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Last updated on Oct 29, 2023
How to Write a Short Story in 9 Simple Steps
This post is written by UK writer Robert Grossmith. His short stories have been widely anthologized, including in The Time Out Book of London Short Stories , The Best of Best Short Stories , and The Penguin Book of First World War Stories . You can collaborate with him on your own short stories here on Reedsy .
Writing a short story is, in many ways, more challenging than writing a novel. How can you develop your characters, conflict, and premise — all within the space of a few pages? Where can you find an idea worthy of being such a short story?
In this article, I’ll take you through the process of writing a short story, from idea conception to the final draft.
How to write a short story:
1. Know what a short story is versus a novel
2. pick a simple, central premise, 3. build a small but distinct cast of characters, 4. begin writing close to the end, 5. shut out your internal editor, 6. finish the first draft, 7. edit the short story, 8. share the story with beta readers, 9. submit the short story to publications.
But first, let’s talk about what makes a short story different from a novel.
The simple answer to this question, of course, is that the short story is shorter than the novel, usually coming in at between, say, 1,000-15,000 words. Any shorter and you’re into flash fiction territory. Any longer and you’re approaching novella length .
As far as other features are concerned, it’s easier to define the short story by what it lacks compared to the novel . For example, the short story usually has:
- fewer characters than a novel
- a single point of view, either first person or third person
- a single storyline without subplots
- less in the way of back story or exposition than a novel
If backstory is needed at all, it should come late in the story and be kept to a minimum.
It’s worth remembering too that some of the best short stories consist of a single dramatic episode in the form of a vignette or epiphany.
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A short story can begin life in all sorts of ways.
It may be suggested by a simple but powerful image that imprints itself on the mind. It may derive from the contemplation of a particular character type — someone you know perhaps — that you’re keen to understand and explore. It may arise out of a memorable incident in your own life.
- Kafka began “The Metamorphosis” with the intuition that a premise in which the protagonist wakes one morning to find he’s been transformed into a giant insect would allow him to explore questions about human relationships and the human condition.
- Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” takes the basic idea of a lowly clerk who decides he will no longer do anything he doesn’t personally wish to do, and turns it into a multi-layered tale capable of a variety of interpretations.
When I look back on some of my own short stories, I find a similar dynamic at work: a simple originating idea slowly expands to become something more nuanced and less formulaic.
So how do you find this “first heartbeat” of your own short story? Here are several ways to do so.
Experiment with writing prompts
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the story premises mentioned above actually have a great deal in common with writing prompts like the ones put forward each week in Reedsy’s short story competition . Try it out! These prompts are often themed in a way that’s designed to narrow the focus for the writer so that one isn’t confronted with a completely blank canvas.
Turn to the originals
Take a story or novel you admire and think about how you might rework it, changing a key element. (“Pride and Prejudice and Vampires” is perhaps an extreme product of this exercise.) It doesn’t matter that your proposed reworking will probably never amount to more than a skimpy mental reimagining — it may well throw up collateral narrative possibilities along the way.
Keep a notebook
Finally, keep a notebook in which to jot down stray observations and story ideas whenever they occur to you. Again, most of what you write will be stuff you never return to, and it may even fail to make sense when you reread it. But lurking among the dross may be that one rough diamond that makes all the rest worthwhile.
Like I mentioned earlier, short stories usually contain far fewer characters than novels. Readers also need to know far less about the characters in a short story than we do in a novel (sometimes it’s the lack of information about a particular character in a story that adds to the mystery surrounding them, making them more compelling).
Yet it remains the case that creating memorable characters should be one of your principal goals. Think of your own family, friends and colleagues. Do you ever get them confused with one another? Probably not.
Your dramatis personae should be just as easily distinguishable from one another, either through their appearance, behavior, speech patterns, or some other unique trait. If you find yourself struggling, a character profile template like the one you can download for free below is particularly helpful in this stage of writing.
Reedsy’s Character Profile Template
A story is only as strong as its characters. Fill this out to develop yours.
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman features a cast of two: the narrator and her husband. How does Gilman give her narrator uniquely identifying features?
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe features a cast of three: the narrator, the old man, and the police. How does Poe use speech patterns in dialogue and within the text itself to convey important information about the narrator?
- “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor is perhaps an exception: its cast of characters amounts to a whopping (for a short story) nine. How does she introduce each character? In what way does she make each character, in particular The Misfit, distinct?
He’s right: avoid the preliminary exposition or extended scene-setting. Begin your story by plunging straight into the heart of the action. What most readers want from a story is drama and conflict, and this is often best achieved by beginning in media res . You have no time to waste in a short story. The first sentence of your story is crucial, and needs to grab the reader’s attention to make them want to read on.
One way to do this is to write an opening sentence that makes the reader ask questions. For example, Kingsley Amis once said, tongue-in-cheek, that in the future he would only read novels that began with the words: “A shot rang out.”
This simple sentence is actually quite telling. It introduces the stakes: there’s an immediate element of physical danger, and therefore jeopardy for someone. But it also raises questions that the reader will want answered. Who fired the shot? Who or what were they aiming at, and why? Where is this happening?
We read fiction for the most part to get answers to questions. For example, if you begin your story with a character who behaves in an unexpected way, the reader will want to know why he or she is behaving like this. What motivates their unusual behavior? Do they know that what they’re doing or saying is odd? Do they perhaps have something to hide? Can we trust this character?
As the author, you can answer these questions later (that is, answer them dramatically rather than through exposition). But since we’re speaking of the beginning of a story, at the moment it’s enough simply to deliver an opening sentence that piques the reader’s curiosity, raises questions, and keeps them reading.
“Anything goes” should be your maxim when embarking on your first draft.
How to Craft a Killer Short Story
From pacing to character development, master the elements of short fiction.
By that, I mean: kill the editor in your head and give your imagination free rein. Remember, you’re beginning with a blank page. Anything you put down will be an improvement on what’s currently there, which is nothing. And there’s a prescription for any obstacle you might encounter at this stage of writing.
- Worried that you’re overwriting? Don’t worry. It’s easier to cut material in later drafts once you’ve sketched out the whole story.
- Got stuck, but know what happens later? Leave a gap. There’s no necessity to write the story sequentially. You can always come back and fill in the gap once the rest of the story is complete.
- Have a half-developed scene that’s hard for you to get onto the page? Write it in note form for the time being. You might find that it relieves the pressure of having to write in complete sentences from the get-go.
Most of my stories were begun with no idea of their eventual destination, but merely an approximate direction of travel. To put it another way, I’m a ‘pantser’ (flying by the seat of my pants, making it up as I go along) rather than a planner. There is, of course, no right way to write your first draft. What matters is that you have a first draft on your hands at the end of the day.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the ending of a short story : it can rescue an inferior story or ruin an otherwise superior one.
If you’re a planner, you will already know the broad outlines of the ending. If you’re a pantser like me, you won’t — though you’ll hope that a number of possible endings will have occurred to you in the course of writing and rewriting the story!
In both cases, keep in mind that what you’re after is an ending that’s true to the internal logic of the story without being obvious or predictable. What you want to avoid is an ending that evokes one of two reactions:
- “Is that it?” aka “The author has failed to resolve the questions raised by the story.”
- “WTF!” aka “This ending is simply confusing.”
Like Truman Capote said, “Good writing is rewriting.”
Once you have a first draft, the real work begins. This is when you move things around, tightening the nuts and bolts of the piece to make sure it holds together and resembles the shape it took in your mind when you first conceived it.
In most cases, this means reading through your first draft again (and again). In this stage of editing , think to yourself:
- Which narrative threads are already in place?
- Which may need to be added or developed further?
- Which need to perhaps be eliminated altogether?
All that’s left afterward is the final polish . Here’s where you interrogate every word, every sentence, to make sure it’s earned its place in the story:
- Is that really what I mean?
- Could I have said that better?
- Have I used that word correctly?
- Is that sentence too long?
- Have I removed any clichés?
Trust me: this can be the most satisfying part of the writing process. The heavy lifting is done, the walls have been painted, the furniture is in place. All you have to do now is hang a few pictures, plump the cushions and put some flowers in a vase.
Eventually, you may reach a point where you’ve reread and rewritten your story so many times that you simply can’t bear to look at it again. If this happens, put the story aside and try to forget about it.
When you do finally return to it, weeks or even months later, you’ll probably be surprised at how the intervening period has allowed you to see the story with a fresh pair of eyes. And whereas it might have felt like removing one of your own internal organs to cut such a sentence or paragraph before, now it feels like a liberation.
The story, you can see, is better as a result. It was only your bloated appendix you removed, not a vital organ.
It’s at this point that you should call on the services of beta readers if you have them. This can be a daunting prospect: what if the response is less enthusiastic than you’re hoping for? But think about it this way: if you’re expecting complete strangers to read and enjoy your story, then you shouldn’t be afraid of trying it out first on a more sympathetic audience.
This is also why I’d suggest delaying this stage of the writing process until you feel sure your story is complete. It’s one thing to ask a friend to read and comment on your new story. It’s quite another thing to return to them sometime later with, “I’ve made some changes to the story — would you mind reading it again?”
So how do you know your story’s really finished? This is a question that people have put to me. My reply tends to be: I know the story’s finished when I can’t see how to make it any better.
This is when you can finally put down your pencil (or keyboard), rest content with your work for a few days, then submit it so that people can read your work. And you can start with this directory of literary magazines once you're at this step.
The truth is, in my experience, there’s actually no such thing as a final draft. Even after you’ve submitted your story somewhere — and even if you’re lucky enough to have it accepted — there will probably be the odd word here or there that you’d like to change.
