Short Story Tips: 10 Ways to Improve Your Creative Writing

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Writing short stories means beginning as close to the climax as possible — everything else is a distraction. A novel can take a more meandering path, but should still start with a scene that sets the tone for the whole book.

A short story conserves characters and scenes, typically by focusing on just one conflict, and drives towards a sudden, unexpected revelation. Go easy on the exposition and talky backstory — your reader doesn’t need to know everything that you know about your characters.

1. Get Started: Emergency Tips

Do you have a short story assignment due tomorrow morning? The rest of this document covers longer-term strategies, but if you are in a pinch, these emergency tips may help. Good luck!

"Learn to write effective dialogue," the hermit said.It Was Naptime: Show Don't (Just) Tell

  • What does your protagonist want?
    (The athlete who wants her team to win the big game and the car crash victim who wants to survive are not unique or interesting enough.)
  • When the story begins, what morally significant action has your protagonist taken towards that goal?
    (Your protagonist should already have made a conscious choice, good or bad, that drives the rest of the story.)
  • What unexpected consequences — directly related to the protagonist’s goal-oriented actions — ramp up the emotional energy of the story?
    (Will the unexpected consequences force your protagonist to make yet another choice, leading to still more consequences?)
  • What details from the setting, dialog, and tone help you tell the story? Things to cut:
    • Travel scenes. (Save words. “Later, at the office, I…”)
    • Character A telling character B about something we just saw happening to character A. (Cut the redundancy.)
    • Facial expressions of a first-person narrator. (We can’t see what our own faces look like, so don’t write “A smile lit my face from ear to ear.”) See Writing Dialogue.
  • What morally significant choice does your protagonist make at the climax of the story?
    (Your reader should care about the protagonist’s decision. Ideally, the reader shouldn’t see it coming.)

An effective short story (or poem) does not simply record or express the author’s feelings; rather, it generates feelings in the reader. (See “Show, Don’t (Just) Tell.”)

Drawing on your own real-life experiences, such as winning the big game, bouncing back after an illness or injury, or dealing with the death of a loved one, are attractive choices for students who are looking for a “personal essay” topic. But simply listing the emotions you experienced (“It was exciting” “I’ve never been so scared in all my life” “I miss her so much”) is not the same thing as generating emotions for your readers to experience.

For those of you who are looking for more long-term writing strategies, here are some additional ideas.

  • Keep a notebook. To R. V. Cassill, notebooks are “incubators,” a place to begin with overheard conversation, expressive phrases, images, ideas, and interpretations on the world around you.
  • Write on a regular, daily basis. Sit down and compose sentences for a couple of hours every day — even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Collect stories from everyone you meet. Keep the amazing, the unusual, the strange, the irrational stories you hear and use them for your own purposes. Study them for the underlying meaning and apply them to your understanding of the human condition.

Read, Read, Read

Read a LOT of Chekhov. Then re-read it. Read Raymond Carver, Earnest Hemingway, Alice Munro, and Tobias Wolff. If you don’t have time to read all of these authors, stick to Chekhov. He will teach you more than any writing teacher or workshop ever could.
-Allyson Goldin, UWEC Asst. Professor of Creative Writing

2. Write a Catchy First Paragraph

In today’s fast-moving world, the first sentence of your narrative should catch your reader’s attention with the unusual, the unexpected, an action, or a conflict. Begin with tension and immediacy. Remember that short stories need to start close to their end.

Bad ExampleI heard my neighbor through the wall.
Dry. Nothing sparks the reader’s imagination.
Good Example The neighbor behind us practiced scream therapy in his shower almost every day.
The second sentence catches the reader’s attention. Who is this guy who goes in his shower every day and screams? Why does he do that? What, exactly, is“scream therapy”? Let’s keep reading…
Good ExampleThe first time I heard him, I stood in the bathroom listening at our shared wall for ten minutes, debating the wisdom of calling the police. It was very different from living in the duplex over middle-aged Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two young sons in Duluth.
The rest of the paragraph introduces I and an internal conflict as the protagonist debates a course of action and introduces an intriguing contrast of past and present setting.

