Short Story Tips: 10 Hacks to Improve Your Creative Writing

Jerz > Writing > General Creative Writing TipsPoetry | Fiction ]

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.

Short Stories: 10 Tips for Writing FictionContents

  1. Get Started: Emergency Tips
  2. Write a Catchy First Paragraph
  3. Develop Your Characters
  4. Choose a Point of View
  5. Write Meaningful Dialogue
  6. Use Setting and Context
  7. Set up the Plot
  8. Create Conflict and Tension
  9. Build to a Crisis or a Climax
  10. Deliver a Resolution


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 should help. Good luck!

  • What does your protagonist want?It Was Naptime: Show Don't (Just) Tell
    (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 obstacles must the protagonist overcome in order to reach the goal?
    (Simply having a rival is not that interesting. Yes, Harry Potter defeats Voldemort, but first he has to mature into a leader with the moral clarity and teamwork skills necessary to defeat Voldemort. A short story can’t possibly tackle that kind of character development, but a character who faces internal obstacles and must negotiate messy moral trade-offs is more dramatically interesting than the hero in the white hat who has to use the right weapon to defeat the villain in the black hat.)
  • 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? How does your protagonist change over the course of the story?)
  • What details from the setting, dialog, and tone help you tell the story? Keep them! But…
    • Omit travel scenes. (Save words. “Later, at the office…”)
    • Omit scenes where character A tells character B exactly what we just saw happening to character A. (Omit redundancy. Focus on advancing your story. “As I filled Slim in on what I had just seen in the saloon, he dropped his show of apathy and his fingers clutched at his revolver.”)
    • Facial expressions of a first-person narrator. (Narrators in stories aren’t looking at video being live-streamed from a floating drone that follows them around everywhere, so they can’t report “A smile lit my face” or “My eyes darkened.” See Writing Dialogue.)
  • At the climax, what morally significant choice does your protagonist make?
    (Your reader should care about the protagonist’s decision, and ideally 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’ll never forget how heart-broken I felt,” “I miss her so much I’ll never the same without her”) 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 ExampleThe neighbor behind us practiced scream therapy in his shower almost every day.
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 Example
    I 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 Example
    You 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 Example
    He 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 Example
  • John sat up. “Wh– where are you going?”
  • “Where are you going?” John stammered, staring at his shoes,
  • Deep breath. Now or never. “Where are you going?”
Any of the above would work.
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 haltingly, staring vulnerably at the tattered Thomas the Tank Engine slippers Mary had given him so many years ago, in happier times.
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 Example
    Our 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 resolved.

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?
Feb 2019 — Removed “Keds” reference, beefed up the “bad” shoes example; tweaked formatting.

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

852 thoughts on “Short Story Tips: 10 Hacks to Improve Your Creative Writing

  1. wow this is more than helpful and it’s just good to me after carefully reading every lines. Thanks!

  2. This is such awesome tutorial ..
    It really helped me so much writing my first fiction..
    Thanks for the writer of this topic..

  3. sorry about the spacing on my last comment the girls names end in Ember or Cinder. And the boys names start with axe. Hope this helps.

    • It’s hard to say, Amber, without knowing more about your story. Are the characters good or evil? do the categories “good” and “evil” even apply to your story? Are they boy and girl romantically involved, or is one a servant and the other a master? Are they enemies?

  4. Hi my name is Amber And I’m Writing a short story. But I having troble picking the names for my boy and girl chacters.
    Here is a list for vote let me know which ones you like best the ones with most votes I’ll use for my story.
    Girls Names: Boys Names:
    Huyana Diabolical Ember Axe Chaous Beelzebub
    Chika Diabolical Ember Axe Dark Blood
    Hefziba Diabolical Ember Axe Gothic or Demonic Dragon
    Hercila Diabolica Ember Axe Murderer Hades
    Raven Salem Cinder Axe Demon Lucifer

  5. AWESOME! Your tips are so clear and to the point. The examples are neat. They make storytelling so easy! Thank you!
    I have a blog, where I write short stories. I try writing crisp & unusual stories, about ordinary people. Do visit and give me your feedback.

  6. Dennis….that is a great page full of advice!I go to sleep at night and wake up with a story in my mind!..Never have written…but i want to…will keep this page….myriam

  7. Thank you, this information is just what I need to finally start doing something about writing, which is what I have always wanted to do.