Don’t worry about this. Large-scale changes are probably out of the question at this stage, but a sympathetic editor should be willing to implement any small changes right up to the time of publication.
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Craft a satisfying story arc
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Cambridge B2 First (FCE): How to Write a Story
B2 First story writing in a nutshell
- Mandatory task: no
- Word count: 140-190
- Main characteristics: engaging, interesting, well-structured
- Register: depending on the story
- Structure: beginning, main part, ending
- Language: adjectives/adverbs, past verb forms, direct speech, time expressions
A day to forget – a day to remember Jerry read the email and decided to go to the shopping centre immediately. He hadn’t slept well at all and was feeling quite nervous that morning and he didn’t want to let his grandma’s wish to buy some milk ruin his day. He dragged himself into his old and dirty car and set off in the direction of Central Mall. Not even ten minutes later, he had a flat tire so he spent the next hour putting on the spare before he was able to continue his dreadful journey. At the shopping centre, he walked absent-mindedly into a family and their son fell on his knee. “I’m sorry,” was the only thing he could say, but the boy’s little sister replied, “This is a gift for you,” and gave him a little piece of paper. Jerry simply stuffed it in his jacket pocket and walked off as quickly as he could. Back at home, he just wanted to go to bed, when he dropped the girl’s paper on the floor. Jerry couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a scratch card with a win of €50,000! “Not such a bad day after all,” Jerry thought with a smile and he poured himself a steaming cup of coffee.
A story is usually written for an English language magazine or website for teenagers. The main purpose is to engage the interest of the reader. Effective answers have a clear storyline which links coherently to the first sentence, successfully uses the prompts provided and demonstrates a sound grasp of narrative tenses. from: Cambridge English B2 First for Schools Handbook for Teachers
Stories are part of the second task in the B2 First Writing exam and they are exclusive to B2 First for Schools. In this variant of the test, there are no report tasks but instead, candidates have the choice between articles , reviews , emails/letters and the topic of this article – stories.
Feel free to check out my other posts on the different B2 First writing tasks by clicking on any of the links below.
Stories might be the most underestimated task in the whole writing exam as they are only part of B2 First for Schools.
They are discussed fairly little in preparation classes even with teenagers who are more likely to run into this type of text in their test. I think that stories are fun to write because they are probably the most open task type in terms of creativity. On the other hand, this level of freedom can also pose a challenge for many so story tasks can be time-consuming and difficult.
What a typical story task looks like
As with all the other task types, stories can be broken down in the same fashion every time you want to write one.
You should analyse the task carefully in order to collect as much information as you can. This way, the writing process itself is smooth sailing from start to finish.
At first sight, this could be like any other task for an article or a review, but we need to look a little bit more closely to see what is unique about stories.
As always, you should go through task analysis step by step and ask yourself a few specific questions that will help you get all the information you need.
- What is the topic of my story?
- What exactly do I have to include in the story?
- Who is going to read my story?
The first question is fairly straightforward and can always be found by looking at the sentence given in the task.
In our example, the story needs to be about someone named Jerry you received an email and decided to go to the local shopping centre. All we get is a name a a little bit of a kickstart to the plot, but that’s it.
Every story task looks similar so always focus on the given sentence to find out more about the topic.
The second question is more specific and goes into more detail. Again, let’s see what we can extract from our example task.
The very first thing we have to include is the sentence about Jerry and the email. There is always a sentence which must be used as the very first sentence of your story. Don’t forget or change the sentence. Start your story with it as it is.
There are, however, two more ideas that you always have to write into your story. In this case, we must include a request and a present. The role these things play in your story is entirely up to you, but they should play a central role and be important parts of the plot.
The third and final question looks at the reader of the story. Remember that you never write for the examiner or your teacher but always for someone specified in the task.
Here, we write for the readers of an international magazine for teenagers, which means that teenagers from different countries are going to read your story.
As B2 First for Schools is designed to cater to people in that age group so we are writing for peers. Therefore, we can use rather informal language, but as you will see later on, register is not the most important aspect of a story compared to, for example a letter of application where a formal style is one of the key features. Stories already include so much useful language that choosing the correct register is secondary.
Remember, every story task looks similar and you can go to the same places in each task to find key pieces of information that you can use to set yourself up for success . Simply ask yourself the three questions described in this part and you shouldn’t have a problem with task analysis.
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How to organise a story in B2 First for Schools
When we try to put our story in a well-organised structure, we can simply look at every story ever written in the history of humankind and we will find that 99% of them look like this:
This pattern can be further broken down by splitting the main part into two or even three paragraphs, but we’ll get to that in a second. First, keep the above structure in mind for the future.
At the beginning of a story, we are usually introduced to the main character(s) and learn a little bit about the background of the plot. We might also find out about how the main character(s) feel right before the action starts.
The main part includes the main actions and parts of the plot. Here, the story progresses the furthest, but we normally don’t come to a conclusion yet.
The ending does what the name suggests. It brings the plot to a conclusion and ends the story in an appropriate and satisfying way. You don’t want to keep your readers guessing too much because there won’t be a sequel. You are not writing The Avengers Part 87 but a standalone story.
Now, however, let’s go back and see how we can apply all of the above to our specific task.
Luckily, the first sentence is already there for you, but we obviously need to be a little bit more creative. Think about how Jerry might have felt in this situation and what might have happened in the lead up to him reading the email.
I usually like to introduce the two topic points in the main part of the story, but they could already appear in the beginning. Again, this is completely up to you, which makes stories exciting and stressful to write at the same time.
Either way, in order to fill the main part of your story with life, try to come up with ideas of what could have happened on Jerry’s way to the shopping centre and when he was there.
Finally, we need to bring everything together in a good ending. You can try to end the story in an unexpected or funny way, but it is definitely more important to come to a meaningful and logical ending at all.
I find it quite often with my own students that they simply cut off the plot at the end of the main part, which leaves the reader not fully informed. So, make the reader (and examiner) happy and give your story the ending it deserves.
Always make a plan for your story
If I could give my students just one piece of advice for the writing exam in B2 First, I would tell them to always make a plan before starting to write.
It only takes a few minutes, but can save you a lot more towards the end on the test when you are in time trouble and don’t know what to do.
A plan helps you stay on task and all you have to do is follow it and fill the page with life.
My plan for our example looks like this:
- Beginning: nervous; hadn’t slept well; request in the email –> buy milk for grandma
- Main paragraph 1: flat tyre; had to change it; wasted time
- Main paragraph 2: at the shopping centre; accident with family; little girl gave him piece of paper
- Ending: piece of paper was scratchcard; won €50,000
Just from my plan, you can already guess what the story will look like even though I didn’t add a lot of information. Making the plan took me three minutes, but I only need to connect the dots now and get started.
The different parts of a story in B2 First
In this part, I’m going to take you deep down the rabbit hole. We are going to go through the different parts of a great story with the help of our example task.
You will learn more about good content as well as useful language in each part.
As I mentioned earlier, the beginning of a story fulfills two tasks. It introduces the reader to the main character(s) and sets the scene. We can include previous events and background information so we can started.
One of the main criteria in a story is the correct use of narrative verb forms . These are different past verb forms, each of which has a distinct function in a story. We want to use past simple for the main events, past continuous for background actions and past perfect simple and continuous for things that happened before the main events.
Sounds complicated, but with some practice you’ll get better at it. If the names of these verb forms don’t ring a bell at all, you should definitely look into them as they are not only important in the writing test but also in Reading & Use of English and Speaking .
In addition to this particular grammar point, we want to make the beginning interesting from the get-go using some engaging adjectives/adverbs and other helpful expressions.
A day to forget – a day to remember Jerry read the email and decided to go to the shopping centre immediately. He hadn’t slept well at all and was feeling quite nervous that morning and he didn’t want to let his grandma’s wish to buy some milk ruin his day .
I gave my story a nice title. Every good story has a title so yours should have one as well, but don’t worry too much. It can be short and doesn’t have to be anything amazing. Just make sure that you include it.
I also used a mix of verb forms ( blue ) to show the main events, background actions and things that had happened before the main storyline.
On top of that, I included a few adjectives and adverbs which help make the story come to life ( red ).
Keep these things in mind when you start your story and you will be off to a good start.
The main part of a story is what the name says: the most important part which includes the majority of information.
Here we find most of the main events and the plot progresses between the beginning and ending.
Your focus in this part should lie on a logical order of events while keeping the reader engaged and interested.
We achieve this, once again, by using the correct verb forms (mostly past simple as we are in the middle of the main events) as well as other stylistic features, some of which we’ve discussed earlier and others that you can see in the example paragraphs below.
He dragged himself into his old and dirty car and set off in the direction of Central Mall. Not even ten minutes later , he had a flat tire so he spent the next hour putting on the spare before he was able to continue his dreadful journey. At the shopping centre , he walked absent-mindedly into a family and their son fell on his knee. “I’m sorry,” was the only thing he could say, but the boy’s little sister replied , “This is a gift for you,” with a smile and gave him a crumpled piece of paper. Jerry simply stuffed it in his jacket pocket and stormed off as quickly as he could .
We’ve got quite a lot to unpack here.
First and foremost, if you take a step back and read the paragraphs without paying attention to all the colourful stuff, you will see that there is a logical and chronological progression. Jerry leaves his house, has a flat tyre, makes it to the shopping mall and runs into the family. The girls gives him the paper and he leaves.
