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The Character of a Short Story

Updated on July 1, 2015
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In order to explain the character of a short story we have to keep the following literary terms in mind, and also the interpretation of the particular words. (Sadly, the interpretation of WORDS differs from country to country. What some people call ‘genre’, may be called ‘form' or ‘style’ in another country.)

  • ‘Narrative’ - a message that tells the particulars of an act or occurrence or course of events.
  • ‘Medium’ - the platform that gives prominence to the narrative: Cinema, television, play [on stage], a published work, etc.
  • 'Form' - the TYPE/STYLE of writing, i.e. Novel, Novella, Short Story, Poem, Essay, Drama (on stage), etc. In some countries these are also called 'genre'.
  • ‘Genre’ - the mode of a specific form, i.e. Thriller, Suspense, Romance, Horror, Comedy, Melodrama, Mystery, Parody, Satire, Science-fiction, etc.

This hub is about the literary FORM called Short Story

Before discussing the character of a short story, let’s define a few forms.

  • The Novel - a fictional prose narrative of considerable length, containing a plot that may accommodate various themes, messages and many characters.
  • The Novella - a fictional prose narrative of intermediate length, in other words, a novel with less words, themes and characters.
  • The Legend - defined by Timothy R. Tangherlini: A short (mono-) episodic, traditional, highly ecotypified (specifically located in place and time), historicized narrative performed in a conversational mode, reflecting on a psychological level a symbolic representation of folk belief and collective experiences and serving as a reaffirmation of commonly held values of the group to whose tradition it belongs.
  • The Anecdote - a short and amusing (or interesting) account of a real incident. Although anecdotes could be humorous, they are not jokes. (Wikipedia)
  • The Epigram - a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. (Wikipedia)
  • The Essay - an author’s point of view presented without a plot and demonstrations by characters.
  • The Short Story - a narrative with a specific structure and dynamic components. It is an author’s point of view on ONE specific theme (topic/subject/issue), but plotted and demonstrated by fictional characters.

The Short Story

The Short Story is about conflict between the author’s point of view and one or another issue/reality/possibility. The author use the main character - the protagonist - to demonstrate their view, and an antagonist to demonstrate the issue/reality/possibility. The latter could be another person, a community, a perceptions, a phobia, an aspiration/dream, a memories, etc.

Essential elements of a short story are: Conflict, Intrigue (a crafty and involved plot), Suspense and a Climax.

The Short Story demands action – showing, acting, demonstrating - and NOT telling. Up to 50% dialogue is needed to meet this demand.

The short story allows no unnecessary description or dialogue. Every word that describes background and characters, and every word spoken by the characters, must be crucial to the theme.

When describing, grammatical rules may not be bent by an author. Spelling and the construction of sentences and paragraphs should be neat and striking. However, dialogue have no grammatical and moral constrictions. Characters may curse, speak slang and interrupt each other as they please.

The Short Story has a specific structure and dynamic components

Evidently a short story should be a SHORT story in order to meet its purpose. 1500-2500 words seem to be the maximum readers of today prefer. Flash Fiction, sometimes called Short-Short Stories, is even shorter with a maximum of 800-1000 words.

The structure of a short story includes three movements: A Beginning, a Middle, and End

Beginning – This movement is for the introduction of the background, the theme (topic, subject or issue) and characters. Apart from the title of the story, the Beginning, and especially the first paragraph, is the most important part of the story. It is the bait that encourages a reader to read on. The reader of short stories wants instant entertainment, an instant escape out of their own reality; they want action. They really don’t have the time or patience to accommodate a longwinded introduction of theme and characters. Writers may have the best stories to tell, but if they fail to capture the attention of a reader in the first 2-3 paragraphs, their stories will never be read and appreciated.

The Middle - This is the movement meant for the development of the story via a series of events. The tension in this movement should increase, like a crescendo in music, in order to end this particular movement with a climax.

The End - In this movement the conflict is resolved, all loose ends are tied and the message the author wants to pass on becomes clearly perceivable. Characters are at last ready to live happily forever after. Some short stories have ‘open’ ends, not revealing the author’s point of view, but forcing the reader to draw their own conclusion. However, the average short story reader prefers closed endings, and preferably happy endings.

