The Short Story A series of mini-lessons
What is a short story? • A short story is a fictional prose narrative that can be read in one sitting. • It is usually between five and 15 pages long, but can be shorter. • A short story contains the following elements: story idea, theme, plot, conflict, character, point of view, setting, mood and dialogue.
What is fictional prose narrative? • Fictional – means it is made up, not real • Prose – means it is written in everyday language, not in verses like poetry • Narrative – means the story describes a series of events
Story idea • If you are going to write a story, the first thing you need is an idea. • Your idea should be a specific, imagined situation. • Example: a student is caught shoplifting during lunch hour or a woman is afraid to get on an airplane during a blizzard
Your ideas should trigger questions in the reader’s mind like: • How did they get in this situation? • What will happen next? • Make sure your story explores the answers to these questions.
A theme is not something concrete like a story idea. It is a general observation about life or human behaviour you want to express. Some common themes are: Establishing your own identity Conflict between people Finding harmony with the environment Theme You can choose a theme before you pick an idea – it might help you think of an idea if you know want you want to say first.
Plot and Conflict • Plot means the events that happen in a story. • In a good short story, these events are closely connected and focus on a main conflict. • This creates tension that may or may not be resolved by the end of the story.
Five parts of a plot a) Introduction – the beginning where we meet the characters and learn the setting. b) Rising Action – events get complicated and the conflict is revealed. c) Climax - the highest point of interest and the turning point of the story. d) Falling action - The events and complications begin to resolve themselves. e) Denouement - This is the final outcome or untangling of events in the story.
How the climax works This happens in three parts: • The character receives information • The character accepts the information but may not agree with it • The character acts on the information (makes a choice that determines whether or not their goal is achieved)
Tension can be created in two ways: • Internal conflict – this usually centres on the story’s main character. • External conflict – this is usually between two individuals or some outside force such as nature or society.What interests a reader most is how the main character in a short story will deal with internal or external conflict.
Kinds of Conflict There are four kinds of conflict: 1) Man vs. Man (physical) - The main character struggles with his physical strength against humans, forces of nature, or animals. 2) Man vs. Circumstances - The main character struggles against fate, or the circumstances of life facing him/her. 3) Man vs. Society (social) - The main character struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of other people. 4) Man vs. Himself/Herself (psychological) - The leading character struggles with them self; with their own soul, ideas of right or wrong, physical limitations, choices, etc.
A character is a fictional person, animal or other entity (such as a robot, monster or supernatural being). A short story usually has one main character and the story focuses on their thoughts, feelings or behaviour. Character and Point of View
Protagonist This is the main person in the story and is usually thought of as the hero or good person. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man are all protagonists. Antagonist This is the person who opposes the main character and is usually the villain in the story. Lex Luthor, The Joker and Venom are all antagonists. Two types of characters Good characters are consistent, life-like and motivated.
Different points of view • First-person – this means that everything in the story is seen and interpreted through one person’s eyes. • These stories have the main character telling what happens.
Third-person view • This is called omniscient which means “all-knowing.” The storyteller is not in the story. (uses words like he, she, they, etc.) • This is better for the writer because you can tell what all the characters are thinking and doing as the plot unfolds.
Setting and Mood • The setting is where the story takes place. • It provides a backdrop for the plot. • It is closely related to the mood of the story. • Mood means the atmosphere of the story. • When used properly, mood can have a significant impact on your story.
Things to consider for setting a) place - geographical location. Where is the action of the story taking place? b) time - When is the story taking place? (historical period, time of day, year, season, etc.) c) weather conditions - Is it rainy, sunny, etc? d) social conditions - What is the daily life of the characters like? Does the story contain local colour (writing that focuses on the speech, dress, mannerisms, customs, etc. of a particular place)? e) mood or atmosphere - What feeling is created at the beginning of the story? Is it bright and cheerful or dark and frightening?
Dialogue • Writers often include dialogue to allow their characters to express themselves. • This shows what the characters are thinking and feeling. • Dialogue, or conversation, keeps the story lively.
Read lots of short stories by other writers and pay attention to how they use the different short story elements. Keep a list of possible story ideas and themes. Use free writing to help get you started. Join a short story writing group. Have other people read your story and suggest changes then edit your story. Tips for good short stories