In figuring out how to write a short story, remember: short is not easy. Small forms require as much dedication as an epic novel. We hope we didn’t scare you, because we have detailed recipes for creating a good story.

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How to Learn to Write Stories

The backbone of any good story is:

  • A clearly defined storyline;
  • Visibility (the reader must visualize what is written as vividly as possible);
  • a maximum of one problem to be solved as impressively as possible;
  • there should not be many characters.

All of this should be laid out in a maximum of a couple dozen pages, not letting the reader go until the very last letter.
Got it memorized? Then move on, looking for content for form.

How to find ideas for a story

We extract ideas for creativity from the world around us: emotional experiences, our own experiences or those of others. An idea may even come from a dream.

Make some good habits:

Write down everything that comes into your head.
Be aware of everything relevant: read books and news, watch fiction and documentaries, TV series. From these you can get ideas for the development of the plot.
Be inspired by the visual arts, listen to your thoughts by looking at paintings, installations and photographs.
Attend seminars and webinars by professionals, discuss literature on forums, and meet like-minded people.

Notebook for notes

There’s no such thing as superfluous ideas, and ideas that aren’t documented are like dead ideas. Write them down in a notebook, in an app on your smartphone, in pen, pencil, in your voice.

The creative subconscious doesn’t doze off, but sometimes it gets bogged down. Running through the accumulated notes, you’ll help him snatch up the very idea, even if it seemed like nonsense at the time of recording.

  • Mikhail Bulgakov used to leave notes on his shirt cuffs.
  • Anatole France wrote on napkins and did not make a cult of paper. He used tablecloths, his clothes, business cards, envelopes, and documents for sketching.
  • Immanuel Kant wrote in other people’s books between the lines.
  • Francis Scott Fitzgerald wrote on scraps of paper.
  • Media, historical fiction, diaries.
  • No one is immune to writer’s block, but the world around us does not let us relax. Learn to use the information that surrounds you.

It’s common to scold the media space, but it’s bursting with stories! World news, YouTube bloggers’ confessions, talk shows, crime stories. The media is like Aladdin’s cave with story ideas instead of jewels.

Don’t be afraid to speak out on pressing social issues. Polemics is fuel for the thought process.
Finally, you can literally peek into other people’s writings. Don’t be afraid, we’re not suggesting you violate the right to secrecy of correspondence. Many diaries, letters and memoirs of historical figures are officially published. Sometimes a small note or diary entry is enough to inspire a great man, unknowingly, to inspire a budding author.


The story should show the reader’s imagination a mini-movie: the timing is limited, but the story should be remembered forever. Words are not pictures, but they can be made cinematic. Visual references can help.

You can find them on sites like Pinterest and We Heart It. Here, it’s easy to collect and sort images that you associate with characters, story lines, and the atmosphere of the story. The right picture will come in handy for “directing.”

  • The key to a story
  • For a story to be a story, it must have:
  • The main character;
  • The time of action;
  • Plot;
  • Conflict;
  • Theme.


The theme is thought to be close to the author, but it is not a necessary requirement. For example, Hans Christian Andersen wrote many wonderful tales for young readers, but he was not too fond of children.

Still, it will be easier for debutant authors to start with stories based on personal experience. For example:
The Weekdays of Doctors, Described for Non-Medical People. Truthfully, with a touch of professional cynicism and a huge portion of humanity. (Andrey Lomachinsky, “Notes of a Medical Examiner”);
Notes of young parents writing for other parents and beyond. An honest look at how having a baby changes your life.(Nadezhda Papudoglo, “Youjemat”)
Memoirs of servicemen and sailors, seasoned with unique army and navy humor (Sergey Protsenko, “A Garrison Scale Emergency”);
Memories of investigators, criminologists, and private investigators. (John Douglas, “Mindhunter. The FBI’s Special Unit for Investigating Serial Murders”).
Stories of athletes, coaches, writers, artists. (Luciano Fernicke “Football Tales”).
Stories from members of professions that seem specific and rare to many. (Pavel “Pate” Belyansky “I work in a cemetery”).
The easiest way to describe individual cases, framing them in small stories, which can then turn into a collection.

  • Another technique is to combine ordinary people and unusual genre. Examples of stories:
    A literature teacher surviving the zombie apocalypse (Dan Simmons, “This Year’s Class Photo”).
  • A shy fantasist who meets a devil in female form in a cafe (Vladimir Nabokov, “The Tale”).
  • A young couple who begins to talk to their unborn child (Ray Bradbury’s “Remember Sasha?”).
  • A book lover who happens to be sent an electronic “reader” from a parallel universe (Stephen King’s “Ur”).


You probably already have a general idea of the main character. He must remain at the center of the narrative from the first to the last page: that’s the principle of storytelling. So get to know the character better by using the old but tried-and-true method: the questionnaire.

The four main boxes are:

1. Appearance and habits. Sometimes a couple or three traits are enough. Say, a mention that the hero bites his nails or wears only green. That’s it, he’s no longer an amorphous stranger.
2. Acts. Nothing says more about a man than his actions. Show how the hero behaves in this or that situation, how he reacts to surprises, unpleasant news, displays of love, etc.
3. Speech. Everyone’s speech is unique. Does your character speak loudly or quietly? In a low or high timbre? Does he or she have an accent? A favorite catchphrase?
4. Thoughts. Sometimes they coincide with what the character says out loud. And sometimes they don’t. Also, he probably has secret memories, desires, hopes, and fears.