A short story has dynamic components -

Only ONE theme/topic/issue is allowed in a short story.

Only one narrator (story-teller) is allowed from the beginning to end.

  • The narrator may be the main character, allowing the author to write in the first-person narrator. This narrator has the ability to describe feelings, perceptions and opinions intensely and thoroughly, though only his own and their interpretation of those of other characters. This narrator CAN NOT read the minds and hearts of other characters.
  • Or the narrator may be an invisible eye (camera) in the corner of the background, allowing the author to write in the third-person limited narrator. This third-person can also NOT read minds, or know what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. It can only see/hear what the characters in his sight do and say.
  • Or the narrator may be a third-person omniscient narrator – a godlike creature able to see/hear/know everything. Using this narrator allows the author to reveal all their personal knowledge and wisdom, but it could also inspire them to tell the story, instead of showing/demonstrating it according to the literary demand of a short story.

A relevant background. Writers of short stories should see the background of a short story as a stage – a confined space suitable for all actions relevant to the theme. If the theme is for example ‘abortion’, the background should be a clinic, or a bedroom, or even the middle of nowhere where the conflict between protagonist and antagonist can be demonstrated effectively. Of course, characters may travel, but relevant to the theme/topic of the story.

√ The minimum characters. A short story needs a protagonist – a main character appropriate to the theme/topic/issue – and an antagonist offering opposition. The antagonist can be a person or something like a phobia or social issue. The conflict is between protagonist and antagonist, and the winner should always be the protagonist. Sometimes minor characters are needed to support the protagonist and/or the antagonist. They should be kept in the background and never allowed to steal the limelight of the protagonist or antagonist.

The developing of characters in a short story is important. At the end at least the protagonist should be wiser, as they have conquered the theme/issue.

√ A Plot – A short story has a Plot – a clearly defined plan. This is not a boring report of an event from beginning to end in a logical order, or description of the pros and cons of a specific matter, but something like a puzzle. Plotting a story means the author provides relevant information in the form of description, dialogue and interaction between characters in a sequence of cause and effect. A short story may, in fact should, start with a crisis: The protagonist has to find themselves all of a sudden between the devil and the deep blue sea, facing the antagonist.

√ A message – A Short Story has ONE specific message, also called ‘idea’. This is not exactly the so-called moral of a story, as the moral could become clearly perceivable during the course of events, but a message or idea that may change or enlighten a reader’s perspective on the theme/topic. The message is not necessarily the author’s personal point of view, but an undeniable truth that may even enlighten the author. The idea/message of a successful short story is like a flash of lightning, and so often we only see it for a moment and either immediately forget about it, or muse on it in amazement.

What a short story should not be -

Χ) Unsolved conflict is not allowed in short stories. “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” (Tom Clancy)

Χ) Moralization - The writer of short stories is not a preacher of morals.

Χ) Instructive (didactic) - The writer of short stories is not an instructor or a teacher.

Χ) Propaganda - The mission of a short story writer is not to provide information for the purpose of promoting some cause.

Χ) Fanatism - (the opposite of propaganda). Showing excessive intolerance of opposing views should not be the mission of a short story writer.

Χ) Agitation - The writer of a short story does not stir up public opinion in favour or against a specific issue.

Χ) A negative ending - A short story has a positive ending. Justice prevails. Everybody receives their just deserts. Good conquers Evil.

In Conclusion

Short story writing is not only a career, or rewarding and profitable hobby, but also therapy. Turning our good and bad memories into short stories, enable us to understand ourselves and others better. Writing relieves and heals emotional pain.

© Martie Coetser

Martie Coetser Pozyn's Copyright:

Copyright :: All Rights Reserved

Registered :: 2013-06-29 20:10:10
Title :: The Character of a Short Story
Category :: Article Hub
Fingerprint :: 973290ca6e2efd8bb3deb47367ab25948411c9aa526177e013d77196f7701f1b

Authors Note

This is basically the introduction of my course in short story writing. My students are assigned to write a story to the best of their ability, and then we improve it step by step in accordance with the demands of 10 modules.

Do you feel inspired to write a short story in accordance with its character?