“It is important to understand the basic elements of fiction writing before you consider how to put everything together. This process is comparable to producing something delectable in the kitchen–any ingredient that you put into your bowl of dough impacts your finished loaf of bread. To create a perfect loaf, you must balance ingredients baked for the correct amount of time and enhanced with the right polishing glaze.” -Laurel Yourke

3. Developing Characters

Your job, as a writer of short fiction–whatever your beliefs–is to put complex personalities on stage and let them strut and fret their brief hour. Perhaps the sound and fury they make will signify something that has more than passing value–that will, in Chekhov’s words, “make [man] see what he is like.” –Rick Demarnus

In order to develop a living, breathing, multi-faceted character, it is important to know way more about the character than you will ever use in the story. Here is a partial list of character details to help you get started.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Job
  • Ethnicity
  • Appearance
  • Residence
  • Pets
  • Religion
  • Hobbies
  • Single or married?
  • Children?
  • Temperament
  • Favorite color
  • Friends
  • Favorite foods
  • Drinking patterns
  • Phobias
  • Faults
  • Something hated?
  • Secrets?
  • Strong memories?
  • Any illnesses?
  • Nervous gestures?
  • Sleep patterns

Imagining all these details will help you get to know your character, but your reader probably won’t need to know much more than the most important things in four areas:

  • Appearance. Gives your reader a visual understanding of the character.
  • Action. Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.
  • Speech. Develop the character as a person — don’t merely have your character announce important plot details.
  • Thought. Bring the reader into your character’s mind, to show them your character’s unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.

For example, let’s say I want to develop a college student persona for a short story that I am writing. What do I know about her?

Her name is Jen, short for Jennifer Mary Johnson. She is 21 years old. She is a fair-skinned Norwegian with blue eyes, long, curly red hair, and is 5 feet 6 inches tall. Contrary to the stereotype about redheads, she is actually easygoing and rather shy. She loves cats and has two of them named Bailey and Allie. She is a technical writing major with a minor in biology. Jen plays the piano and is an amateur photographer. She lives in the dorms at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She eats pizza every day for lunch and loves Red Rose tea. She cracks her knuckles when she is nervous. Her mother just committed suicide.

4. Choose a Point of View

Point of view is the narration of the story from the perspective of first, second, or third person. As a writer, you need to determine who is going to tell the story and how much information is available for the narrator to reveal in the short story. The narrator can be directly involved in the action subjectively, or the narrator might only report the action objectively.

  • First Person. The story is told from the view of “I.” The narrator is either the protagonist (main character) and directly affected by unfolding events, or the narrator is a secondary character telling the story revolving around the protagonist.
    Good ExampleI saw a tear roll down his cheek. I had never seen my father cry before. I looked away while he brushed the offending cheek with his hand.
    This is a good choice for beginning writers because it is the easiest to write. (But if your viewpoint character is too much like you, a first-person story might end up being a too-transparent exercise in wish-fulfillment, or score-settling.)
  • Second Person. The story is told directly to “you”, with the reader as a participant in the action.
    Good ExampleYou laughed loudly at the antics of the clown. You clapped your hands with joy.
    (See also Jerz on interactive fiction.)
  • Third Person. The story tells what “he”, “she,” or “it” does. The third-person narrator’s perspective can be limited (telling the story from one character’s viewpoint) or omniscient (where the narrator knows everything about all of the characters).
    Good ExampleHe ran to the big yellow loader sitting on the other side of the gravel pit shack.
    Your narrator might take sides in the conflict you present, might be as transparent as possible, or might advocate a position that you want your reader to challenge (this is the “unreliable narrator” strategy).