The main character needs to be confronted, but it’s up to you to decide what or who. Here are some common examples of conflict:

  • Against another character;
  • against God(s);
  • against himself;
  • against nature;
  • against society;
  • against technology or techno-progress.

Time of action.
The more vividly you present the era, period, or world of the story, their characteristics and manners, the better you build the landscape around the hero.

However, you don’t have to go into detail and describe the place of action in detail. For example, instead of describing how far away the town church was and in what deplorable condition it was, describe at once the hero’s long journey to Sunday Mass and the shriveled dome of the temple that is visible from around the bend.

It will be useful to study, or at least get a general idea of the specific vocabulary, everyday life, flora and fauna of the area in which the action takes place. Read several works of close eras, historical literature. Spice up the story with realistic details that will arouse the reader’s interest and confidence. For example, describe traditions that would seem strange these days. Spice up the dialogues with words and expressions that you hardly hear nowadays.
But try not to delve into the research BEFORE you start writing the story. Write down notes like “may need information on South African dialects” or “clarify what French peasant women made dresses out of in the 19th century,” and look for that information when you get to the relevant scenes.

How to make a story plan

First, sketch the “skeleton” of the story. Describe the scene, main and secondary characters, plot, conflict, obstacles, unexpected circumstances, climax, denouement, and finale in a thesis statement.

Now sketch the outline of the story. Six points are enough:
1. In whose person will the story be told.
2. What the first scene will be.
3. What will be the transition from the introduction to the main problem.
4. What the climax will be like.
5. How the problem will be resolved (and whether it will be resolved).
6. What the ending will be.
Based on this plan, begin a full-length draft of the story.



Modern man begins to live according to the laws described in the ancient book. He is rethinking reality, changing his habits, but everything has a price.


1. Description of the dull life of an ordinary student from the provinces, dreaming of easy money and fame.

2. A small lyrical digression into the past: a humiliating memory from childhood that cannot be forgotten.

3. A trip with a group on an excursion, a discovery – an ancient book of spells and rules, revealing the secrets of success and wealth.

4. Description of the hero’s inner struggle: skepticism, moral tossing, then the decision to try the book.

5. The book works. The hero changes his environment, crosses out of life first those who thought he was a loser, then those who have always faithfully loved him.

6. The book continues to work. The hero is vying for a prestigious job, he is surrounded by enthusiastic new friends, and a previously unattainable beauty falls in love with him.

7. A monologue about what has happened, about change, about new, global goals.

8. The book is stolen. After a long search, the hero finds it missing only to find out: the book has always been a fake, a fiction that acted as a placebo effect.

9. The protagonist throws the book away, tries to make peace with undeservedly offended loved ones. Leaves on a trip. The last scene: a homeless man finds the book and enthusiastically begins to read it.

How to Start Writing a Story

Fortunately, a story is not a building: laying the foundation for a story is important, but you can start building with windows and a fireplace and surround them with walls later. Describe individual scenes as you wish, but don’t forget the plan to build them into a strong story.


But first, determine the type of narration:
1. Simple – the story develops linearly (a problem arose, the person solves it, events occur, meetings, the final – the denouement).
2. Circular – the beginning and the end of the story formally converge at the same point. But the contrast between them is pronounced, because the events of the story have changed the hero.
3. Revolving – the same event is viewed from different perspectives.
Hinged – a straightforward plot, rich in detail, turns abruptly, unimportant details merge together, and the ending is startling.
5. Sharp – situations are shown dynamically, each line holds the reader, vivid events occur, the work is read “in one breath.”
6. Confusing – many faces, events, external factors. They intertwine into a complex and interesting plot, and in the finale, the lines that were started are completed.
7. Point – different events, certain details, personalities are described. A general picture is formed, a volumetric sense is created, an understanding of the relationships between the characters.

The first pages of the narrative should not be boring, trite, confusing. Avoid:

  • Long descriptions of nature and weather;
  • introductions to all the characters at once;
  • unnamed dialogues;
  • lack of a main character;
  • overly detailed descriptions of the main character;
  • start on the alarm clock;
  • pretentiousness and clichés.

Writing a story

How do you write a story if you have no inspiration? Inspiration is a good thing, of course, but it’s windy. Don’t let it get you down. You already have work in progress, written down ideas, sketches. Dedicate at least two hours a day to work with them. Even if you are “not in the mood,” and the process seems mechanical to you.

Inspiration often comes while writing, like appetite comes with food.
For example, Georges Sand wrote until 11 o’clock every day. And if she finished a novel at 10:30, she immediately started a new one, on which she worked for the remaining half hour.

It is not forbidden to give out several pages at once in a single burst, riding the muse. Anything unnecessary can be scraped out later, at the stage of editing. But beware: after such a steer race, there is a risk of “burn out” for an indefinite period.


The finished story can (and should) give the proofreading to a professional editor-corrector. But doing your own editing is a must.

Many writers, contrary to popular belief, advise you to reread your story immediately. Chances are, at this stage you will like everything. But the first rough edges will already be noticeable: edit them right away.

But now you need to put the written work aside for about a week.

The second proofreading will be much deeper and more thorough. And not very pleasant: you will scratch your head when you see a pile of mistakes, typos, inconsistencies. You’ll want to destroy what you’ve written and forget about writing forever. And this is a perfectly normal feeling (unless, of course, you are deeply convinced of his genius narcissist).

Get over yourself. Read the story aloud: perhaps even on tape, to get a different perception. Eliminate parasitic words, repetitions, clichés, connect logical gaps.