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Hi. Clear information to the reader.Great explanation. It is very useful.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Hi FatBoy, I will not argue about this, as whatever point the author wants to make is being regarded as 'his/her point of view' - at least as far as the story goes. Thanks for reading and commenting :)

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 

      4 years ago from Inverbervie, Scotland

      Fascinating stuff, Martie though I disagree with your initial definition of the short story - while a good story does of course need conflict, I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with the author's point of view. If a writer has a particular drum to bang, they might want to explore their argument via the story, but they could also just be writing something to entertain. Great Hub.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Cam8510, most novelists started their careers as writers of short stories. As a matter of fact, novels are but only a couple of elaborated short stories in one book. Personally I believe the principles of the short story should be known and practiced by writers of all genres, I.e. Beginning, Middle, End, characterization, theme, message, etc...... Good luck with your rewriting :)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      6 years ago from Kettering, Ohio through January, 2020

      Thank you Martie, This is very helpful. I wrote.....something......short story? Novella? here on HP. It was well received, and I can't get the story off my mind. So I'm rewriting it. I will be using your article as a guide. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Vickiw :) First drafts should always be from the heart. Thereafter we start the creating process. I always compare story telling with cooking. First only ingredients on the tray and at the end the final dish. Enjoy your writing :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Read this again Martie, hoping I am managing to follow your tips here! Enjoyed this Hub.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Molometer, would you like me to read your story? Two heads are always better than one :)

    • molometer profile image

      Micheal is 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Martie,

      I will certainly let you know when I publish it.

      I have written a short fiction story but it needs rejigging.

      Trying to get my head around it, a bit tricky at the moment.

      You will understand when you read it.

      I seem to have written myself into a cul de sac.

      I am trying to figure a way out or just redo the whole scene.

      Shame... I really like it but it just doesn't work right at the moment.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Glad you found this worthy to bookmarked, Lastheart. Thanks for the visit :)

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

      6 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Wow!!! I must say that you wrote a great coverage for " Short Story". This is one of those hub to be bookmarked and use as reference. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Michael, so good to see you! Thanks for your kindest comment. Don't forget to send me a link to your short story. Take care and enjoy :)

    • molometer profile image

      Micheal is 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Martie,

      Congratulations on putting this article together.

      Short story writing can be such a complex idea/concept.

      You have transformed it into easy to understand language.

      Writing short stories is an art tempered by skill.

      The skills that you have detailed here.

      I will be bookmarking this for future reference.

      I may even try to write a few, now that I know how it all hangs together.

      Thanks Martie for a great read and insight.


    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you, James :)

    • James-wolve profile image

      Tijani Achamlal 

      6 years ago from Morocco

      Good work here.It is very informative and well-documented.Voted up

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Thank for coming over for the read, Deborah. If you are good in leaving people hanging, don't stop, hang them! :)

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Great information Martie.. I do like to write short stories but i LOVE to leave people hanging.. I love part 2 and 3's.. lol

      blessings to you..


    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      @ SilentReed – Well, before we can do anything we have to try first. Enjoy!

      @ B. Leekley – I do believe that writers have to be prolific readers, which means they are in the process also fulltime students and researches, in order to become remarkable writers. Yet, at the end of the day practice makes perfect. I would also say flash fiction is related to poetry, but only when it comes to the economic use of the most effective words and by creating impressions in the mind of the reader, forcing the reader to ‘sense’ the story. Enjoy your readings and writings :)

      @ ImKarn23 – now you have me burning with curiosity. Can’t wait to read that book of yours. I do believe that the number of words does not necessarily determine a specific genre, but the structure of the written work, its components and style. The number of words is but only a guideline. However, magazines and publishers have to count words, as they have only a certain amount of space (and money) available for their ‘literary’ presentations. These professional publishers also keep the needs and preferences of their readers in mind. Enjoy the write, Leslie :)

      @ Diane Woodson – You are welcome to contact me via email. We do learn (and show progress) easier and faster through a specialized course.

      @ Wayne Brown – so good to see you in my corner :) Thanks for your kind and supportive comment.

