to over 50,000 words, the minimum for a novel. 

If you're absolutely brand new to writing or just looking for a refresher on the elements of a story then look no further than the list below. There are all the elements you need to include in your short story. 


All stories need a plot, but this is most important in short stories because of the limited space allotted by a short story, these are going to be plot-driven narration instead of the usual character-driven narration you find in a full-length novel. 

Make sure your short story has a clear beginning, middle, and end that still manages to take the reader on a journey with a satisfying ending. 


Although your story isn't going to be character-driven, your characters are still the backbone of your story and deserve their time in the spotlight. Make them memorable through dialogue or actions, and make them easily relatable so your reader becomes invested in their story. 


The setting is the environment in which your story takes place. Since you have such finite space to build your setting you need to establish it quickly and efficiently. Don't let your characters wander around an empty white room.


Here is the whole reason you have your story. This is the tension that keeps the reader engaged in your story. Keep it clear and focused, introduce it early, and escalate quickly. 


What is the purpose of your story? What's the underlying message or meaning of your story? In a short story, the theme should be subtle and should emerge naturally from the story itself. It should be thought-provoking and you can have it be open to interpretation, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions and leave them wanting more. 


Plot. Character. Setting. Conflict. Theme. All the key elements you need to write a memorable short story. Sure these are the same that you'll find in novels of any length, but short stories need to get to the point and get there fast. 

Best of luck and keep writing.

With love, 

B.K. xo

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About the Creator

Barbara King

Barbara King is a full-time writing coach and novelist. King is a recent college graduate from Southern New Hampshire University where she earned her BA in Creative Writing.

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