I guess this all makes sense, but I still used certain expressions of place and time ( orange ) that support this idea that there is a sequence of events. Little remarks like ‘before’ or ‘next’ can make it so much easier for the reader to follow the story so make sure you use them.
Another feature that we haven’t discussed yet is direct speech ( green ). By using direct speech we can bring the characters to life and the reader can identify with them more easily.
Finally, I continued with good and engaging past verb forms ( blue ) as well as adjectives/adverbs ( red ) which bring colour to the things and people you describe.
The very last part of every amazing story is a great ending. Here, we tie everything together and bring the events to a conclusion.
It is your decision if you want to give your story a happy ending or not, but make sure that it ends in some way. Don’t just stop after the main part and leave your reader with questions. Send them off with a smile on their face or tears in their eyes.
Back at home , he just wanted to go to bed, when he dropped the girl’s paper on the floor. Jerry couldn’t believe his eyes . It was a scratch card with a win of €50,000 ! “Not such a bad day after all,” Jerry thought with a smile and he poured himself a steaming cup of coffee.
I tried to bring a little surprise to the ending of my story and turn Jerry’s terrible day into a good one.
You can find the different stylistic features I used in different colours again. Past verb forms are blue , direct speech green , expressions of place and time orange and other interesting language and punctuation red .
Don’t stop being awesome towards the end of your story. Stay consistent and use good language throughout the whole text. That’s what the examiners want to see and that’s you you will give them if you follow the tips in this article.
Useful language for stories in B2 First
In the last part, I showed you some of the main ideas to improve your story writing. Using these language features can give you an edge over other candidates and impress your examiner. Always remember that an examiner checks dozens of texts per day and it is important to stand out with your pieces of writing.
So, below I’ve listed the different types of useful language with a few examples in each category. Obviously, this is not a complete list, but you can add expressions and adjust them to your needs.
How your B2 First story is marked
The process of marking candidates’ writing tasks in B2 First is an involved and quite complicated process. There are different criteria the examiners have to look at and even for teachers, it can be almost overwhelming to work their way through all the information.
I wrote an article on the topic that I hope will help students and teachers alike to better understand the marking process and to use it in order to improve their writing and/or teaching skills and insight.
Simply click here to find out more.
Time to become a storyteller
In this article, I’ve shared with you everything I know about how to write an excellent story in B2 First for Schools.
Take my advice and start practising. If you have any questions or problems, feel free to leave a comment and I will reply as quickly as I can.
Lots of love,
Teacher Phill 🙂
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I am in fact glad to read this weblog posts which consists of lots of useful facts, thanks for providing such data.
Thanks a lot! Best explanatatory article I’ve read about writing a story. I’ll definitely check your other guides. Love the coloring and comments to each part!
Thank you so much!!! This is excellent…easily explained…everything included A must to have when teaching…FCE!!
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How to Write a Good Story
Last Updated: November 10, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Lucy V. Hay is a Professional Writer based in London, England. With over 20 years of industry experience, Lucy is an author, script editor, and award-winning blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers, and Bang2Write has appeared in the Top 100 round-ups for Writer’s Digest & The Write Life and is a UK Blog Awards Finalist and Feedspot’s #1 Screenwriting blog in the UK. She received a B.A. in Scriptwriting for Film & Television from Bournemouth University. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,533,647 times.
A good story captures your reader’s attention and leaves them wanting more. To craft a good story, you need to be willing to revise your work so that every sentence matters. Start your story by creating memorable characters and outlining a plot. Then, write a first draft from beginning to end. Once you have your first draft, improve it using a few writing strategies. Finally, revise your story to create a final draft. You may need to edit a few times but keep doing so until you enjoy the final product.
Things You Should Know
- Make character sheets and choose a story setting. Then, create a plot outline to guide you through the story-writing process.
- Set the scene, introduce the characters, and establish a problem for the characters to solve in the first 2-3 paragraphs.
- Fill the middle of the story with action that shows the character(s) working on the problem. Present 2-3 new challenges to keep things interesting.
- Create dialogue that reveals something about your characters and keeps readers' eyes move down the page.
Developing Your Characters and Plot
- Your life experiences
- A story you heard
- A family story
- A “what if” scenario
- A news story
- An interesting person you saw
- Do the sheet for your protagonist first. Then, make character sheets for your other main characters, like the antagonist. Characters are considered main characters if they play a major role in the story, such as influencing your main character or affecting the plot.
- Figure out what your characters want or what their motivation is. Then, base your plot around your character either getting what they want or being denied it.
- You can create your own character sheets or find templates online.
- For example, a story about a girl who wants to become a doctor would go much differently if it were told in the 1920s instead of 2019. The character would need to overcome additional obstacles, like sexism, due to the setting. However, you might use this setting if your theme is perseverance because it allows you to show your character pursuing her dreams against societal norms.
- As another example, setting a story about camping deep in an unfamiliar forest will create a different mood than putting it in the main character's backyard. The forest setting might focus on the character surviving in nature, while the backyard setting may focus on the character's family relationships.
Warning: When you pick your setting, be careful about choosing a time period or place that's unfamiliar to you. It's easy to get details wrong, and your reader may catch your errors.
- Create a plot diagram consisting of an exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
- Make a traditional outline with the main points being individual scenes.
- Summarize each plot and turn it into a bullet list.
- 1st person POV - A single character tells the story from their perspective. Because the story is the truth according to this one character, their account of events could be unreliable. For instance, “I tiptoed across the floor, hoping not to disturb him.”
- 3rd person limited - A narrator recounts the events of the story but limits the perspective to one character. When using this POV, you can’t provide the thoughts or feelings of other characters, but you can add your interpretation of the setting or events. For example, “She tiptoed across the floor, her entire body tense as she fought to stay quiet.”
- 3rd person omniscient - An all-seeing narrator tells everything that happens in the story, including the thoughts and actions of each character. As an example, “As she tiptoed across the room, he pretended to be asleep. She thought her quiet steps weren’t disturbing him, but she was wrong. Beneath the covers, he clenched his fists.”
Drafting Your Story
- You might start your story like this: “Esther pulled her medical text from the mud, carefully wiping the cover clean on the hem of her dress. The laughing boys sped away on bicycles, leaving her to walk the last mile to the hospital alone. The sun beat down on the rain-soaked landscape, turning the morning’s puddles into a dank afternoon haze. The heat made her want to rest, but she knew her instructor would use tardiness as an excuse to kick her out of the program.”
- For example, let’s say that Esther’s class is going to get the opportunity to work with real patients, and she wants to be chosen as 1 of the students who gets to do it. However, when she gets to the hospital, she’s told she can only go in as a nurse. This sets up a plot where Esther tries to earn her spot as a doctor-in-training.
- For example, Esther might go into the hospital as a nurse, look for her peers, switch her clothes, almost get caught, and then meet a patient who needs her help.
- In Esther's story, the climax might occur when she’s caught trying to treat a patient who’s collapsed. As the hospital tries to remove her, she shouts out a correct diagnosis, causing the senior doctor to demand her release.
- For instance, the senior doctor at the hospital might compliment Esther and offer to be her mentor.
- Esther’s story might end with her starting rounds with her new mentor. She might reflect on what she would have lost if she hadn’t defied the rules to pursue her goal.
Improving Your Story
- For example, starting with Esther walking to the hospital is a better place to start than when she enrolled in medical school. However, it might be even better to start when she arrives at the hospital.
- For example, this piece of dialogue shows us that Esther is frustrated: “But I’m the top student in my class,” Esther pleaded. “Why should they get to examine patients but not me?”
- For example, Esther being denied entry to the hospital as a doctor is a horrible experience for her. Similarly, being grabbed by security would be frightening.
- For example, Esther could react to the smell of the hospital or the sound of beeping machines.
- For instance, Esther has worked really hard for something only to be denied it based on a technicality. Most people have experienced a failure like this before.
Revising and Finalizing Your Story
- Printing out your story may help you see it from a different perspective, so you might try that when you go back to revise it.
- Setting your work aside for a little while is a good move, but don't set it aside for so long that you lose interest in it.
- You can also read your story to other people and ask them for advice.
- The people closest to you, like your parents or best friend, may not provide the best feedback because they care about your feelings too much. However, you may be able to find a writing critique group on Meetup.com or at your local library.
- For feedback to be helpful, you have to be receptive to it. If you think you've written the most perfect story in the world, then you won't actually hear a word anyone says.
- Make sure you're giving your story to the right readers. If you're writing science fiction but have handed your story to your writer friend who enjoys literary fiction, you may not get the best feedback.
Lucy V. Hay
If you're getting good feedback, consider submitting your story to a short story contest. Some short story contests have prizes, like being published in an anthology or having a chance meet an agent. Those types of things can be valuable to you later on. For instance, if you get published in several anthologies, you can utilize that when you're making submissions to agents. Some competitions, like the Bridport Prize and the Bath Short Story Award in the UK, are very prestigious—if you can win one of those, you'll actually be seen as a writer with some significant chops.
- For instance, let’s say there’s a passage where Esther sees a girl in the hospital who reminds her of her sister. While this detail might seem interesting, it doesn’t advance the plot or show something meaningful about Esther, so it’s best to cut it.