      @ marcoujor – Thanks for your beautiful, inspiring comment. I have to emphasize the therapeutic value of short story writing. Personally, in real life, I cannot be rude; I cannot render evil for evil. But I can easily create a strong, unscrupulous character, taking revenge on my behalf. So I have written all anger and grudges out of my system. Take care, my dear Maria.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA


      I needed to fully allow my head to absorb this information and I know I will refer to this masterful tutorial often.

      I have been writing merrily along with some rhyme and little reason...and truly see the practice and standards behind the genres now.

      I am looking forward to checking out and learning so much from your entire series. You have a teaching style in your writing that sinks in, without sounding like preaching...

      Voted UP and evergreen classic! Love, Maria

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Martie, if this hub does not bust the top out of the HP Quality Standards, then God help us all. I love it when you shows some of the tricks in your bag. Thanks for sharing! ~WB

    • Diane Woodson profile image

      Diane Minton 

      6 years ago from Evansville, Indiana

      I'm a writer but would love to take your course. This Hub is full of information for all of us to learn from and I can see clearly that you did more than a little research in the writing of this Hub. Best Wishes to you!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 

      6 years ago

      Martie, thank you SO much for linking me up to this amazing hub! I'd not have seen it otherwise!

      You may or may not know that i'm writing a book at the moment..( i notice that you omitted it's 'sub-genre' of erotica..(

      i had NO CLUE what i was doing, i simply was pushed by a 'mentor' who read me on Linkedin for over a year and kept bugging me to write a book..

      He's teaching me about pov's and protagonist/antagonist, and short stories vs. long short stories vs. novellas, etc..

      he says that a short story is between 5,000, and 7500 words? and a longer s/s up to 15,000?

      i'm up to 21,000 right now and am in serious shock that i am! LOL..


      and sharing of course..

      hugs my friendxx

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      6 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Re show versus tell in fiction, these online essays helped me to better understand the distinction

      -- Google on:

      Tell Don't Show Victoria Grossack

      and on:

      5 situations where it's better to tell than show in your fiction

      and on:

      Show, Don't Tell: The Great Lie of Writing Workshops

      I've been reading the novel THE ROBBER BRIDE and am noticing how Atwood mixes showing (action, description, and dialogue) and telling to keep the story moving along. Example: Here near the start of chapter 23 is a show sentence followed by a tell sentence -- "Good choice," says Zenia, laughing. In Tony's opinion it was not a good choice.

      About flash fiction, that form is new to me as both a writer and a reader. A local writing group I'm in critiqued a member's one page story recently. I thought it was effective, in part because it used techniques of poetry. I guess flash fiction is closely related to prose poetry.

      This hub has gotten me interested in reading your stories. I'll read, "Committed in a Dream" this evening.

    • SilentReed profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you for the link. I read another hub that suggested putting text in pictures that we pin in pinterest would attract more viewership. Haven't tried it, but thinking of it.:)

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Peg, your story 'The Pub' is a novella. It could also be an excellent TV-series. I enjoyed what I have read so far and plan to read all chapters as time allows me. Ì love your style. I am very sure that HP-management don't even know about the existence of a genre called novella. Now what about trying a short story. You had so many exiting adventures to use as background for stories. Enjoy your writings :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Martie, Too bad Hub Pages doesn't seem to have the Novella category available, (at least I haven't found it) so I'm changing the group classification to novel. Thanks again for the heads-up.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      @ midget38 – Thank you for passing this on. Much appreciated :)

      @ B. Leekley – Ref. the number of words, see my first paragraph to SilentReed. I have just downloaded “To Build a Fire” and might do a review on it. If it is only ‘telling’, it is according to literary critics an essay. I remember during my studies (to become a short story writer) we had to distinguish between the short story and essay. And that was quite a task. Some essays are indeed so well-written that you can easily classify them as a short story, but only if you don’t know/understand the rules of a short story, and when you simply call a story a short story because it is not a long story.

      I have to repeat your words: “What is essential in a short story is that it tell a story.” But this is also the rule for all other genres in fiction.

      Thank you so much for your profound comment.

      @ AliciaC – Thank you. I always appreciate your visits and comments.