Yourke on point of view:

  • First Person. “Unites narrator and reader through a series of secrets” when they enter one character’s perceptions. However, it can “lead to telling” and limits readers connections to other characters in the short story.
  • Second Person. “Puts readers within the actual scene so that readers confront possibilities directly.” However, it is important to place your characters “in a tangible environment” so you don’t “omit the details readers need for clarity.”
  • Third Person Omniscient. Allows you to explore all of the characters’ thoughts and motivations. Transitions are extremely important as you move from character to character.
  • Third Person Limited. “Offers the intimacy of one character’s perceptions.” However, the writer must “deal with character absence from particular scenes.”

5. Write Meaningful Dialogue

Make your readers hear the pauses between the sentences. Let them see characters lean forward, fidget with their cuticles, avert their eyes, uncross their legs.Jerome Stern

Dialogue is what your characters say to each other (or to themselves).

Each speaker gets his/her own paragraph, and the paragraph includes whatever you wish to say about what the character is doing when speaking. (See: “Quotation Marks: Using Them in Dialogue“.)

Bad ExampleWhere are you going?” John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor. “To the racetrack.” Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head. “Not again,” John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”
The above paragraph is confusing, because it is not clear when one speech stops and the other starts.
Iffy Example     “Where are you going?” John asked nervously.
“To the racetrack,” Mary said, trying to figure out whether John was too upset to let her get away with it this time.
“Not again,” said John, wondering how they would make that month’s rent. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”
The second example is mechanically correct, since it uses a separate paragraph to present each speaker’s turn advancing the conversation. But the narrative material between the direct quotes is mostly useless.

Write Meaningful Dialogue Labels

“John asked nervously” is an example of “telling.” The author could write “John asked very nervously” or “John asked so nervously that his voice was shaking,” and it still wouldn’t make the story any more effective.

How can the author convey John’s state of mind, without coming right out and telling the reader about it? By inference. That is, mention a detail that conjures up in the reader’s mind the image of a nervous person.

Good ExampleJohn sat up. “Wh– where are you going?”
Good Example“Where are you going?” John stammered, staring at his Keds.
Good ExampleDeep breath. Now or never. “Where are you going?”
Bad ExampleJohn sat up and took a deep breath, knowing that his confrontation with Mary had to come now, or it would never come at all. “Wh– where are you going?” he stammered nervously, staring at his Keds.
Beware — a little detail goes a long way. Why would your reader bother to engage with the story, if the author carefully explains what each and every line means?

6. Use Setting and Context

Setting moves readers most when it contributes to an organic whole. So close your eyes and picture your characters within desert, jungle, or suburb–whichever setting shaped them. Imagining this helps balance location and characterization. Right from the start, view your characters inhabiting a distinct place. –– Laurel Yourke

Setting includes the time, location, context, and atmosphere where the plot takes place.

  • Remember to combine setting with characterization and plot.
  • Include enough detail to let your readers picture the scene but only details that actually add something to the story. (For example, do not describe Mary locking the front door, walking across the yard, opening the garage door, putting air in her bicycle tires, getting on her bicycle–none of these details matter except that she rode out of the driveway without looking down the street.)
  • Use two or more senses in your descriptions of setting.
  • Rather than feed your readers information about the weather, population statistics, or how far it is to the grocery store, substitute descriptive details so your reader can experience the location the way your characters do.
    Good ExampleOur sojourn in the desert was an educational contrast with its parched heat, dust storms, and cloudless blue sky filled with the blinding hot sun. The rare thunderstorm was a cause for celebration as the dry cement tunnels of the aqueducts filled rapidly with rushing water. Great rivers of sand flowed around and through the metropolitan inroads of man’s progress in the greater Phoenix area, forcefully moved aside for concrete and steel structures. Palm trees hovered over our heads and saguaro cactuses saluted us with their thorny arms.

7. Set Up the Plot

Plot is what happens, the storyline, the action. Jerome Stern says it is how you set up the situation, where the turning points of the story are, and what the characters do at the end of the story.

A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance. –Janet Burroway

Understanding these story elements for developing actions and their end results will help you plot your next short story.