- Keep a notebook with you wherever you go so you can write whenever an idea comes to you. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Don't start editing your story right away, as you're less likely to see errors or plot holes. Wait a few days until you can look at the story with fresh eyes. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Do drafts before you do the final copy. This helps a lot with editing. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Don't copy things from other books, because it’s plagiarism . Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 0
- Don't edit as you work, because it slows your writing down. Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 0
- Make sure you vary your sentence lengths. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 1
- Don’t make your story drag by incorporating extra information that isn’t necessary to the plot or character development. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 3
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/brainstorming/
- ↑ https://www.scad.edu/sites/default/files/PDF/Animation-design-challenge-character-sheets.pdf
- ↑ https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zkgcwmn/articles/zfh6vk7
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/developing_an_outline/how_to_outline.html
- ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/point-of-view/
- ↑ https://literarydevices.net/rising-action/
- ↑ https://www.rcboe.org/cms/lib010/GA01903614/Centricity/Domain/4395/Elements%20of%20a%20Story.pdf
- ↑ https://penandthepad.com/incorporate-dialogue-narrative-21717.html
- ↑ https://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-to-make-your-writing-suspenseful-victoria-smith
- ↑ https://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/descriptive_writing
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/getting-feedback/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/conciseness/eliminating_words.html
About This Article
To write a good story, make sure the plot has a conflict and that there's something at stake, which will keep readers hooked. For example, you could write about two men fighting over the same person. You should also come up with characters that are relatable so your readers get invested in them. Also, avoid explaining everything to readers, and instead try to show them through the dialogue and actions of the characters. For example, instead of telling readers that your main character is grumpy and bitter, you could include a scene where they lash out at another character for no reason. For tips on how to come up with story ideas, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers
What Is a Short Story?
The clue is in the title!
Short stories are like novels only…well…shorter! They contain all the crucial elements of fully developed stories except on a smaller scale.
In short story writing, you’ll find the key story elements such as characterization, plot development, themes explored, etc., but all within a word count that can usually be comfortably read in one sitting.
Short stories are just one of many storytelling methods; like the others, they help us derive meaning from our world.
How Do Short Stories Differ From Novels?
The reduced scale of a short story explains most of the differences the form has with longer forms such as novels.
Short stories usually have a tighter focus on a single main character and rarely shift between perspectives the way we often find in longer works of fiction.
Space is of the essence in this form, so long passages of exposition are usually avoided and the story starting at the last possible moment.
In purely numerical terms, short stories can be anywhere between about 1,000 to around 20,000 words or so, though many would consider even 10,000 too long.
A short novel clocks in at around 60,000 words, with word counts between 20-60,000 words being taken up by that red-headed stepchild of prose, the novella.
THE STORY TELLERS BUNDLE OF TEACHING RESOURCES
A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:
How to Write a Short Story
Good storytelling is an art. But, luckily it’s a craft too and, like any craft, the skills and techniques can be learned by anyone.
In this article, we’ll first take a look at some ways to kickstart the short story writing process, before taking a look at some of the structural considerations essential for students to understand before they write their short stories.
We’ll also explore some simple practical activities that will help students to draw on their creative resources and personal experiences to help bring their stories to life.
Finally, we’ll look at some general tips to help students put a final polish on their masterpieces before they share them with the world.
How t o begin a story
Create a Dramatic Question
The first thing a student needs to do when writing a short story is to create a dramatic question. Without a dramatic question, readers will have no motivation to read on as there will be no story .
This dramatic question can take many forms, but as it will be the driver of the plot, it will be the single most important element of the story.
Take the movie Rocky as an example. In it, an aging journeyman boxer, Rocky Balboa, answers two dramatic questions:
1. Will Rocky find love?
2. Can he become the Heavyweight Champion of the World?
Often the dramatic question is of this will she/won’t she type. But, whatever form it takes, there must be some obstacles put in the way of answering it.
These obstacles can come in the form of an external obstacle, such as an antagonist or a negative environment, or the form of an internal obstacle, such as heartbreak or grief.
This is the conflict that creates the crucial element of suspense necessary to engage the reader’s interest.
Whatever form a student’s dramatic question takes, it will provide the plot impetus and how the student will explore their story’s theme.
Practice Activity: Identify the Dramatic Question
It is good practice for students to attempt to identify the dramatic question any time they read a book or watch a movie. Ask the students to think of some classic or popular books and movies that they are already familiar with. Can they extract the major dramatic question from each?
Find Inspiration in the World Around
One of the most common complaints from students, when asked to write a short story, is that they don’t know what to write about. This is the age-old curse of writer’s block.
Figuring out what to write about is the first hurdle students will need to overcome. Luckily, the inspiration for stories lies everywhere. We just need to help students to know where to look.
As writers, students must learn to see the world around them with the freshness of the eyes of a young child. This requires them to pay close attention to the world around them; to slow things down enough to catch the endless possibilities for stories that exist all around.
Luckily, we have the perfect activity to help our students to do this.
Practice Activity: Breathe Life into the Story
We can find stories and the details for our stories everywhere.
Students need to tune their ear to the fragments of stories in snatches of overheard daily conversations. They need to pay enough attention to catch their own daydreaming what-ifs on the bus to school or to keep an eye out for all those little human interest stories in the local newspaper.
Once the living details of life are noticed, students need to capture them quickly by recording them in a journal. This journal will become a great resource for the student to dip into for inspiration while writing their stories.
Those half-heard conversations, those anecdotes of street life witnessed through a bus window, the half-remembered dreams scribbled down while gulping down a rushed breakfast. All these can provide jumping-off points and rich detail for a student’s short story.
Outline and Prepare
Preparation is important when writing a short story. Without a doubt. There is, however, a very real danger of preparation becoming procrastination for our student writers.
Students must learn to make their preparation time count. The writing process is much more productive if students invest some time in brainstorming and organizing their ideas at the start.
To organize their short story, students will need to understand the basic elements of structure described in the next section, but the following activity will first help them to access some of the creative gold in their imaginations. The discipline of structure can be applied afterward.
Practice Activity: Dig for Nuggets
For this activity, give each student a large piece of paper, such as a leaf from an artist’s sketchbook, to brainstorm their ideas. Employing a large canvas like this encourages more expansive thinking.
Instruct students to use colored pens to write sentences, phrases, and fragments, even doodles. Anything that helps them to dump the contents of their mind onto the paper. This is all about sifting through the rubble for those nuggets of gold. Students shouldn’t censor themselves, but instead, allow their mind’s free reign.
To help your students get started, you can provide them with some prompts or questions as jumping-off points. For example:
- What is your basic premise?
- What is the story about?
- Who are your main characters?
- Where is your story set?
Encourage students to generate their own questions too by allowing their minds ample room to roam. Generating new questions in this way will help them gather momentum for the telling of their tale.
SHORT STORY WRITING STRUCTURE
Even getting off to a great start, students often find themselves in difficulties by the middle of their story, especially if they haven’t achieved a firm grasp of structure yet.
The main elements students will need to master are plot, theme, and character development.
In this section, we’ll take a look at each of these in turn.
Plot refers to the events of the story. This is the what of the tale. It’s useful for students to understand the arc of the plot in five sections: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Exposition: This is the introductory part of your story. It should introduce the reader to the central characters and orientate them to the setting.
Rising Action: Here the student begins by introducing the central dramatic question which will be the engine of the story. A series of obstacles must be placed in the way of the main character that will increase suspense and tension as the story moves forward toward the climax.
Climax: The climax is the dramatic high point of the story. This is where interest peaks and the emotions rise to their most intense.
Falling Action: Now the conflict is resolving and we are being led out to the story’s end.
Resolution: The central dramatic question has been answered, usually in either a happy or tragic manner, and many loose ends are tied up.
Practice Activity: Instruct students to use the five-part plot structure above to map an outline for their tale before writing .
If the plot consists of the series of events that constitute the story, then the theme refers to what those events mean.
The theme of a story is the underlying message of the story.
What is the ‘big idea’ behind all the action of the plot? This is open to a certain amount of interpretation on the part of the reader, but usually, a little reflection by the student writer will reveal what the events of the plot mean to them.
If, as described in the introduction, stories are how we derive meaning from the world, the theme will reveal the writer’s perspective on things.
Practice Activity: Organize students into groups and ask them to list their Top 5 movies or books of all time. Instruct them to briefly outline the main plot points using the plot structure above. When they’ve completed that, instruct the students to discuss what they think the main themes of each of the works of fiction were.
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Character Development IN SHORT STORY WRITING
No doubt about it, characterization is essential to the success of any short story. Just how important characterization is will depend on whether the story is plot-driven or action-driven.
In the best writing, regardless of genre or length, the characters will be at least plausible. There is a lot that students can do to ensure their stories are populated with more than just cardboard cutouts.
One effective way to do this is to reveal a character through their actions. This is the old show, don’t tell trick at work.
A good short story writer will allow the character to reveal their temperament and personality through their actions.
For example, instead of merely describing a character as putting a mug on the table, perhaps they bring it down with a thud that betrays their anger.
Another great way to reveal character is in the use of dialogue. How characters speak to each other in a story can reveal a lot about their status, mood, and intent, etc.
Our students must learn to draw complex characters. Archetypes may serve us well in some contexts, but archetypes are not real people. They are caricatures. If our students want to people their fictional world with real people, they need to create complex, even contradictory characters, just like you and I are.
If their characters are too consistent, they are too predictable. Predictability kills suspense, which in turn kills the reader’s interest.
Practice Activity: Reveal Mood through Action
For this simple activity, provide the students with a list of emotions. Now, challenge the students to concoct a short scene where a character performs an action or actions that reveal the chosen mood.
To start, you might allow the students a paragraph in which to reveal the emotion. You might reduce this to just a sentence or two as they get better at it. Remind students that they need to show the emotion, not tell it!