      @ DDE – Thanks a lot :)

      @ PegCole17 – If I haven’t studied this genre – merely a diploma course – I would not have known the difference between a short story, an anecdote, an essay and a novella. It is easy to understand what a novel is – a story book with many pages..... etc. But when it comes to short stories and we don’t know the different categories, we call it a short story. To tell you the truth, even academics sometimes differs when it comes to the categorization of a short story. If your story does not meet novel length or the structure and components of a short story, just call it a novella -

      Take care, Peg :)

      @ epbooks - Thank you, and welcome in my corner :)

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very interesting and helpful hub. Great research on short stories. Voted up!

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      @ Nell Rose – No matter what we do, we never reach the stage where we can say we ‘know it all’. Things change – develop - all the time. Thanks for the vote and share, Nell :)

      @ SilentReed – Yes, especially in the past – before TV – many short stories were up to 10,000 words, and they were called short stories (and not novellas) because they were written according to the rules of a short story – one theme, one narrator, one protagonist, one antagonist, etc. etc.

      Flash fiction also don’t appeal to me. The story is actually not written, but invisible between the lines. Only some readers can see it - those with three-dimensional vision :)

      Of course, some characters could be moralizers and instructors, but the writer should never allow them to spoil the story. This is the challenge – presenting a bigot or teacher as a character without forcing the reader to attend their boring sermons/classes. The writer is supposed to allow them to say only the essential that will give the reader a pretty good idea who and what they are. Not easy! We writers get so exited when we obtain new information; we want to share it all. But then we should rather write a manual/handbook, or a non-fiction article.

      I have published a hub about images – how to get text on it. In the same program you can group pictures and make collages. There are many programs able to do this, but I prefer Microsoft Publisher -

      I use my own photos, or I find them at

      That would be interesting - explaining how I present my point of view in a short story. I will do this as soon as I get the time.

      That picture of mine – I was one of the winners of a competition. But is one thing to participate in a literary competitions with academics as adjudicators – it’s like writing an exam - and quite another thing to write for a popular magazine targeting a specific group of readers. Women want romance, men want adventure, etc. and they all want stories. For them the pudding is in the eating.

      Have a good day/night, SilentReed :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Goodness gracious. Wow. I eagerly look forward to reading more of your work. This hub explains a lot about writing styles and makes me cringe that I have labeled my latest work as a "short story" although it does not meet this criteria. Neither does it meet novel length. I will now go back and try to recategorize it properly. Thanks for this interesting and educational insight. Wonderful.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A useful hub, informative and interesting, about The Character of a Short Story.Voted up!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for creating this very helpful hub, Martie! It contains so much detailed and useful information. I'll be reading it many times. Congratulations on having so many short stories published!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      6 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Up, Useful, and Interesting.

      Most of your points are right on but not all. This can be seen in the works of great masters of short story writing. For instance, "To Build a Fire" by Jack London is over 7,000 words long, has only 8 words of dialogue, has much tell rather than show in it, and has an unhappy ending, and yet it is one of the most gripping, memorable, and much anthologized short stories ever.

      Having lots of dialogue, keeping the short story under 2000 words, and having a happy ending are fine guidelines that do probably increase the chances of having satisfied editors and readers, but they are not essential to creating a short story and a great one.

      What is essential in a short story is that it tell a story. To be sure of that, begin with a logline -- a one sentence summary of who, in order to attain what goal, confronts what opposition in what unique to those characters way, leading toward what decisive conflict.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Clipping this and thanks for the clear definitions here...we write so much that we sometimes get confused! Thanks for sharing, and I pass this hub on.

    • SilentReed profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      You brought out a very interesting observation; people today don't seem to have the time to read "LONG" short stories:) since a short story can contain as much as 10,000 plus words like those written in an earlier era. I read some flash fiction which I think is consider a short story but they lack the appeal (for me) because of their brevity. Just when the story starts to get interesting, it's over. On the other hand, I am also guilty of scanning large portion of a "long" short story just to get to it's ending when the story can't keep my interest from waning.

      I'm a bit confuse on an item you wrote about what a short story should not be. If one of your character moralize, is a bigot espousing inflammatory views as part of the writer/author's depiction of the protagonists, does it fall under the don'ts?

