ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Guide to Understanding and Writing the Short Story: Tutorial 2

Updated on March 15, 2018
Joyette  Fabien profile image

Joyette taught English & Literature at high school for many years. Her writing and education articles come from her classroom experience.

Read and Write Short Stories

Tutorial 2

Tutorial 1 discussed parts of the story. This tutorial will discuss writer's style and some key elements of the short story.

Style - Every Writer Needs to Develop His Own Individual Style

The most important thing that a writer brings into a story is his own style which makes his work distinct from that of others. The individual writer’s style must, however, fit into the basic aspects of style that characterize the short story. These would include elements such as:

  • Use of language : This refers to the narrative mode (Standard English, dialect or a combination of both), diction, punctuation, capitalization, italics among others. Whereas Standard English is usually the preferred option for narrative, dialect is often used in dialogue (conversation) and is an enhancing aspect of the story.
  • Sequencing of events: The chronological order is the most commonly used form of sequencing. However, the writer may employ a number of flashbacks and/or foreshadowing within a chronological sequence. The latter, I believe, makes the story more interesting. A story can also be told entirely in retrospect as in the story My Muse by Jenel Fabien in Tutorial 1.
  • Use of literary devices: (figurative language, imagery, contrast). These undoubtedly enhance the quality of the story and are extremely useful particularly in description and characterization.

Elements of the Short Story

The following key elements must be considered in writing or analyzing the short story:

  • Characterization
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Theme

Students who have grasped these elements and can use them in developing their own personal writing styles will almost certainly produce good stories. Students should therefore, seek to grasp these elements as a basis for writing good stories.

1. Characterization (Who)

Characters in a story are classified as major or minor characters, the major characters being the ones whose actions move the story forward and the minor ones being those who are there to perform a specific role or some minor function(s). Characterization is achieved through physical description, dialogue and action - the manner in which the writer makes his characters behave, respond to others and react to situations. A good writer employs a combination of these methods of characterization. Characters evolve in response to the experiences which they undergo in the story.

2. Plot (What)

This is the framework around which the story is built. It refers to the incidents which make up the story and the causal relationships between them.

The plot statement consists of 5Ws which encapsulate the other basic elements of the story. It tells Who the story is about, What happened, Where, When and Why.

Plot is usually built up around conflict and so the various conflicts which exist in the story are all part of its plot.Conflict may be of different types:

  • Between people - for e.g. between a man and woman, between adversaries, between groups of people (e.g. religious groups, political parties, sporting teams). This type of conflict can be verbal physical, emotional or psychological.
  • Within people – for e.g. A person who has a difficult choice or decision to make. This is usually emotional or psychological.
  • Between man and nature - Nature here refers to the environment; to things like natural disasters, the sea, the river, the sun, the elements (rain, water, wind) etc. This is usually physical, but may sometimes result in psychological and emotional conflict as well.
  • Between man and the supernatural – A person may find himself/herself combating forces of evil, the occult or other elements of the supernatural, for e.g. demons, witchcraft. This is usually extremely psychological.

Different types of conflict may be used in a piece of writing. However, for the short story it would be wise to limit the number of conflicts to two or three.

3. Setting (When and Where)

Setting refers to time and place of action; that is, the times, periods and places where the incidents occur. Time covers historical context; that is, the period in which the story is set. For e.g. Shakespearean (Elizabethan) times as opposed to present day. It also covers factors such as weather and climate. Place covers social context; that is, the type of society in which the story is set. For e.g. American society as opposed to Caribbean society. It also covers background and environment. Setting therefore communicates information about the environmental forces that influence characters. It also creates mood and atmosphere, reinforces theme and emphasizes character.

4. Theme (Why)

A theme is an idea, concept or opinion which gives insight into human nature and society. It usually reflects the values or morals of the writer. Themes can be identified in direct statements or comments made by the writer and by the persona/narrator or by other characters in the story. They can also be found in characters who stand for ideas.

Make Books Your Friends


Plan Your Story

In planning the short story the student needs to keep in mind the 5 Ws:

  • Who - Characters
  • What - Plot
  • Where and When - Setting and Sequence
  • Why – Theme (Causation and Motivation)

These should be collapsible into one to three sentences which would be the plot statement. For e.g.

A little girl’s hopes for a wonderful birthday are dashed as her family seems to ignore the fact that it is her birthday and sends her out on errands. Disappointed and dejected, she returns home to discover a surprise birthday party and her gloom is suddenly transformed into joy.

(This story, ‘The Surprise Birthday Party by Jamesa Fabien will be analysed in Tutorial 3)

© 2011 Joyette Helen Fabien


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Joyette  Fabien profile imageAUTHOR

      Joyette Helen Fabien 

      3 years ago from Dominica

      Thanks Brian for sharing your approach. I'm sure it works well for you and would for many others too. I will experiment with it next time I write.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      3 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Among writers of screenplays for feature films, the 'plot statement' is called the 'logline'. My brother John, a screenwriter, taught me that. A producer or a studio paying a writer in advance to write a screenplay wants first of all to see a satisfactory logline (plot statement) that shows that the writer's idea for a movie has all the elements of a good story. When I have an idea for a short story, I craft the plot statement first and am guided by it as I draft and craft the story.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)