HOW TO POLISH AND REFINE A SHORT STORY
Now students have already had a look at how to begin and how to structure a story, we’ll take a look at a few quick tips on how they can polish their stories generally – especially during the editing process.
Write Convincing Dialogue:
For students, investing time in learning how to write great dialogue is time well spent.
Not only is well-written dialogue great for revealing character, but it will break up intimidating walls of text too.
Dialogue is a great way to move the story forward and to provide subtle exposition.
As mentioned earlier, journals are the perfect place to dump interesting snatches of conversation that become a valuable resource for writing convincing dialogue – except, of course, if you are passing through North Korea or the like!
Vary Sentence Length:
When finished with their first drafts, encourage students to read their work out loud when editing and rewriting.
Often, students will be surprised to realize just how regular the rhythm of their sentences has become.
Like musicians, writers have chops. It’s easy to fall back on the same few favored structures time and again. Students can do a lot to spice up their writing simply by varying sentence lengths.
Shorter sentences are pacier and punchier while longer sentences can slow things down, calming the reader, then, boom!
Varying sentence length throughout a story prevents the writing from becoming stale and monotonous.
As with varying sentence length above, the rhythm of a story can be altered through the choice of punctuation.
Students can think of punctuation as musical notation marks. It’s designed to help the reader understand the composer’s intention for how it is to be read and interpreted.
Students should understand punctuation as an imperfect but effective tool. Its use affects not only the work’s rhythm but also the meaning.
It is well worth the student’s time to perfect their use of punctuation.
There are a lot of moving parts to short stories.
From the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation to crafting a plot and exploring big thematic ideas, mastering the art of short story writing takes time and lots of practice.
With so much ground to cover, it’s impossible to address every aspect in a single unit of work on short story writing.
Be sure to offer students opportunities to see the short story in action in the work of accomplished writers, as well as opportunities to practice the various aspects of short story writing mentioned above.
Draw attention to writing best practices when they appear even in work unrelated to the short story.
Lots of time and plenty of practice might just reveal a latter-day O. Henry or Edgar Allen Poe sat in one of the desks right in front of you.
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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
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August 29, 2020
How To Write A Story For Complete Beginners
by Argentina Botezatu , under Writing skills
Everyone loves to be entertained by a good story. You often find yourself reading the same novel several times. In the same way your friend’s story seems so funny, even if they already told it.
How about kids? They love stories and can listen to one a hundred times and still ask you to read to them again.
But repeating the same story gets them bored and to be true, we get bored by it too. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could tell your kids a story of your own?
How To Write A Story?
Oh. That’s simple. You write it. Sit down, get a pen and paper, or a laptop if you prefer to, and start writing.
The story may start with “Once upon a time… ” or you may even get a little bit creative. That sounds funny, but in reality, you might never get a sincere smile from your kids.
Still, we have great news for you! There is a simple way to write a great story, easy, and step by step. You don’t need a sudden burst of inspiration. You might get away with your creativity and life experience.
How To Write A Great Story?
Now that’s a little bit more complicated. No, it’s not hard or “impossible”, but you are going to use your brain for this. You’re ready? Let’s get started!
Step 1: Choose The Main Character
How do you do it? Simple. Try to recall some of your favorite childhood memories. Is there something you would like to write about? Great. Choose one and define the main subject line.
You don’t have to make it perfect. All you need to do is to write down who is the main character. Describe in one sentence what he is going through. Add details about the time and location. Make it short.
Step 2: Add More Characters
Now that you got your starting point, choose the other characters. Split them into two categories: secondary and other ones. Describe each one in 10 words. Write about what they like and don’t like, how they look and act.
You can use more than 10 words, but don’t expand the limit too much. Describe all your characters, by following up the next formula:
Name + Look + Personal qualities + Likes/Dislikes + Actions = Character
Step 3: Write The Outline
You want to make it short and clear. Write down one sentence for each of the story elements. Answer shortly to the questions down below. For more clarity, we’ll look at the Brothers Grimm story “Cinderella”.
Introduction: When and where is the action taking place? Who are the main characters? What is the main point of conflict here?
Example: Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Cinderella. She lived with her evil step-mother and evil step-sisters in a land far away.
Rising action: What happens? Describe the actions going on.
Example: Every day, the evil step-mother, made Cinderella work all day long and into the night.
One day, an invitation to a ball was sent to all the young ladies of the kingdom. The evil stepmother locked Cinderella in her room so she could not attend it. She thought all hope was lost until her fairy godmother appeared.
Cinderella attended the ball, dressed up in a beautiful gown and glass slippers. She met the prince and danced with him.
Climax (turning point): What turned the situation upside down? How did the main characters react?
Example: As the clock turned 12, Cinderella rushed off back home and left the prince only with a glass slipper.
Falling action: How do the characters solve the problem? What do they try to do?
Example: Prince Charming looked for Cinderella throughout the entire kingdom. He tried the slipper on every girl to see if it fit one of them.
Resolution: How was the conflict solved? What was the solution? How did the story end?
Example: The prince gently slipped the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot. He took her by hand and made her his bride. Cinderella and Prince Charming lived happily ever after.
Step 4: Fill in The Story
Don’t be overwhelmed by this step. It is not as hard as it seems, and we’ll help you with this. Here are some tips for you:
- Write In One Sitting
Write everything in one sitting. This is a solution. Do like this not only the draft but also the whole process. You will notice how easy it is when you will get from one step to another.
Don’t be afraid of the writer’s block. If you experience one, pass on to the next part of the step, and then return to it later. Write whatever comes to your mind. Don’t try to make it perfect or to sound good, you will edit the text later.
- Show The Scene
Instead of talking about something that changed the life of the main character, show it. Present the scene to the reader.
Describe the location and the weather. Write about the main character’s emotions. We promise you, the reader will love this part.
- Schedule Time To Write
“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Winston Churchill
You want to schedule the time you are going to be writing. Choose a time when you are not going to be distracted by chores, work tasks, or other responsibilities.
The best time to work is in the morning, scientists say. Yet, the burst of creativity is very big after lunch, 4:30 pm, some say even 10 pm. Outline your story in the morning when your mind is clear and you don’t have urgent tasks. Leave the editing for the “creative time” of the day.
- Use Online Tools To Check Your Grammar
A great writer is known not only by his amazing works but also by the correctness of his sentences. A grammar tool makes your story better.
It helps you choose the right words, avoid misspelling, and other awful mistakes. If you want to write a great story, you want to write correct words. Try Virtual Writing Tutor . Don’t mess up your great story.
- Choose A Point Of View
Do you remember back in the day when you had to write a short story about your summer vacation? It was interesting, but still, homework is homework.
Oh, and those confusing points of view? He, She, I. It was overwhelming. Don’t repeat those mistakes. Choose a point of view .
Here is a cheat sheet for you:
First Person – It’s a type of narrative when the reader feels like he is in the character’s mind. The I and we perspective . It makes the reader feel connected.
Second Person – It is rarely used in storytelling but still has a connection with the reader. The you perspective , makes the reader feel like you are talking to him.
The third person – From this point of view, you describe the life of the characters. Writing about their emotions and actions from he/she/it/they perspective. Specifically this perspective will still make the reader feel connected to the character in a witness’s way.
Step 5: Edit Your Masterpiece
We are not kidding. You wrote a masterpiece. We are sure your readers or listeners will appreciate your hard work. Finally the last thing you need to do is editing.
Indeed, don’t touch the story for the next two days, or at least do it in the morning. This way, your impression will be gone and you will edit with a clear mind.
Choose a quiet space, read your work, and underline the words or parts you don’t like. Write down any commentaries you have. In the end, rewrite the needed parts and read your story out aloud.
You will see how it sounds and train yourself for a storytelling night with your kids. You can listen to Stuart Mclean, the Canadian radio broadcaster for inspiration.
Bonus: How To Stay Motivated To Write?
Yet, if the spark in the eyes of your kids isn’t enough then what is then? Or maybe you don’t have kids or any family friends with children.
If you want to write a story for yourself or even your life story you need to know one thing. Make it a habit. We know right? A habit? Try to tie your writing habit to another one you already do.
For example, when you drink your morning coffee bring your pen and paper with you. You may use your phone for this.
Write for a short time, even 5 minutes will be enough. Motivation will help you start something, but only habits make you achieve it.
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Look at the short story and do the exercises to improve your writing skills.
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Top 100 Short Story Ideas
by Joe Bunting | 128 comments
Do you want to write but just need a great story idea? Or perhaps you have too many ideas and can’t choose the best one? Well, good news. We’ve got you covered.
Below are one hundred short story ideas for all your favorite genres. You can use them as a book idea, as writing prompts for writing contests , for stories to publish in literary magazines , or just for fun!
Use these 100 story ideas to get your creative writing started now.
Editor’s note: This is a recurring guide, regularly updated with ideas and information.
If you're in a hurry, here's my 10 best story ideas in brief, or scroll down for the full version.
Top 10 Story Ideas
- Tell the story of a scar.
- A group of children discover a dead body.
- A young prodigy becomes orphaned.
- A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost.
- A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her.
- A talented young man's deepest fear is holding his life back.
- A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune.
- A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate.
- A long journey is interrupted by a disaster.
- A young couple run into the path of a psychopath.
Get The Write Structure here »
Why Creative Writing Prompts Are Helpful
Below, you'll find our best creative writing prompts and plot ideas for every genre, but first, why do we use prompts? Is it just a waste of time, or can they actually help you? Here are three reasons we love writing prompts at The Write Practice:
1. Practice the Language!
Even for those of us who are native English speakers, we're all on a language journey to go from beginners to skilled writers. To make progress on this language journey, you have to practice, and at The Write Practice, believe it or not, we're really into practice! Creative writing prompts are easy, fun ways to practice.