      With stricter rules being implemented as to the kind of photos to use, I'm also curious as to how you created your own images for this hub. Could you expand more on POV (point of view) of narrating a story, perhaps another hub?(did I miss it?) This is where I really need help if I wish to improve my story telling.

      It must have been a very gratifying event (picture of you) after those numerous "pitiless" editors.:) I gather from you smile,since the caption is in Afrikaans.:)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi Martie, I had no idea that you had written so many short stories! this is so informative, and very useful, however many we write we will always need instruction sometimes, wonderful! voted up and shared, nell

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Lol, mckbirdbks, you know you're not doing it wrong. Another thing, I don't read captivating stories with all of this in my mind, or distinguish between novellas, essays and short stories as far as I read. Or counting words. Your stories are engrossing and always with a punch that leaves me speechless. So whatever you do, whether according to the rules or not, just keep on going it, I say....

      As always, thanks for your support :)

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Shoot, now you tell me! I have been doing it all wrong. On the serious side, Martie you have gathered a large amount of information here and put it in an orderly and understandable fashion. Your writing is always sought out, interesting and entertaining. This is no exception.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      @ Always, you have all the talent in the world to write perfect short stories. Go for it. You know you can always call on me :) BTW, being a published short story writer in Afrikaans and writing short stories (or anything) in English are two totally different things. I do find it difficult to use the English language just as effectively as Afrikaans. Afrikaans comes out of my heart, English out of my brain. I always feel like walking on thin ice while communicating in English. Always have to double-check. And then I am still not sure if my grammar is correct and if I have used words in the correct context, etc. Fortunately I was born with too much courage for my size :) And I have grown a thick skin and hair on my teeth :) Love you, Ruby!

      @ Tillsontitan, most novelist started with short stories. Once you can write a short story, you will be able to write a captivating novel, using the structure and elements of a short story, but expanded and multiplied to accommodate more themes. Even soap operas are a lot of incorporated and long-winded short stories. If you haven't yet published those three, you are welcome to send me one of them. Then we work on it until it meets all the demands. You know where to find me :)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      "...the bait that encourages a reader", you definitely know what that bait is my friend. What a wonderful hub for all writers to read. Your gentle way of teaching is one we can all benefit from. I certainly hope you will grace us with more hubs in the same (forgive the use of the term) genre! We can learn so much from you my modest friend.

      I am afraid of trying a novel but perhaps a short story. I've written three but certainly nothing to brag about.

      Thank you for this wonderful, insightful hub!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, shared and pinned.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Martie, I was unaware of you being a published writer before Hubpages. I am pleased to learn of your prior accomplishments. I pinned this article so i can come back and read again. I love to write short stories, not sure if i followed protocol. I have been told that i write too fast, not enough detail, i am working on that. I learned a lot from reading this. Thank you ....

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Vicki, reviewing all those published stories - mostly in Huisgenoot - I can see enormous spaces for improvement. We grow all the time. So when I tackle them - if ever - I will do a lot of editing before recycling. Vergeet mens ooit 'n taal wat jy kon verstaan/lees/praat? Those illustrations were not done by me, but by illustrators appointed by the magazines. They always came as a big surprise and gave so much substance to my stories. Laat dit goed gaan met jou, Vicki :)

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      @ Pamela99 – I do believe that persistency - or maybe doggedness is a better word - is a writer’s most powerful drive. But only when they feel comfortable in the genre they are exploring. I would not have been this dogged in any other genre. I’ve tried novels, but was not willing to do the re-writings suggested by the editor and just because I had enough of the themes and characters. Novels are too much for me to handle. Even when it comes to reading I prefer short stories above novels. If you want to give short stories another try, I am more than willing to support you. Though HubPages (and Google) doesn’t seem to care about fiction we can always blog them. :)

      @ Hi bravewarrior, I wanted to write this hub a long time ago, but you know how it goes. More exiting projects came along, etc. But you know, I love sharing my knowledge, and especially when I know my friends will benefit from whatever I know. As I benefit from their knowledge. Gosh, I have learned so much in HubPages, and I'm still learning. Yes, in the structure of the novel and novella a writer can do so much more. So yes, thanks to you – Lady Novelist – I have finally done this one. Love you, Sha :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Martie, really enjoyed reading this. You are right - it is good to understand the parameters of the genre you choose to write. I so admire your courage in tackling stories in a second language. Ek het baie Afrikaans vergeet, maar ek kan nog goed lees! Dankie, jou prentjies is baie mooi!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Goodness! There seems to be so much structure to the short story. I may be better off leaning towards the novella. Looks like I've got some learning to do!

