fbpx

Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →

Category Archives: Craft: Short Story Writing

The 5 Most Important Elements Of Great Short Stories | Writer’s Relief

Submit To Our Peter K. Hixson Award

DEADLINE: Friday, July 24th, 2020

Our Review Board Is Open!

Submit Your Short Story, Poetry, or Book Today!

DEADLINE: Thursday, August 20, 2020

The 5 Most Important Elements Of Great Short Stories | Writer’s Relief

You’re writing a short story and have a great opening line, an interesting plot that will wrap up neatly, and a word count that’s right on track. Yet, it still seems like something’s missing. At Writer’s Relief, we know there are must-have elements that make the difference between a “good” story and a “great” short story—which will also boost your odds of getting an acceptance from a literary journal editor. If you want to be published, here are the most important elements to consider when writing your short stories.

Important Elements Found In Great Short Stories

Narrative Development

It’s not enough for your short story to have a good beginning and a great ending—you have to take your readers on an interesting journey through the middle. Most writers follow a standard narrative arc, but if you’re feeling brave, you can always mix it up. Just be sure your readers can follow the plot and the story engages their interest throughout.

Tension

At the heart of every great short story you’ll find some sort of tension or conflict. It may be as small as an argument over what to name the dog or as big as a race against time to stop the end of the world—but tension will improve your story. The longer you can draw out the suspense and the higher you can raise the stakes of your conflict, the more invested your readers will be in finding out what comes next.

Compelling Characters

Your characters might be people, animals, aliens, or even inanimate objects, but someone or something needs to drive the plot forward. To write intriguing characters, you need to give your readers ways to connect with them. Even the strangest space alien should have some qualities your readers can relate to and connect with. Once your readers identify with your characters on some level, they’ll start to care about what happens to them.

Characters also need to be connected to your plot. You could try telling the story of a harrowing divorce from the perspective of a mouse that lives in the wall, but the mouse doesn’t really care how the conflict resolves, so your readers won’t either—unless the divorce determines if the cat stays or moves out. Keep your characters linked to what’s moving the story forward.

Setting

If you’ve ever watched a horror movie, you know how atmosphere can turn a simple swim into something sinister. When you’re writing, the details you relay about your setting are how you set the atmosphere. Reader expectations about a forest where the trees are “crowded close together, blotting out the sunlight and cutting off any escape” will be very different from a description of those same trees as “nestled together to form vibrant canopies.” Experiment with your wording to ensure your setting accurately reflects the tone of your story.

For inspiration, check out these examples of famous literature that makes good use of its settings.

Resolution

A good ending offers your readers a resolution that pulls the threads of the story together neatly and includes the result of the central conflict. Did your protagonists prevail, or were the challenges too difficult? And make sure your resolution matches the story: An upbeat, optimistic story with a morose ending will leave your readers annoyed and unsettled. A surprise twist at the end can work, but your story should deliver on readers’ expectations and suit the genre in which you’re writing.

Whenever you finish writing a short story, review the elements listed here to confirm you’ve included all the necessary components. Then it’s time for the next step: Submit your story to literary journals! If the idea of researching and pinpointing the best journals for your work seems daunting, Writer’s Relief is here to help! Learn more about our services here.

 

Question: Which element do you feel is most important to a short story? Why?

7 Short Story No-Nos That Smart Writers Always Ignore | Writer’s Relief

Sooner or later, every short story writer comes across a list of writing pitfalls that are considered narrative poison. Include these elements at your own peril, you’re warned. But at Writer’s Relief, we know that many of these rules are not chiseled in stone—some are actually the literary equivalent of urban legends. While we can’t… Continue Reading

Writers: How To Write Amazing Short Stories—Ask Writer’s Relief

If you’re a short story writer who wants to get published, you’re always on the lookout for the best writing advice. You want to know: What elements are always found in good short stories? And how do you write a fully developed plot with multidimensional characters in 3,500 words or less? Fortunately, Writer’s Relief has… Continue Reading

Writers: How To Come Up With A Great Title—Ask Writer’s Relief

Sometimes, writing an entire book—or poem, or short story, or personal essay—can seem much easier than coming up with a great title! And if selecting the absolute best title to accurately reflect your work isn’t daunting enough, the enormous pressure to make sure it’s unique enough to grab attention can quickly throw a cold bucket… Continue Reading

Free Tutorial: New Short Story Ideas For Timeless Topics | Writer’s Relief

Mark Twain believed there was no such thing as a new idea. But he also felt that old ideas could become new with a little inspiration. Writer’s Relief feels the same way, which is why we created a mix-and-match idea generator to help you breathe new life into timeless topics for short stories. Check out… Continue Reading



YES, IT'S MY LUCKY DAY!
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000+ acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
 
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link


STOP! BEFORE YOU GO...
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000+ acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
 
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link
Yes! Send My Free Guide!

Get Your FREE Goal-Oriented
Writer Guide!

We’ll send the link to this handy guide filled with
expert advice and smart tips so you can start
reaching your writing goals today!

 
Bonus: Stay updated! We’ll email you weekly links
to more great articles featuring the best writing
strategies and insider info!
close-link
Yes! Send My Free Guide!

Get Your FREE Goal-Oriented
Writer Guide!

We’ll send the link to this handy guide filled with
expert advice and smart tips so you can start
reaching your writing goals today!

 
Bonus: Stay updated! We’ll email you weekly links
to more great articles featuring the best writing
strategies and insider info!
close-link
Live Chat Software