Writing Tips

How To Write A Spectacular Short Story

how to write a short story


“You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.”

  • Larry Niven

Trying to write a short story is the perfect place to begin your writing career; all great writers have started out with shorts or written them. It’s a great way for an aspiring writer to introduce themselves to the masses and build their author platform. And it’s less demanding than a novel.

Yes, I might sound a little biased because I love writing short fiction. But honestly speaking, I started writing short fiction only because it was the best way I could improve my writing.

Short stories are akin to a training ground. You get to practice with different characters and storylines before committing to a long-form  project. Directly jumping on to writing a novel might also feel scary if you have never written a short story before, because the responsibility is huge and you might just not be ready to shoulder it yet. 

So why not start with a short story? 

Well, writing a spectacular short story is not so difficult, after all.

So, let’s begin.

What Is The Ideal Length Of A Short Story?

  • 2,000-5,000 words (a typical short story)
  • 3-500 words (a microfiction)
  • 1,000-8,000 words (a bit ‘longer’ short story)
  • 1000-20,000 (because a novella begins at 30,000 words)

However, going by the ideal length, my finger is on 2,000-5,000 words. 


How Do You Find Ideas For Your Story?

Take inspiration from an incident or event that happened with you. Or a conversation you had with a friend. Or a thought that didn’t leave you for days after you read a wonderful book. 

Look around yourself; stories are walking past you every single moment. Look at that frustrated but beautiful woman who is waiting at the bus stop. Look at that old shopkeeper who keeps his shop open in the night and watches the city sleep. 

The genesis of a brilliant idea for a short story is right before you. Take a look, observe, notice and then write. 


  • Start Writing It

Once you have gotten the idea of what to write about, start writing it. Don’t wait for the idea to culminate into a masterpiece. Outline the story and get on to it. 


  • Your Characters Are All Around You

Just like the story, your characters, too, are around you. A weird friend, an angry father, a charming love interest, a smart enemy, that peeping neighbour, the boy you see at the train station every day. All these people are potential characters for a great short story. 

Observe them, their mannerisms, what they wear, how they talk, what verbal tic they often use – observe it all. And colour them in your words.


  • Read Lots Of Incredible Short Stories

Reading great author’s work, especially classics, is the best source of inspiration. Don’t merely emulate their work. Read it, evaluate it, observe it and produce something of your own. 


  • Address The Emotions: 

Your story should speak emotions and capacitate feelings. Love, Redemption, Injustice, Betrayal, Sacrifice? They all add flavour to your story and provide a medium for your readers to connect with your characters. 


  • Create A Title That Moves: 

The reader will read the story later, but first, his gaze will land on the title. Make sure the title of the story arouses interest. If you want to know how to create an outstanding title for your story, take a look at this article (Add a link to the staggering title article)


  • The Structure: 

Follow either Freytag’s Pyramid structure or bind your story around a basic structure of Start-Middle-End. You can also opt for the ABDCE structure: Action-Backstory-Development-Climax-Ending. 


  • Cut It Out: 

Once you have written your short story, it’s time to cut out the needless, senseless and frail words. Look for unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, ifs and that’s, thank-you’s and sorry’s and cut them all out, or at least replace them with better terms. 


  • A Satisfying Ending: 

An ending is what remains with the readers the most, what changes their view of the world, and what leaves them wondering what to do next! As a writer, it’s your job to ensure a satisfying ending of the story. 

Remember, the keyword is ‘satisfying’ and not happy. So don’t shy away from trying different endings with either of these:

  • An unpredictable element
  • The emotional epiphany change
  • Commingling happy and sad 
  • Leaving a room for interpretation 

Signing off

After you have written and edited your short story, it’s time for the world to read it. 

Writing contests, Periodic Journals, Newspapers, Short-Story collections, Anthologies, and Literary Magazines – leverage the potential of these platforms to reach a wider audience and make the most of your writing career.

But before you submit your story to any of these platforms, make sure to ask a friend to edit it for you – probably the grammar nazi, ardent reader friend of yours who has an eye for details.

As I sign off, I wonder if I’ve left out some information. What other tips can you provide about writing a short story?