      Thanx for the clarification Martie. I think I know what inspired this hub. :-)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Martie, I know the approved letter would be awesome. I have only submitted to magazine article and that was a long time ago. Needless to say they were rejected. I just moved on to other projects, but I have been thinking about trying again. Your hub is a motiviating factor. Thanks again.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      @ Becky Katz – Thanks again. I honestly appreciate your earnest and sincere support. True friends never allow each other to do silly things..... alone :)))))

      @ drbj – I have stopped counting at 74. One day I will get all statistics running again. Or I’ll ask my granddaughter to do it. But don’t think I am a wizard in short story writing. I also have loads of failures to take care of. But before that, I want to translate them in English, and do some updates. Those days there were no cell phones and Internet was something to be found only in America. But maybe I must just leave it like that as reference to Living in SA in the ‘90’s. I hated love stories and would only write them for competitions. Then came the time beginning 2000 when my favorite magazine accepted ONLY love stories, and to my surprise they’ve accepted all my efforts – and I did not even know much about love at that stage of my life. So true, fiction does give us a second chance that Life denies us. Anyway, I am rambling. You may be a fly with an iPad on my wall. Anytime.

      @ My dearest Faith Reaper – it is wonderful challenge to change your life experiences into fiction, and especially in accordance with the rules of a short story. Taking theme/issue one at a time, turning them into stories others would love to read – in other words, NO wining and sulking – the truth plus fancy tails equals a story - and you will be amazed.... Fabulous therapy, expanding insight and vision. Thanks for your solid support :)

      @ Pamela99 – lol! Yes, we know this, we do study all of this right from the beginning – but to get it right is another story. I had 24 or was it 26 rejections before they accepted my first story. In the beginning I had more rejections than approvals. Fortunately I could count on my determination and refusal to throw in a towel. And let me assure you, if I start all over again, I will again get rejections until I am back in the market, on the same page as the editor. And even after that rejections will still happen from time to time. Those days it came back (printed as I’ve sent them) like a dead dove in my post box. But how wonderful when the envelope contained only one page – approval! And then when you see your story published in the magazine with illustration. Wonderful, inspirational highlights! But the life of a freelance writer is never moonshine and roses! You’ve got to grow a thick skin and hair on your teeth. Thanks, Pamela, your comments always count :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Professor Martie, This is a fantastic hub as it explains all of the details of writing a short story so clearly. I knew some of these thing, but you certainly taught me something with this hub. Voted up, useful and awesome. Thanks for such great information, now marked for me to return and read again. Shared also.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Dearest Martie,

      Thanks so much for this very thorough and insightful hub here as to writing a short story.

      This is very helpful.

      Congrats to you on your many published short stories. I had no idea!

      I will want to keep this handy, although I do write non-fiction for the most part, as that is what I know and have experienced.

      I do love your wonderful words on that lovely and serene image/photo at the end there.

      Voted up +++ and sharing

      Hugs and love, Faith Reaper

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the short story course you taught, Martie. Oh, wait a minute, then I would not have been able to take notes. Strike that. Make it a student with an iPad, m'dear.

      How many short stories did you have published? Looks like quite a number of them based on your attractive collage. Thanks for sharing your empirical knowledge.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      You told me to let you know if I found them. Glad I could help.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Becky, thanks a lot for drawing my attention to those errors. Can't believe I've made them. Lol! Thank-heavens for proof-readers and good friends like you. 10:00pm down here and I am calling this a day. Will 'see' you tomorrow :)

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Wow, I am going to have to read this series. I can learn a lot from you.

      In the section marked 'The minimum characters', you have the wrong spelling for piece, should be peace, different meanings. In 'A Plot ', you have see and sea, both should be sea. Your English is wonderful for a second language.


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