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Writing A Short Story: The Elements


"It was a dark, stormy night and Little Timmy was home alone as the clock struck midnight.  He jumps as he hears something tap furiously against the window pane. Clutching his teddy bear, Little Timmy slowly tiptoes toward the sound as lightning flashes monstrous shadows against the walls......"

What happens next???

So, you want to write a short story. You've come to the right place to start. 

What is a short story? A short story is usually short and often written in narrative format that tells a story about certain characters. Simple.  HOW to tell a short story is a little bit more complicated than defining what a short story is.

First of all you need to know the ELEMENTS of a short story to be able to effectively write an interesting and captivating tale that makes your readers want to turn to the next page to find out what happens next.



WHO are the people in your story? How many people are there? Is it a family or a group of friends? Are they real or imaginary? Are they even people or are they talking inanimate objects that you brought to life through writing?

Characters in a story can be people, animals or things. You have to figure out how old they are. What are their likes and dislikes? Make your characters well-rounded and interesting with as much details as you can. Hair color, height, complexion, race, age, hair style.... even the way they talk and walk! Let the readers KNOW who they are and what they look like. Let your readers FEEL what emotions your characters are dealing with.


The setting tells your readers WHERE and WHEN (what day or what time) the story is taking place. Setting is very important so that your reader can imagine where your character is.

In describing the setting, you have to be detailed. What can we SEE, SMELL, FEEL, HEAR even TASTE. Use your five senses to describe where your characters are. For example, "The smell of stale, buttered popcorn filled my nostrils as I walked in the old, rickety room filled with seemingly comfortable chairs and a large projection screen in front. It is as dark as the late night outside.  Roars of laughter can be heard from the other room. The musty air overwhelmed my senses as I walk around looking for an empty seat...." Where am I?

In describing the setting, you have to let the readers know the mood or atmosphere of the place. Is is bright and playful or dark and desolating?


This refers to the sequence of events in your story. It is how you, the writer, arrange the events of your story. Of course, you will have a beginning, middle and end. Short stories usually just have one easy-to-follow plot because short stories are usually read in just one-sitting.

The plot has several parts:

1. Introduction: the start of your story. Introduce the characters and the setting. (Timmy Tumbler is a playful 6-year old who loves adventures. One day, he strolls around their neighborhood park with his mom to meet up with playmates...) We know who Timmy is and where he is.

2. Rising Action: Story becomes a little bit more complicated. Something happens that leads to a problem or a conflict. (...Timmy asks his mom for a nickel to buy a red balloon from the clown who sells balloons at the park.  Timmy ambles over to the clown with a shiny nickel in his hand.  The clown hands him the balloon and says, "be careful with it, little boy.. it's a magic balloon...") Now a simple playdate at the park becomes a little bit more complicated by me adding "magic" and mystery to the balloon.

3. Climax: The turning point of your story.  This is the part where your readers will think about what's going to happen next. ("A magic balloon!", Timmy gasped. "What does is do, Mr. Clown?" "Well, little boy, if you make a wish while holding the balloon, it will come true". Timmy runs over to his mom and tells her all about the balloon, but she doesn't believe it. Timmy pouts and makes his silent wish while holding the balloon. Timmy opens his eyes and sees that his mother has disappeared! His wish came true!....)

4. Falling action: this is where resolution to the conflict/problem happens.  (....Timmy looks around in amazement; everything and everyone was still there, except for his mother. Then fear and panic settled in him.  A few seconds later, he heard his mom giggling..."

5. Denouement: Final outcome of your story. (...His mom hugs Timmy and says, "See, Timmy... there's no magic in your balloon. The real magic lies here and here". Timmy's mom points to his heart and his mind. "Imagination is the most powerful magic we have". Timmy smiles as his mom kisses his forehead.)


Without conflict, the plot doesn't move and it becomes boring.  Conflict does not necessarily mean arguments or fights between characters. There are different kinds of conflicts:

Man vs. Man: or character vs. character. This would be the classic fight/argument conflict between characters.

Man vs. circumstances: character faces problems based on his situation

Man vs. society: character deals with societal issues

Man vs. himself: inner conflict

Point of view

Who is telling the story? Is it a First Person story, second person or third? Or are there multiple characters each telling the same story from their point of views? You have to be clear and consistent.


The central idea or main idea of your story. Is it about unrequited love? love triangle? judging people's behaviors? or believing in magic or in oneself? Figure out a central theme and make sure that everything connects to your theme.

Good luck writing a short story! ^_^


Lincy Francis from Allahabad on May 27, 2020:

Awesome! Thanks for this compilation.

Ezekiel Hawk from India on April 03, 2014:

Great! Thank you for this all in one hub with detailed instructions on the structure of a short story.

GA Andereson (Gus) from Maryland, USA on September 22, 2011:

Good hub - sweet and to the point!

Thanks for the helpful information.

I have just begun a series of short stories, (actually life-experience anecdotes), and this hub has given me some good advice to use as I go back to review and improve them.


Dreamer08 (author) from Philippines on March 22, 2011:

@Kim: I would love to read your short story. Will you publish it here on hubpages? ^_^

@Fucsia: Thank you very much for checking out my page! ^_^

fucsia on March 22, 2011:

Wow! Great advice! Thanks!

Dreamer08 (author) from Philippines on March 14, 2011:

Thank you, Kim! Will write more about writing. ^_^

Kim Harris on March 13, 2011:

Thanks, Dreamer! That was fast! We just talked about this. You said you would do a hub on writing short stories, but I had no idea it would be this quick!!! I actually went ahead and published a short story, using what I could remember about short stories from school days. Using your hub to critique my own work, I could have used more senses in describing the setting. The hardest part for me is getting the point of view and sticking with it! Thanks for the hub. I've rated up and useful, and will bookmark it for my next short story.

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