  • Explosion or “Hook.” A thrilling, gripping, stirring event or problem that grabs the reader’s attention right away.
  • Conflict. A character versus the internal self or an external something or someone.
  • Exposition. Background information required for seeing the characters in context.
  • Complication. One or more problems that keep a character from their intended goal.
  • Transition. Image, symbol, dialogue, that joins paragraphs and scenes together.
  • Flashback. Remembering something that happened before the short story takes place.
  • Climax. When the rising action of the story reaches the peak.
  • Falling Action. Releasing the action of the story after the climax.
  • Resolution. When the internal or external conflict is resolve.

Brainstorming. If you are having trouble deciding on a plot, try brainstorming. Suppose you have a protagonist whose husband comes home one day and says he doesn’t love her any more and he is leaving. What are actions that can result from this situation?

  1. She becomes a workaholic.
  2. Their children are unhappy.
  3. Their children want to live with their dad.
  4. She moves to another city.
  5. She gets a new job.
  6. They sell the house.
  7. She meets a psychiatrist and falls in love.
  8. He comes back and she accepts him.
  9. He comes back and she doesn’t accept him.
  10. She commits suicide.
  11. He commits suicide.
  12. She moves in with her parents.

The next step is to select one action from the list and brainstorm another list from that particular action.

8. Create Conflict and Tension

Conflict is the fundamental element of fiction, fundamental because in literature only trouble is interesting. It takes trouble to turn the great themes of life into a story: birth, love, sex, work, and death. –Janet Burroway

Conflict produces tension that makes the story begin. Tension is created by opposition between the character or characters and internal or external forces or conditions. By balancing the opposing forces of the conflict, you keep readers glued to the pages wondering how the story will end.

Possible Conflicts Include:

  • The protagonist against another individual
  • The protagonist against nature (or technology)
  • The protagonist against society
  • The protagonist against God
  • The protagonist against himself or herself.

Yourke’s Conflict Checklist

  • Mystery. Explain just enough to tease readers. Never give everything away.
  • Empowerment. Give both sides options.
  • Progression. Keep intensifying the number and type of obstacles the protagonist faces.
  • Causality. Hold fictional characters more accountable than real people. Characters who make mistakes frequently pay, and, at least in fiction, commendable folks often reap rewards.
  • Surprise. Provide sufficient complexity to prevent readers predicting events too far in advance.
  • Empathy. Encourage reader identification with characters and scenarios that pleasantly or (unpleasantly) resonate with their own sweet dreams (or night sweats).
  • Insight. Reveal something about human nature.
  • Universality. Present a struggle that most readers find meaningful, even if the details of that struggle reflect a unique place and time.
  • High Stakes. Convince readers that the outcome matters because someone they care about could lose something precious. Trivial clashes often produce trivial fiction.

9. Build to a Crisis or Climax

This is the turning point of the story–the most exciting or dramatic moment.

The crisis may be a recognition, a decision, or a resolution. The character understands what hasn’t been seen before, or realizes what must be done, or finally decides to do it. It’s when the worm turns. Timing is crucial. If the crisis occurs too early, readers will expect still another turning point. If it occurs too late, readers will get impatient–the character will seem rather thick.-Jerome Stern

Jane Burroway says that the crisis “must always be presented as a scene. It is “the moment” the reader has been waiting for. In Cinderella’s case, “the payoff is when the slipper fits.”

While a good story needs a crisis, a random event such as a car crash or a sudden illness is simply an emergency –unless it somehow involves a conflict that makes the reader care about the characters (see: “Crisis vs. Conflict“).

10. Find a Resolution

The solution to the conflict. In short fiction, it is difficult to provide a complete resolution and you often need to just show that characters are beginning to change in some way or starting to see things differently.

Yourke examines some of the options for ending a story.

