There are six elements to a short story.

  • Setting
  • Conflict
  • Point of View
  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Theme

Setting: This is where your story is taking place. When picking a setting ask your self a few questions to help you decide. “What sort of a picture will this place create in the mind of the reader?” “When do I want my story to take place?” “Have I ever been to a place like this before?” These kind of questions can help you narrow down your ideas, and help you get a handle on where you want to place your characters.

Conflict: Without conflict your story will read like a journal entry or worse a grocery list. You will need something for your characters to react against. Conflict can be generated from anywhere in your story. It could come from one character to another, like two knights in the middle ages fighting for king’s honor. Also it could come from the setting itself, imagine being lost in the woods seeking your way home. Or it could come from inside the character themselves, think of a person forced to make a life changing decision and they are afraid to choose.

Point of View: Through who’s eyes is the reader seeing the story? Is it in the first person? “I knew I had to get back to camp before nightfall, or I was going to freeze once the sun went down.” Or maybe second person? “You find yourself at the edge of a great cliff edge and in your gut you want to jump. Just before your leave the ground you see that bungee cord has come loose.” Perhaps you like the omniscient narrator best of all? “In a blur of motion, Nate drew his six-shooter and shot the sheriff down in the street. The sun beat down on his brow and he knew he had become an outlaw.” point of view does a great deal of work when it comes to the mood you want to create in the reader. try them all and see which you like best.

Plot: This is the blue print of your story. All the “Who did what?” and “When that happened,” and twists and turns are answered by the plot. It is the skeleton of the body of the story. Think of it as the driving force in the story you are writing. Start with something simple. “Sarah woke up and went to church.” Sounds simple, but who knows how she got there, or if she ever made it? Do not be afraid to create easy plots to start with, after you get the hang of it they will grow in your mind.

Characters: These are the moving parts in your story that drive the plot. Give them as much as you can in the way of detail. What will they say when a gun is pointed at them? How will they react when they win game of poker? Why do they think they are the way they are? Flesh them out even more than you need to for the story, because if your characters feel real to you, then you will be able to imagine them in a variety of situations.

Theme: This can be thought of as the flavor of your story. Is it a mystery? A horror? Or a comedy? Try them all. Twist them up and create a mix. Will your story teach a lesson? think of this as ultimately what it is you are trying to say to the reader.