Use the prompts below to practice your storytelling and use of language. The more you practice, the better of a writer you'll become.
2. When you have no ideas and are stuck.
Sometimes, you want to write, but you can't think up any ideas. You could either just sit there, staring at a blank page, or you could find a few ideas to help you get started. Even better if the list of ideas is curated from our best plot ideas over the last decade that we've been publishing lessons, writing exercises, and prompts.
Use the story ideas below to get your writing started. Then when your creativity is warmed up, you'll start to come up with your own ideas!
3. To develop your own ideas.
Maybe you do have an idea already, but you're not sure it's good. Or maybe you feel like it's just missing some small piece to make it better. By reading other ideas, and incorporating your favorites into your story, you can fill your plot holes and generate creative ideas of your own.
Use the story ideas below to develop your own ideas.
4. They're fun!
Thousands of writers use the prompts below every month, some at home, some in classrooms, and even a few pros at their writing “office.” Why? Because writing prompts can be fun. They get your creativity started, help you come up with new ideas of your own, and often take your writing in new, unexpected directions.
Use the plot ideas to have more fun with writing!
How to Write a Story
One last thing before we get to the 100 story ideas, let’s talk about how to write a great short story . (Already know how to write a great story? No problem. Just skip down to the ideas below.)
- First, read stories. If you’ve never read a story, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. Where do you find great stories? There are a lot of places, but check out our list of 46 Literary Magazines we’ve curated over here .
- Write your story in a single sitting. Write the first draft of your story in as short a time as possible, and if you’re writing a short story , try to write it in one sitting. Trust me, this works. Everyone hates being interrupted when they’re telling compelling stories. Use that to your advantage and don’t stop writing until you’ve finished telling yours.
- Read your draft. Read your story through once, without changing anything. This will give you a sense of what work it needs going forward.
- Write a premise. After reading your first draft, get your head around the main idea behind your story by summarizing your story in a one sentence premise. Your premise should contain four things: a character, a goal, a situation, and a special sauce. Not sure what that means or how to actually do that? Here’s a full premise writing guide .
- Write, edit, write, and edit. Good writing is rewriting. Use your second draft to fill in the plot holes and cut out the extraneous scenes and characters you discovered when you read the first draft in step #2. Then, polish up your final draft on the next round of edits.
- Submit! Real writers don’t keep their writing all to themselves. They share it. Submit your story to a literary magazine , an anthology series , enter it into a writing contest , or even share it with a small group of friends. And if it gets rejected, don’t feel bad. You’ll be in good company.
Want to know more? Learn more about how to write a great short story here .
Our 100 Best Short Story Ideas, Plot Ideas, and Creative Writing Prompts
Ready to get writing? Here are our 100 best short story ideas to kickstart your writing. Enjoy!
10 Best General Short Story Ideas
Our first batch of plot ideas are for any kind of story, whether a spy thriller or a memoir of your personal life story. Here are the best story ideas:
- Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one. To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to remember every scar .”
- A group of children discover a dead body. Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into its dark face and describe what they see on the page.
- A young prodigy becomes orphaned. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth.
- A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebenezer Scrooge have in common? They all encountered ghosts!
- A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. “In life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
- A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. Your character’s biggest fear is your story’s secret weapon. Don’t run from it, write about it.
- A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune. Not all fortunes are good. Sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
- A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate (literally bumps into him). In film, this is called the “meet cute,” when the hero bumps into the heroine in the coffee shop or the department store or the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation.
- A long journey is interrupted by a disaster. Who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected? This is the plot of Gravity , The Odyssey , and even Lord of the Rings .
- A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.
Now that you have an idea, learn exactly what to do with it. Check out my new book The Write Structure which helps writers take their ideas and write books readers love. Click to check out The Write Structure here.
More Short Story Ideas Based on Genre
Need more ideas? Here are ideas based on whichever literary genre you write. Use them as character inspiration, to start your own story, or borrow pieces to generate your own ideas. The only rule is, have fun writing!
By the way, for more story writing tips for each these plot types, check out our full guide to the 10 types of stories here .
10 Thriller Story Ideas
A thriller is any story that “thrills” the reader—i.e., gets adrenaline pumping, the heart racing, and the emotions piqued.
Thrillers come in all shapes and forms, dipping freely into other genres. In other words, expect the unexpected!
Here are a few of my favorite thriller story ideas :
Rosa Rivera-Ortiz is an up-and-coming lawyer in a San Diego firm. Held back by her ethnicity and her gender, she works twice as hard as her colleagues, and she’s as surprised as anyone when she’s requested specifically for a high-profile case. Bron Welty, an A-list actor and action star, has been arrested for the murder of his live-in housekeeper. The cop heading the case is older, ex-military, a veteran of more than one war, and an occasional sufferer of PTSD. Rosa’s hired to defend the movie star; and it seems like an easy win until she uncovers some secrets that not only make her believe her client is guilty, but may be one of the worst serial killers in the past two decades… and he knows she found out .
It’s the Cold War. Sergei, a double-agent for the CIA working in Berlin, is about to retire when he’s given one final mission: he’s been asked to “defect” to the USSR to help find and assassinate a suspected double-agent for the Kremlin. Sergei is highly trusted, and he’s given to understand that this mission is need-to-know only between him and very few superior officers. But as he falls deeper into the folds of the Iron Curtain, he begins to suspect that his superior officer might just be the mole, and the mark Sergei’s been sent to kill is on the cusp of exposing the leak.
It is 1800. A lighthouse on a barren cliff in Canada. Two lighthouse keepers, German immigrants, are alone for the winter and effectively cut off from the rest of the world until the ice thaws. Both Wilhelm and Matthias are settled in for the long haul with warm clothes, canned goods, and matches a-plenty. Then Wilhelm starts hearing voices. His personal belongings disappear from where he’d placed them, only to reappear in strange spots—like the catwalk, or dangling beneath the spiral stair knotted in brown twine. Matthias begs innocence. Little by little, Wilhelm grows convinced that Matthias is trying to convince him (Wilhelm) to kill himself. Is the insanity real, or is this really Matthias’ doing? And if it is real, what will he do to defend himself? There are so many months until the thaw.
20 Mystery Story Ideas
Enjoy a good whodunit? Then you’ll love these mystery story ideas .
Here are a few of my favorites:
Ever hear the phrase, “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet?” This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier?
Mystery writer Dan Rodriguez takes the subway every day. Every day, nothing happens. He wears earbuds and a hoodie; he’s ignored, and he ignores. Then one evening, on his way home from a stressful meeting with his publisher, Dan is startled out of his funk when a frantic Middle-Eastern man knocks him over at a dead run, then races up the stairs—pursued by several other thugs. The Middle-Eastern man is shot; and Dan discovers a mysterious package in the front pocket of his hoodie. What’s inside, and what does he need to do to survive the answer?
A headless corpse is found in a freshly-dug grave in Arkansas. The local police chief, Arley Socket, has never had to deal with more than missing gas cans and treed cats. His exploration of this weird murder digs up a mystery older than the 100-year-old town of Jericho that harkens all the way back to a European blood-feud.
20 Romance Story Ideas
Ready to write a love story? Or perhaps you want to create a subplot with a secondary character? We've got ideas for you!
Hint: When it comes to romance, a sense of humor is always a good idea. Have fun! Here are a few of my favorite love story ideas :
She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.
Colorado Animal Rescue has never been more challenging than after that zoo caught on fire. Sally Cougar (no jokes on the name, or she’ll kill you) tracks down three missing tiger cubs, only to find they’ve been adopted by millionaire Bryce Champion. Thanks to an antiquated law on the books, he legally has the right to keep them. It’s going to take everything Sally has to get those tiger cubs back.
He’s a museum curator with a fetish for perfection. No one’s ever gotten close to him; how could they? They’re never as perfect as the portraits, the sculptures, the art that never changes. Then one day, an intern is hired on—a young, messy, disorganized intern, whose hair and desk are in a constant state of disarray. The curator is going half-mad with this walking embodiment of chaos; so why can’t the he stand the thought of the intern leaving at the end of their assistantship?
20 Sci-Fi Story Ideas
From the minimum-wage-earning, ancient-artifact-hunting time traveller to the space-exploring, sentient dinosaurs, these sci-fi writing prompts will get you set loose your inner nerd.
Here are a few of my favorite sci-fi ideas :
In a future society, neural implants translate music into physical pleasure, and earphones (“jacking in”) are now the drug of choice. Write either from the perspective of a music addict, OR the Sonforce agent (sonance + enforcer) who has the job of cracking down.
It’s the year 5000. Our planet was wrecked in the great Crisis of 3500, and remaining human civilization survives only in a half dozen giant domed cities. There are two unbreakable rules: strict adherence to Life Quality (recycling doesn’t even begin to cover these laws), and a complete ban on reproduction (only the “worthy” are permitted to create new humans). Write from the perspective of a young woman who just discovered she’s been chosen to reproduce—but she has no interest in being a mother.
So yeah, ancient Egypt really was “all that” after all, and the pyramids turn out to be fully functional spaceships (the limestone was to preserve the electronics hidden inside). Write from the perspective of the tourist exploring the ancient society who accidentally turns one on.
20 Fantasy Story Ideas
Need a dose of sword-in-the-stone, hero and/or heroine packed coming-of-age glory? We love fantasy stories!