  8. This website is the best I’ve found in a while! As a student, I really appreciate all the little tips and details collaborated in one place. This was a very helpful source for a paper I wrote on short story crafting (I cited you many, many times), so I wanted to say thank you very much for putting out the time and effort to create such a well formed and neat website!

  9. I enjoy writing short stories and have had a lot of positive feedback from many people.This is going to help me a lot I think as it contains sound guidance and direction. Thank you.

  10. Great little tutorial. I recently started writing short stories and this covered a lot of questions I’ve been having. Especially about dialogue and developing characters.

  11. Sweet, thanks!! I am taking English 30 at the age of 31. I have never been good at writing. I am the queen of run on sentences. I am trying to mix my writing up by doing something other then an essay.

  12. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any ways to help stop content from being ripped off? I’d truly appreciate it.

  13. Excellent article! I’m a non-fiction writer looking to try my hand at fiction, and you’re article was the perfect seed for me to grow my first short story.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • You can choose to be good. Don’t let the fact your a bad writer bring you down. Write short stories, or drafts and you’ll bound to get better. If you can believe, you can achieve. ;)

  14. thanks this somewhat helps, it gives a lot of good tips mostly basic stuff for creating a story unfortunatly i already have a storyline, it just contains magor gaps, i was hoping your blog would teach me how to fill those in but i’ll still be able to use some of this so agian thank you.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sean. I can’t imagine how I could write a single handout that would cover every kind of story it was possible to write, from horror to Christian inspirational to absurd comedy to fantasy, etc. Read published stories in your genre, and mix and match what you find to make something new. It sounds like you are almost ready for an editor.

  15. Hi,

    I just want to say that this is one of the most in-depth papers I’ve read about creative writing. I’ve been writing for thirty-five years, so I know a lot about it. I’ve made several writing guides, but I have to say that yours is better. Most of what you’ve written, I know, but we all need a guide to keep us on track. I will definitely use this one.

    Good job!


  16. Can I just say what a relief to seek out somebody who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You undoubtedly know how one can carry a difficulty to light and make it important. More people have to learn this and understand this aspect of the story. I cant believe youre no more popular because you undoubtedly have the gift.

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  18. thank you a lot you really helped me. i followed the ten tips and i got an A for my creative writing. please keep this up and put more and more tips. thanke you so so much.

  19. Wonderful article! Thanks so much! I am a highschool freshman trying out short story writing for the school magazine. I really enjoy writing, and I think this article will help me immensely. Thanks again!

  20. Excellent, basic writing tips for short story writers. Even those of us who have a bit of work can benefit by reviewing this information. Thanks!

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  22. Helpful indeed and drawing attention to minute details..good elaboration on examples and so on…thanks

  23. Helped me a lot! I am used to doing 3rd person writing but this required 1st person , I also did have a huge case of writer’s block. Thanks a thousand.

  24. These tips really helped me! Thank You! I loved your examples! Please, follow my blogs I will posting some of my stories and I would like you to review them when I post them! :)

  25. This was so very helpful. I have to write a 30 page fictional sample to apply for a creative writing program and this information was golden for me – someone interested in writing fiction but has not done much of it. Again, thank you. I also believe that these are tips that I will always need and use.

  26. For writers block try playing this game…
    It is called FORTUNATELY and UNFORTUNATELY……….
    First say FORTUNATELY and make up a line and then say UNFORTUNATELY and come up with another line…
    For example…..
    UNFORTUNATELY: I was stuck on holiday with my friend
    FORTUNATELY: My friend had a good came to pass the time
    UNFORTUNATELY: You had to come up with imaginative ideas
    FORTUNATELY: I had a good one
    UNFORTUNATELY: In the story I get captured and kidnapped by aliens
    UNFORTUNATELY: My friend had brilliant first aid skills to help!!!
    FORTUNATELY: They had left the medical kit on the helicopter!

    And sooooo on…………

      • Hi BusterA – I am a fellow aspiring writer. I had a look at your writing (of Jan 12) and my main comment is that the opening sentence is not ‘catching’ enough. The story itself is well written but plods on a bit, I find. Can’t really put my finger on it. Do you have a structure for the story? Keep at it though! Lots of potential. Bastiaan

  27. Just searching for a few tips to turn a so-so idea into a fun short story. You site was excellent. Right to the point. Great tips with helpful examples. Your site answered most of my questions within 30 seconds. Thanks!