  • Open. Readers determine the meaning.
    Brendan’s eyes looked away from the priest and up to the mountains.
  • Resolved. Clear-cut outcome.
    While John watched in despair, Helen loaded up the car with her belongings and drove away.
  • Parallel to Beginning. Similar to beginning situation or image.
    • They were driving their 1964 Chevrolet Impala down the highway while the wind blew through their hair.
    • Her father drove up in a new 1964 Chevrolet Impala, a replacement for the one that burned up.
  • Monologue. Character comments.
    I wish Tom could have known Sister Dalbec’s prickly guidance before the dust devils of Sin City battered his soul.
  • Dialogue. Characters converse.
  • Literal Image. Setting or aspect of setting resolves the plot.
    The aqueducts were empty now and the sun was shining once more.
  • Symbolic Image. Details represent a meaning beyond the literal one.
    Looking up at the sky, I saw a cloud cross the shimmering blue sky above us as we stood in the morning heat of Sin City.

Got Writer’s Block?

The Writer’s Block
Comprehensive Web site that offers solutions to beating writer’s block such as various exercises (not necessarily physical), advice from prolific writers, and how to know if you really have writer’s block.

Overcoming Writer’s Block
Precise, short list of ways to start writing again.

Learn through Schooling
Some online colleges and universities offer creative writing courses. Look for ones that offer creative writing courses that cover the plot and structure of short stories.

  • Regular access to an instructor who is a published author, and a peer group that is motivated to read your drafts, might just be the extra motivation you need to develop your own skills.
  • If you are counting on the credits transferring to help you complete an academic program, check with your university registrar.

Dec. 2002 — submitted by Kathy Kennedy, UWEC Senior
(for Jerz’s Advanced Technical Writing class)
Jan 2003 — edited by Jamie Dalbesio, UWEC Senior
(for an independent study project with Jerz)
May 2003 — edited by Jerz and posted at Seton Hill University
Jan 2007 — ongoing edits by Jerz
May 2008 — reformatted
Sep 2010 — tweaked Writer’s Block section
Mar 2011 — reformatted and further tweaked
Jun 2017 — minor editing. Are “Keds” still a recognizable brand of kids shoes?

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Archived discussion of “Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers”

791 thoughts on “Short Story Tips: 10 Ways to Improve Your Creative Writing

  1. thankyou very much, to the creator of the site, this helped an incredible amount with a piece of courcework, much Appreciated!

  2. I might only be in 6th , but it is my dream to be a writer . i love the person who ever made this site . it has helped me a looooooot . Thanks a million !!!

    • me too! I’m going on to seventh grade now, and my number one dream is to be a writer. Maybe I should publish more of my work online. And yes, your tips really helped. Thanks! ^_^

    • I started writing when I was in sixth grade, and I’m in eighth grade now! The first story I thought of is still my favorite today, and I still write in my free time!

  3. thank you for all the help ,great to have someone who cares how others strugles in writing ,but wont give up thank you , thank you

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  5. thanks for the help. but iam still in confusion about the fiction how to start and end with 'interesting and wow' saying stories

  6. Thank you so very much. This helped me a lot as I am going to write a story, but a long one, not short. Once again, many many thanks.

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  8. Omg this was such a helpful article! I felt like writing a story just for fun for once, and I realized I had no idea how to start it out. This was a great article! Thank you!
    xo Kenzie

  9. hey this helped so good, i hav a way better undestanding of this all, but iim so stuck with this assignment and i need help with ideas..we hav to finish off these expositions into a short story and im completley blank..
    It goes like this: Bullfrog and rain saw their father coming out of the trees carrying something over his shoulder.They wern’t suprised. their father had carried out a dead roo once before and they’d eaten it in a sunspoiled stew. The night before, a hammering storm had come and that would have cause some carnage. Even far off, though they knew that something was different, It looked dead but it wasn’t anything they recognisd. Closer up it looked human. They could see a pair of legs that were being flopped about by their fathers upswinging strides. But there was surely something weird about it.

    Any ideas of what the characters may be, or what might happen, or the name of the story..anything that could start me off or give me something to write about on this please could u please help me..thanx :)

    • What’s the central conflict? Is this a comic misunderstanding, an end-of-innocence betrayal, a horror story? The “carried out a dead roo” detail is nice, as is the statement that the fact of their father carrying something dead is not the problem. What is the choice that the protagonist will have to make, and what are the stakes?