Here are a few of my favorite fantasy story ideas:
Bored teenaged wizards throwing a graduation celebration.
Uncomfortable wedding preparation between a magic wielding family tree and those more on the Muggle side of things.
A fairy prince who decides to abandon his responsibilities to become a street musician.
Just try to not have fun writing (or even just reading!) these fantasy writing prompts.
The Secret to Choosing the Best Story Idea
Stories, more than any other artistic expression, have the power to make people care. Stories have the ability to change people’s lives.
But to write a great story, a life-changing story, don’t just write about what your characters did, said, and saw. Ask yourself, “Where do I fit in to this story? What is my personal connection to this story?”
Robert Frost said this:
If you can connect your personal story to the story you’re writing, you will not only be more motivated to finish your story, you might just be able to change the lives of your readers.
Next Step: Write Your Best Story
No matter how good your idea, writing a story or a book can be a long difficult process. How do you create an outline, come up with a great plot, and then actually finish it?
My new book The Write Structure will help. You'll learn how to take your idea and structure a strong plot around it. Then you'll be guided through the exact process I've used to write dozens of short stories and over fifteen books.
You can learn more about The Write Structure and get your copy here.
Have a great short story idea? We'd love to hear it. Share it in the comments !
Choose one of these ideas and write a short story in one sitting (aim for 1,000 words or less!). When you're finished, share your story in the practice box below (or our latest writing contest ) for feedback from the community. And if you share, please be sure to comment on a few stories by other writers.
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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How to Write an Interesting Story in English (6 Simple Steps)
If you want to learn how to write an interesting story in English, you’re in the right place. Keep on reading for the 6 easy steps you need to know to write your own English story.
How to write an interesting story in English
Write an Interesting Story in English (6 Easy Steps)
Embarking on the journey of writing stories in English is not only exciting but also a fantastic way to improve your language skills. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk through easy steps to help you craft a story that is simple, engaging, and enjoyable for everyone.
Step 1: Pick a Simple Story
Choose a straightforward idea for your story. Consider themes like “overcoming a challenge,” “discovering a special skill,” or “building new friendships.” By keeping your story simple, you make it easier for yourself and your readers to follow along.
It can often be easier to write the story if it’s based on something that’s happened in your own life, instead of choosing an entirely new topic. You may also want to check out these writing prompts for beginners .
Step 2: Create Characters
Bring your story to life with characters that are relatable. Keep the number of characters limited to avoid confusion. Each character should have their own personality and feelings. Think about what motivates them and what they are afraid of, making them more three-dimensional.
Step 3: Use Easy Words for your Story in English
Keep your language simple and clear. Avoid using big or complicated words. If a word feels challenging, try to find a simpler alternative. The aim is to make your story accessible to everyone, regardless of their English proficiency.
Step 4: Make a Simple Plan
Organize your story with a clear structure—beginning, middle, and end. Start by introducing your characters and the setting. In the middle, present the main problem or challenge. Finally, resolve the problem by the end. This simple structure makes your story easy to follow and understand.
Use sequence words to help readers understand how each piece of the story is related to the next one.
Step 5: Show, Don’t Tell
Engage your readers by describing what happens with sensory details. Instead of just stating facts, use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the scenes. This technique helps readers immerse themselves in the story and makes it more interesting. Check out these resources:
- Adjectives that start with A
- Adjectives that start with L
Or check out this book if you want to improve your vocabulary:
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 788 Pages - 09/12/2023 (Publication Date)
Step 6: Check and Fix your English Story
After completing your first draft, take time to review and revise your work. Look for areas where sentences can be simplified, ensuring the overall flow of the story is smooth. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes to enhance readability. Don’t forget about things like punctuation and capital letters.
Better yet, get a friend, classmate or teacher to look over what you’ve written and give you some feedback. This will help you become a better writer.
Story in English writing
How to Write an Interesting English Story: Conclusion
Writing a simple English story is not only a creative endeavor but also a valuable exercise in language development. By following these steps, you can create a story that is not only easy to understand but also enjoyable for a diverse audience. Don’t hesitate to experiment and try new things—every story you write is a step toward becoming a better storyteller.
Enjoy the process and happy writing!
FAQs about Writing a Story in English
There are a number of common questions about writing an interesting English story. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
What’s the first step in writing a story in English?
Choosing a simple idea for your story is the first step.
Why is it important to keep the number of characters limited in an English story?
Keeping the number of characters limited helps to avoid confusion and makes the story easier to follow.
How can you make characters more interesting?
Give each character their own personality, motivations, and fears to make them three-dimensional and relatable.
What is the purpose of the beginning, middle, and end in a story?
The structure of the beginning, middle, and end helps organize the story and makes it easier for readers to understand.
How can you make your story more engaging?
Use descriptive language like adjectives and adverbs to show, not just tell, the events in your story. This helps readers imagine and connect with the narrative.
Why is it important to check and fix your story after the first draft?
Checking and fixing your story after the first draft ensures clarity, smooth flow, and helps eliminate spelling and grammar mistakes.
What should you consider when choosing a theme for your story?
Choose universal themes like “overcoming challenges,” “discovering hidden talents,” or “building friendships” to resonate with a broad audience.
How can you improve your language skills through writing a story?
Writing a story in English helps improve vocabulary, grammar, and overall language proficiency through practical application.
Interesting Story in English: Join the Conversation
Do you have any tips or tricks for making a story in English? Leave a comment and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Jackie Bolen has been teaching English for more than 15 years to students in South Korea and Canada. She's taught all ages, levels and kinds of TEFL classes. She holds an MA degree, along with the Celta and Delta English teaching certifications.
Jackie is the author of more than 60 books for English teachers and English learners, including Business English Vocabulary Builder and 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities for Teenagers and Adults . She loves to share her ESL games, activities, teaching tips, and more with other teachers throughout the world.
You can find her on social media at: YouTube Facebook Pinterest TikTok LinkedIn Instagram
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- Story Writing
Story Writing - Explore Components, Format, How to Write and Examples
Are you thinking of trying your hand at story writing? Is story writing your new hobby? If you are, here is a chance to learn about all that will aid your story writing process. To ensure and make it possible for you to write a story on your own, this article will walk you through everything you will have to consider when sitting down to write a story.
Table of Contents
What is story writing, components of a story.
- Format of a Story
Structuring Your Story – Guidelines to Writing a Good Story
Tips to become a pro, sample story, frequently asked questions on story writing.
Story writing refers to the method of writing in which the writer narrates a series of events that has led to a problem, the progression of the same and the end result that has led to the current situation of the characters in the story. A story can be about a real or fictional incident including real-life or imaginary characters.
In schools, as part of the English language learning process, students are made to write stories. This is done to improve both the language skills as well as the students’ creative thinking skills. Story writing can turn out to be an interesting hobby once you experience the pleasure of developing a story. Learning to write a well-knit story can be made possible if you know the different components of a story and how to structure it.
Is there anyone who does not like reading or listening to stories? As children, all of us must have gone to sleep listening to some bedtime stories narrated by our parents, grandparents or siblings, haven’t you? Now, have you ever wanted to write an exciting story just like the one you heard or read? Have you tried to analyse the components that make up the story? Any idea what the components are?
Every story is expected to have the five components namely,
In addition to these, a story has a point of view in which it is narrated or portrayed and a style in which it is written. Let us now look at each of the components in detail.
No story is complete without a character. Every story would either revolve around multiple characters or a single character. Characters drive the story. Having strong characters of all types (funny, serious, clever, innocent, etc.) is what will make the story interesting and intriguing.
The term ‘setting’ refers to the physical surroundings in which the story takes place. The whereabouts of the characters might also contribute to the setting of the story. The setting of a story can be a forest, a house, a street, space or outer universe, a small island, a train and even someone’s mind. It is up to the writer to include all the details that they think would make the story more colourful.
Many of us are acquainted with the term ‘plot’, but what does the term mean? In simple terms, the plot of a story refers to what goes on in a story or what the story is about. A plot includes various courses of events/actions, climactic points and resolution. After all, a well-woven plot is what will help you form a good and strong story.
A plot is comprises five different elements, namely,
- Exposition – The point at which the characters and setting of the story are presented; in other terms, the beginning of the story.
- Rising action – The point in the story when the main character comes across an action or a course of events that becomes an impediment or a conflict in the otherwise undisturbed peaceful life of the main character and those around them.
- Climax – The most intriguing part of a story which also becomes the turning point of the story.
- Falling action – This includes actions or events that lead to the conclusion. This point describes the positive or negative turn of events that has taken place as a result of the protagonist’s decision at the climax. At this point, you can also see how the various characters work together or alone to solve the problem or conflict.
- Conclusion – This point in the story marks the end. It is here that you get to know how everything has settled. The conclusion, be it a happy or a sad one, is the end result of the falling action.
The theme of a story is the idea or subject that pervades the whole story. This is the concept on which the whole story revolves. Examples of themes can be family relationships, music, love and romance, war, rebellion, etc. For instance, the theme of the animated film ‘Coco’ is love for music and the importance of family, and the theme of the animated films ‘Brave’ and ‘Moana’ is breaking out of social norms and following your heart.
The term ‘conflict’ refers to the problem in the story. When all is going on well, there is one point in the story when the main characters come across an obstacle that impedes their journey to achieve a set goal. The conflict is what gets the protagonist to move out of their comfort zone, face the antagonist, act bravely to solve the problem and find ways to attain their goal.
Format of the Story
Basically, every story should have a beginning, middle and end. A story without any one of these would look and sound incomplete.