  28. this is pretty helpfull im sapposed to wright a story for speach and im in 7th grade?!?!?!?! wish me luck

  29. Pingback: » My Writing: The Fourth Blog by Crackerboy56 The Big Cheese

  30. This is helpful and I really appreciate you having time making this for random people like me could use this. But something was bothering me as I was reading this. OK, i’m writing a short story for homework and my plot was a 15 year old boy going to a party/hanging out with friends, so he gets into bad decisions and one of the bad decisions was getting into a car that leads into a car crash. But then again this website says to try to avoid the car crash idea because its not unique or interesting, so its confusing me. Could anyone help me explain why the car crash idea is not unique or interesting? My story is 1st person POV of the car crash victim and its suppose to be realistic-fiction. I will really appreciate it if you’d respond or give me ideas/info of my story. thanks.

    • If the car crash is random, then the crash is a crisis that might cause a conflict that drives the real story, but the crash is not the climax of the story. I don’t mean to say no crashes are permitted in fiction, but a good story involves conflict — two people with opposing goals. Some fiction pits a protagonist against a force of nature, or against the protagonist’s self-doubts, but the danger in the story is only part of the story.

  31. These tip have been so helpful, with this my friend and I were to finish our story. It took us a long time but these helpful tips helped us finish it.

  32. Thanks sooooooooo Much for all of our tips they are very very helpful!
    Well I am writing a story about Colt McCoy !!!!

    Who wants to read my stories???

  33. I’m glad this site is up and running…because nearly all of the poor dears that have made a contribution sure as hell need this resource.
    Get rid of your phones guys and learn to write instead of text.
    My God I can’t believe the lack of capacity to communicate; let alone ‘write’.

    • Hey, Fatboythin

      Right about getting off your phones and start writing!!!
      Really u don’t need your phone 24 7

      Sarah Martin

      sarah m

  34. I’m in 9th grade, and on the verge of becoming an author. I have chosen my theme of fantasy but I can’t think of what should happen and I can’t get interested enough to stick with just one idea, it always happens! Can you please, please give me some ideas on how to write something and get into my story?
    P.s. I’m home-schooled (is a word, look it up) so i have plenty of time to write, I’m in a bad area of town so my mum won’t let me out on my own so I can’t go places to get inspired. My tolerance with reading only goes to a certain degree, I can’t concentrate if it doesn’t evolve around fantasy. Can you help me with my problem?

    • People who want to write need to read, just as painters need to look at paintings, musicians need to listen to music, and doctors need to look at people’s bodies. It’s much easier to read than write, and if you are having trouble focusing on reading, then writing will be even harder. You might try listening to audiobooks while you do something else (try the free Classic Tales Podcast, or NPR’s Selected Shorts podcast), or renting audiobooks from your local library. For starters, you might try joining a fan fiction site for a TV show that you like, as a way of learning your craft. Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant are great authors of short stories.

      My wife and I home-school our own kids (a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader). I’d love to read YA fiction that features protagonists who are homeschooled. It could be a running gag that everyone who meets the protagonist asks, “What about socialization?” Maybe the the home-schooled protagonist goes into a fantasy world where everyone’s home-schooled, and it’s considered abnormal to send your kids off to a learning warehouse. In fact, it might be illegal to be a professional teacher, but the protagonist is so good at teaching that the citizens risk imprisonment to send their kids to learn things we take for granted, such as the kind of first aid you learn as a scout, or how to make a paper airplane, or tie knots, or make lanyards, but the story takes a serious turn when the kingdom encounters some new threat that involves knowledge that has to be memorized by rote, such as a series of passwords to use in order to appease the hostile tribes that guard a pathway to a some precious resource (maybe the sea?); our protagonist uses mass-teaching methods (memorize and spit back — the very kind that he used to make fun of in the public schools) that give the kingdom a tactical edge. Of course, some rival within the kingdom starts misusing this teaching method for political gain, and only the kids with learning disabilities, who were banned from the public schools, avoid being brainwashed by the new public schools, and drawing on their special way of looking at the world, they form a secret think tank that will take down the evil government.

      There… I have no idea if that story is any good, but it’s a mish-mash of ideas that draw a little from the books 1984, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the “misfit group of outcasts finds self-confidence and shapes up into an efficient fighting force” trope that’s common in youth-oriented films. The new thing is the focus on home-schooling vs. a fantasy version of public schooling, and it would appeal to any student (homeschooled, special ed, or otherwise) who feels that “the system” isn’t working as well as it could be.