      • ok thank you so much, im 14 and lost, and writing short stories isnt really my strong point. I hope i can use this,but my mind is just completley blank… I don’ know how to start off the next paragraph and have no idea what the characters bullfrog and rain would be a animal or human> and what the dad is carryingz/ but im sure il figure this out by monday..haha thanx again >:)

    • *much, not good
      *have (again)
      The next sentence doesn’t even make sense.
      *Their (note the capital T)
      Roo? No. Stop being lazy and spell it out.
      ^The sentence that “it” was incorrectly capitalized in is a run-on sentence.
      *Closer up,
      Re-write that next sentence. It’s too unclear.
      “Upswinging” is not a word.

      And as for your comment:

      *this, but
      Remove “off” after start.

      You need to learn how to spell before you can become a serious writer.

      But the story was good, just needs a little work. And your grammar could be worse.
      @+ l3@$+ u d0^+ +@!k !yk3 d!$
      ^That’s just terrible.

  10. Thank you so much,for this site i just found’ im writing a mystery story’ and im at the ending’ it took me a whole year to make my Murder mystery a top seller’ im praying on it”looking for a good publisher now.

  11. Your ten tips site is a keeper. I’m passing it on. Would you answer a POV question which was debated in our writing group? How does the narrator, in 3rd person limited POV, refer to his parents. Some believed the child should always use Mom, Dad, etc. Others felt, once the family relationship was established, it was ok to use the parents’ first names.
    Thank you,

    • I would probably use Mom and Dad, unless the narration is supposed to be sort of factual and formal, in which case I might say Mr. Smith and Mrs. Smith. I think using first names for the parents might be distracting.

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  13. Wow…very helpful and useful, thank you very much indeed. I am planning to take a course to write short story. But now I have brief idea and concept. I wanna to have some preparation before my course begins. Anew many thanks….ganbatte

  14. oh………great ….actually iam contesting 4 a story compitetion……..great… works..thanx alot……..i want 2 become a writer and a poet

  15. This is fantastic help. Thank you so much for publishing this site. I haven't written anything at this point, but it has been a long lost dream to write something someday. Mostly, I think I was just more afraid to try and not do well for not really knowing where or how to start.
    You and your site are actually a good inspirational for beginners, being that I wasn't ever accused of being the brightest student in class, when I bothered to show up all those years ago, that after reading your page, I feel like I actually learned something.
    Wish me luck and maybe after I write something, you'll enjoy the read.

  16. Hey this was really helpful,I’m a gcse student and my exam in in about a month, I’ve been told I need to plan my short story ruffly before the exam, so I have an idea of what to write when given the titles, but I’m struggling on picking plots that are quite broad
    any help?

    • I have no specific knowledge of the GCSE, but you might try going to Wikipedia, and clicking the “random article” link a few times. You might have a specific character in mind, and flesh that character out, and practice writing what happens when the character you know well faces an unusual situation.

  17. Hi,
    thank you so much for these golden advice. I thought writing a short story does not need such steps. But now I thank god for not starting writing for my competion.

  18. this site is great! But I have one question. I currently have a story i've been working on, but it wasnt planned so im stuck with half a story, and no idea where its going. How do you decide where its going?

    • It’s always a good idea to be open to inspiration. When I get stuck on one project, I pick up another. As long as I am being productive, it’s all good. If inspiration strikes, go back to the stalled project. If not, maybe it was time to try something else.

      • Stepping back from the task at hand and doing something else is a good way of taking your mind off the story. Another idea might occur to you while focused on something other than writing. Then again, take Raymond Chandler’s advice: If you are stuck have a man step out of a closet with a gun in his hand.

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  20. Thank you! I’ve been having trouble refining my own short story, so this has helped a lot. I might just work up the courage to show it to people now. (Yay!)

