Assignment Prewriting Find a Story Idea Plan Your Story Practice and Apply Feature Menu

Writing a short story

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Page 1: Writing a short story



Find a Story Idea

Plan Your Story

Practice and Apply

Feature Menu

Page 2: Writing a short story

Assignment: Write a short story in which you use your imagination to express yourself and entertain others.

Have you ever had an exciting experience and thought to yourself, “This would make a good story”? Ideas for stories are everywhere—in your own life, in other people’s lives, and in your imagination. Here is your chance to try out one of those ideas and write your own short story.

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Page 3: Writing a short story

A short story is a work of fiction, but it can be based on real events. Think about events

an earthquake; a heroic water rescue

• in the world

competing in a talent show; welcoming a baby brother

• in your life

an aunt’s wilderness adventure; a neighbor’s brush with stardom

• in someone else’s life

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Use your imagination for story ideas. Dream up

a quirky young princess; a man who sleeps standing up

• people and animals

a city in 2050; an icy planet

• places and worlds

coming face to face with an crocodile; opening a soup kitchen

• adventures and problems

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Page 5: Writing a short story

Every story has five basic ingredients:

• Plot—What happens in the story?

• Characters—Who are the people in your story?

• Point of View—Who will narrate, or tell, your story?

• Setting—Where and when does your story take place?

• Theme—What idea about life does your story illustrate?

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Build the plot of your short story around a conflict, a struggle between opposing forces.

External conflict Internal conflict

Page 7: Writing a short story

Plot and External Conflicts

Character versus character

Hector and his best friend James are both trying for first prize in the school talent show.

Character versus environment

Miguel gets caught in a blizzard and must find ways to stay warm until help arrives.

Character versus situation

Cynthia battles city hall to start a meal delivery service for seniors in her community.

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Plot and Internal Conflict

Character versus himself or herself (a struggle between conflicting ideas and feelings within a character)

David wants to take Tasha to the dance, but he has already committed to babysitting that night.

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• Climax—emotional high point of the story

• Resolution—outcome of conflict

Elements of Plot

• Exposition—introduction of characters and conflict

• Rising action—events leading to the climax




EventEventRising action


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a buzz in the auditorium; students from every grade filing in, carrying costumes and props; Hector and James waving to each other but sitting on different sides of the room

Developing Plot

Use narrative details to bring your story to life. Describe your characters’

• actions

• movements

• gestures

• feelings

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Event 2Hector and James kid about who’s going to win.

Arranging Plot Events

Arrange the events in chronological order, the order in which they actually occur. Use flashbacks to provide background information.

Event 1 audition day

Event 3Hector rehearses his act.

Event 4the big night

Flashback Hector and James meet each other for the first time.

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The Pace of the Plot

Pace the action of your plot to reflect the mood you’re trying to create.

Hector practically drags his feet as he walks up to the cafeteria table to sit with James.

Slow pace—tense but thoughtful mood

The curtains part. Hector takes deep breath. His heart pounds in his chest.

Fast pace—feeling of excitement or anxiety

Page 13: Writing a short story

dark brown hair, tall and thin, neat, stylish

proud of musical talent, serious, competitive

Characters’ Appearance

• How does my main character look?

• How does he or she act, think, feel, and talk?

taps his pencil, rubs his chin when thinking

• What are his or her mannerisms?

Supporting Characters

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“Let’s not let this competition get in the way of our


“I’m gonna win this talent show if I have to rehearse every

single night!”

Characters’ Speech

Use dialogue, or conversation between characters, to help bring your characters to life. Make sure your dialogue sounds real to life.

“Wow. Look at that huge trophy! And the winner gets some big

bucks too!”

Page 15: Writing a short story

Point of View

First Person—a character narrates the story using the first-person pronoun I. The character can tell only what he or she could logically know and what he or she feels, thinks, or experiences.

I could hardly believe how many people were auditioning. When I saw James standing on the other side of the room next to some props, I could feel myself tense up. Why did he have to try out, too?

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Hector walked into the crowded auditorium. The whole room was buzzing with excitement. When Hector and his best friend James spotted each other, they both tensed.

Interior Monologue

Point of View

Third Person Omniscient—an outside observer tells the story using third-person pronouns (he, she, they). This narrator sees all and knows all and can use shifting perspectives to reveal different characters’ thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

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Setting can play a major role in a short story, or it can be relatively unimportant. Setting can also affect mood.

Page 18: Writing a short story

a student warming up on trumpet; microphone feedback; muffled conversations

Sounds Smells

faint hint of wood cleaner; musty clothing and mothballs; a girl’s strong perfume; hairspray


a jam-packed auditorium, students pacing backstage, red velvet stage curtains


Use sensory details—words describing sights, sounds, and smells—to help readers picture the setting.

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As long as the spirit of competition does not turn bitter, good friends can compete with each other and still remain close. Their friendship might even become stronger.


What idea about life does your story illustrate? Use your characters, plot, setting, and point of view to suggest your theme.

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Page 20: Writing a short story

Use the instructions in this section to develop the plot, characters, setting, and theme of a short story. Add sensory details to enhance your story.

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Page 21: Writing a short story