      Fantasy is all about taking a familiar world and introducing one incredibly exaggerated or inverted element (such as “magic is the norm, science is practiced by whackos” or “cats and dogs can talk and enslave humans for their benefit”) and then exploring how some lofty human concept such as heroism, virtue, justice, sacrifice, or liberty would be transformed in that fantasy world.

  35. Sir your site is a huge guide to me. I’m blessed to read your material. I wish to know if you run a writing school that i can be part of. i’m a mathematician and has been into serious writing for about five months now after abandoning it for a degree in math. I wish to also send you some of my short stories for literary editing. A basket of thanks, sir.

  36. Thanks a ton, I’ve been interested in writing for just over a year now and as I venture off into the world of English literature this will be my guide and toolbox. After reading this, I too have come to realize my weaknesses in writing and have decided to strengthen them. Guess I have some time, I just started the 11th grade so…thanks again :]

  37. Thanks a lot! This can come very handy. I started writing short stories couple of years ago but I sort of struggled while doing it. After going through your tips, I come to realize what my weak points were. So, thanks again. :)

  38. I have had writers block for quite some time now. I am ready to pick up writing again, but cannot come up with a great idea.
    Please help

  39. Hi, I’m actually not that bad of a writer but when I’m in the middle of this great story and my honors teachers get all “wow so good, I have great expectations,” and then I come down with a major case of writers block I try listening to music and doing all of the writer’s block tips I can find but than I just end up even more jumbled then before and my super story turns into a nowhere-novel?? Help!!

    • Whenever I’m stuck on a novel, I always turn to my friends and family. I know it sounds cheesy and all but, I don’t ask them directly rather I look at my experiences and use those to help me. A lot of stuff that’s happened to you or is happening to you can be great material for writing, it gives the writing a soul and it makes it more believable.

      Also, sometimes people just need a quick break; relax, lie down, go to a park or something and watch all the kids play or just look at the sky. It helps, getting out there and exposing yourself to the world a bit.

      Meh, what do I know. Just a grade 11 student. Just, good luck on your writing, I’m sure you’ll do great.

  40. Pingback: Tips for writing short stories… | Reading as Writers

  41. Pingback: Writing Tips for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — Jerz's Literacy Weblog

  42. There’s a writing competition at my school, and I had writer’s block for the longest time. Reading this really helped me in planning everything out first, instead of just going strait into the story. I’m submitting my story tonight, so wish me luck. (:

  43. thankzzz allottt…. i was really needing some helpful teacher who could teach me all these thingz so brilliantly…

  44. HHHEEEEELLLLPPPPP ive got a test in creative writing soon and im stuck for how to make it soo interesting

  45. websites awesome tho………………………………………………………………………..

  46. I have started a story but im having trouble finding interesting ways to change the time. time as in from today to tomorrow or a week.

    • Read, read, read. See how the authors you like handle time shifts, and steal. Don’t steal too much from any one author or story; read a lot, and steal a little from everyone, so you end up with something new.

  47. i know how to write one i just dont no what to write about …i want it to be scary or sad ….any help?? please

  48. Hey Thanks for those tips…
    Hope it helps me to do well for Communicative Arts paper in 2 days…

  49. Thanks a bunch, pal, this is an easy to comprehend and informative article that has given me a new outlook on my writing. I’ll experiment with your guidelines and suggestions from now on, your ideas are very helpful.

  50. ok thank you very much,,, it was very help me
    I am beginner,, so I have so many difficulties to write the short story

  51. hi deniss,,,, this was very helpful… I have a final exam to make a short story,,I’d would like to tell stories about my friends life…. but I still confused about the point of view that I will be used.
    please give me suggestion about my story? thank you

    • Well, if you want to say “My friend is a spy with a microchip in her brain,” or “I am a spy with a microchip in my brain,” or “You are a spy with a microchip in your brain,” any of those could be perfectly good ways to tell a story, but only you can decide which point of view will help you tell your story best.

  52. I want to become a professional writer, so this was really helpful. It’s not common to find tips these well written :)

    • Thank you, Chrissy, and tahniyath and hima and dew and everyone else. (Back at ya, marvin.) While I don’t always reply to every thank you because I don’t know what to say other than “You’re welcome,” I do appreciate the encouragement.

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