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  22. Thank you! this helps a lot! I still need help in thinking of a story though…as an english assignment we have to write a short story and i have no idea what I should write about…

  23. if i should leave without saying tnx, then i wouldn’t be fair.this site just helped me out of a mess…. thanks a lot

  24. Im only 15 and i have come up with a number of stories, i can get really into them, writing for hours but then i will stop and start again. Then i cannot get back into it. I will then come up with another story and then the same cycle happens again. Please help me :)

    • u should try to read some books i get a lot of my ideas based on reading books and sometimes i have the samee prob as u just try reading books and articles! maybe a zombie book! i would like to hear one of ur stories!

  25. This was indeed very helpful. I was good in writing during school but marriage, kids and household duties tend to erase that creative lustre. I want to get back to writing now that the kids are grown up. Your tips will help me get started. Thanx a ton.

  26. Great article! I’m attempting a short story right now, and these tips have given me great insight on how to continue. Thanks! :)

  27. i find this so interesting wnt to write a book so here goes will let u no if it works out thanks so much x

  28. This totally help alot ,,my mind is so blocked still but once of have a quiet thinking place ,i think my short story will be gre8…thanxs to the person who wrote this page!!! :D

  29. Thanx for ur help.
    i have a school project to write a part of the play ‘The Dear Departed’ by Stanley Houghton in third person. I am a bit confused as I am not being able to innovate. The stuf s mostly like she said, he said etc. Please help.

    • Can you write the story from the point of view of a minor character, or describe in detail something the author only mentions briefly? See Matt Madden’s Exercises in Style, a collection of comic pages that take a perfectly ordinary conversation between two people, and explores dozens of different ways to depict the same words. As you can see, it’s possible to innovate a great deal even when some parts of the story are fixed.

      • I couldn’t write from the point of view of a minor as I had to write in third person. Yeah, but I mentioned in detail the small things, expanding situations and also introducing thoughts of the speakers a few times. Thnx a tonne for ypur help!!

  30. this really helped meh a lot with my assignment i am only 12 years old and i got a a+ on my history assignment thanks to this website thanks!

  31. This was super helpful, and i am i game art and design student and am try to build my own game on the side, i have wonderful ideas, a setting and such, ust kinda need help starting the story off and building characters any help??

    • In creative writing, the general advice is that showing is more engaging than telling (but of course you have to focus on the most important stuff). In gaming, the general advice would be to make the player DO something (choose a weapon rather than a shield, sell a quest item rather than turn it in) rather than SHOW the player a cut scene or TELL a player through dialogue or text.

      There’s lots of scholarship on the role of story in video games. You might look up what Emily Short has to say on the topic.

  32. Sorry, but the suggestion that “it’s much better to say “bubbled” or “smirked” or “chortled” is a poor one. Maybe these words will pass muster in certain genres (horror, perhaps). But why write down to your audience, in any case?

    • Thanks for your comment. My overall point is that something bland like “said happily” is a waste of words, when it’s possible to choose a single, more precise word. I’m not sure that “chortled” is a step down from “said happily,” but if any of the words I suggested don’t fit the tone of your story, I’m sure you can come up with something better.

  33. hi im gina and i just want to talk about my father he died when i was 16 months and i miss him alot everyday i wake up sad but then i say it alright i have a great family now that loves me see me and my mom lived in my grandfathers house (my dads dad) when i was very little and then my mom went to go buy a new car and thats when she feel in love with my step dad and when they got married i was happy for them but now as the years go by i think that ill just never forgive her for ruining the rest of my life and she didn’t even ask me if i was ok with her marryinng him so she didn’t only charge her life she also changed mine without my own permission and i can never forgive her for that and 2 years after they were married he told my mom that he has a daughter in louisianna and i HATE her she acts all prissy because her moms rich and stuff also she acts like shes the boss of my little half brother and sister she maybe older than them but not me one time i was so mad at her i pushed into the wall it felt so good another time was when i made her sleep in a chair sweet but i got in trouble for it but it was worth it totally but anyway i really wish i had my real dad oh and sorry there is no punction in here bye

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