Just like every other piece of writing, the beginning of the story is what will determine if the reader would want to continue reading or not. So it is very crucial to have a rather riveting start. You have got to keep the readers hooked from the very first moment itself. The age-old and most common way to start a story is with the use of phrases like “A long time ago” or “Once upon a time”. You must have seen it being used in many children’s stories. However, this need not always be the case. You can start the story directly with the character introduction, the portrayal of the setting or even an action.
Beginning the story on a wonderful note and letting it drag later will not help the story in any way. You have to keep the story going. Make use of language cleverly, use literary devices and even the smallest detail if you think it will drive the story. Using descriptive language can further help to a great extent as it will give your audience a visual representation of everything that is going on in the story.
A good story writer knows when to drop the curtains for the readers. Similarly, if you want to write a good story, you must know when to wrap it up. You must have seen an open ending in many writings; that is also an option you can choose. Remember that you need not always provide a very pleasant ending or the ending that your audience might expect. You are free to end the story according to your discretion. The only thing you will have to bear in mind is to give the story the ending it deserves.
When you sit down to write a story based on something that you have been thinking about for a long time now or just for the sake of it, the first thing you can do is brainstorm your ideas and pen your thoughts on a piece of paper or a notepad. Once you have noted down all of your ideas, here is how you can start structuring your story.
Who are your characters?
This is one of the most influential parts of the story. The diversity of your characters and the way you describe their characteristics will decide your reader’s interest in your story. Introducing the characters can be done in different ways – you can tell the entire story from one of the character’s point of view, include dialogues between various characters or even have a narrator introduce the characters and provide their background information.
No person is perfect, and neither should your character in a story. An imperfect character draws much more attention than a perfect character. Even a character who seems to be perfect will have a character flaw.
Vices of Character
Every person is made of virtues and vices, and that’s the reason most writers often choose their main characters to have vices that bring about their downfall or struggles that make their journey more interesting. By including the vices and the struggles of the character, the author can keep the readers glued till the very end. Suppose a character is arrogant, and that’s what causes his/her downfall, or a character struggles throughout the story to achieve the one thing that he/she wants. So if you want your story to capture the attention of the readers, then including vices or struggles can give you that edge.
Where is the story taking place?
Have you come across stories where the scene takes place on a stormy night, or the entire setting belongs to a particular period in history? While writing a story, you have to decide where you want your story to take place. After all, the atmosphere of a place can set the story’s tone.
For instance, if the setting of the story is a dilapidated and abandoned house, the reader will immediately feel a chill down the spine as it seems eerie, and what happens next is totally unexpected. On the other hand, if you set your story in a calm locality with children playing around riding bicycles and old people walking down the street holding hands, it would give the reader a very pleasant outlook and make the reader feel extremely relaxed and comfortable.
What is happening in the story?
Describe the environment and everything that is going on in the story. The way you portray each and every occurrence will give the readers a clear picture of what is happening. You ought to get the readers to feel one among the characters in the story; in other words, feel as if they are in the setting along with the characters and seeing everything around in person. This will kindle your story’s success.
How does your story end?
The ending of the story is as important as the beginning. You can end your story in a happy or sad tone. Your story can even have a cliffhanger which might make it all the more exciting and leave it to the reader’s imagination. In case you are planning to write a sequel to the story, a cliffhanger is the best way to end the story as it will have the reader expecting one.
- Drafts are always the best way to start writing your story as they will help you to edit and recompile until you are content with your storyline.
- The title of the story is an important part. It can be said that the title is what your audience would check out first and the factor that would drive them to make their choice to read the story. So, always try to use a title that would catch your readers’ eye in the very first instance.
- Make sure you include and make effective use of the different components of a story and the elements of the plot.
- Your language and tone matters more than you imagine. Choose your words and structure your sentences carefully.
- It is not necessary that you include dialogues, but including them will definitely give the reader a subjective perspective of the happenings in the story.
- If you are planning to use a narrator in the story, make sure to provide vivid descriptions so that your audience can experience the story.
- Create situations in the story where the main characters have to move out of their comfort zones to solve the conflict or problem they are facing.
- The theme of the story is also one of the factors that would interest your readers, so choose a theme that you think would make your readers want to read your story.
- Weave your storyline in such a way that every little detail adds to the essence of the story and leaves your readers looking forward to more such stories from you.
- Once the story is complete, you can either ask someone to give you their feedback on it or give it to someone to proofread. This is totally optional. If you feel satisfied with the outcome of the story, you could present it confidently to your audience without a second thought.
Examples of Story Writing
Go through the following simple short story and try to understand how it is written.
The Perfect Twig
Walking through the forest, I came across a little bird that enjoyed flying from one tree to another. He seemed to be looking for something. I stood there observing him. I wished to help him but I did not know what he was looking for. I did not want to scare him away or disturb him either.
Finally, he alighted to pick up a particular Y-shaped twig. I followed him to see where he was headed to and I found him on one of the most beautifully blossomed trees. It was the last thing that was required to complete the nest and it fit perfectly well.
Seeing this, I walked away happily thinking to myself how many people shoo away birds as soon as they catch sight of them. And, I was just glad I didn’t do it, because if I did, the bird would not have found that perfect twig.
Did you like the story? To take a look at more stories and learn how stories are to be written, check out ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ , ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ , ‘Belling the Cat’ and ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ .
What is story writing ?
Story writing is a process of narrating real or imaginary incidents involving imaginary/real people.
How to write the title for the story?
The title of the story can be written by understanding the theme of the story or the other relevant hints given.
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Helping Students Write a Creative Story
- Resources for Teachers
- Pronunciation & Conversation
- Writing Skills
- Reading Comprehension
- Business English
- TESOL Diploma, Trinity College London
- M.A., Music Performance, Cologne University of Music
- B.A., Vocal Performance, Eastman School of Music
Once students have become familiar with the basics of English and have begun communicating, writing can help open up new avenues of expression. These first steps are often difficult as students struggle to combine simple sentences into more complex structures . This guided writing lesson is intended to help bridge the gap from simply writing sentences to developing a larger structure. During the course of the lesson students become familiar with the sentence connectors 'so' and 'because'.
Aim: Guided Writing - learning to use the sentence connectors 'so' and 'because'
Activity: Sentence combination exercise followed by guided writing exercise
Level: lower intermediate
- Write a sentence with 'so' and a sentence with 'because' on the board: Example: We needed some food so I went to the supermarket. | He studied all night because he had a difficult test the next day.
- Ask students which sentence expresses a reason (because) and which sentence expresses a consequence (so).
- Now, write these variations of the sentences on the board: Example: I went to the supermarket because we needed some food. | He had a difficult test so he studied all night.
- Ask students to explain what has changed in the sentences. Check the students understanding of the differences between 'so' and 'because'.
- Give the students the sentence matching exercise. Students should match the two sentences that logically go together.
- Once students have completed this exercise, ask them to combine the two sentences in each pair using 'so' or 'because'. Check their answers as a class.
- Read the example story to the class as a listening exercise which also sets the tone for the follow-up exercise. Ask students some comprehension questions based on the story. Example Story: A young Swedish man named Lars met a beautiful young French woman named Lise. They met in a cafe in Amsterdam during the afternoon. As soon as Lars saw Lise, he fell hopelessly in love because she was so beautiful and sophisticated. He wanted to meet her, so he introduced himself and asked her if he could speak to her. Soon, they were talking about their two countries and having a wonderful time. They decided to continue their discussion that evening so they made a date to have dinner in a wonderful restaurant. They continued to see each other every day because they had such a wonderful time together. Five months later, Lars moved to France and they married and lived happily ever after.
- Have students write a similar story using the guided writing prompts provided on their worksheet. Tell them they should be a creative as possible as that will make their story all the more enjoyable.
- Circulate around the room helping students with their short compositions.
- As a follow-up listening exercise which can be a lot of fun, have students read their stories aloud to the class.
Results and Reasons
- I had to get up early.
- I'm hungry.
- She wants to speak Spanish.
- We needed a vacation.
- They're going to visit us soon.
- I went for a walk.
- Jack won the lottery.
- They bought a CD.
- I needed some fresh air.
- She takes evening courses.
- Their friend had a birthday.
- We went to the seaside.
- I had an early meeting at work.
- He bought a new house.
- We haven't seen them in a long time.
- I'm cooking dinner.
Writing A Short Story
Quickly answer the questions below and then use the information to write your short story. Use your imagination to make the story as enjoyable as possible!
- Which man? (nationality, age)
- Loved who? (nationality, age)
- Where did they meet? (place, when, situation)
- Why did the man fall in love?
- What did he do next?
- What did the two do together that day?
- What did they do after that day?
- Why did they continue to see each other?
- How does the story end? Do they get married, do they separate?
- Is your story a sad or happy story?
- Compound Sentence Practice for ESL and EFL Students
- Writing Informal Emails and Letters
- How to Teach Pronouns to ESL Students
- Relative Clause ESL Lesson Plan
- Teaching Writing to Beginning ESL Students
- Lesson Plan: Label Sentences with Parts of Speech
- How to Teach the Past Simple to ESL Students
- Introducing Phrasal Verbs to ESL Students
- How to Teach the Present Continuous to ESL Students
- Food Lesson for an ESL Learner
- Complex Sentence Worksheet
- Sentence Connectors: Showing Opposition in Written English
- How to Use Sentence Connectors to Express Complex Ideas
- Parallel Structure
- Creating a Newscast as an ESL Lesson
- 10 Common Sentence Mistakes in English
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- General English
Do you enjoy reading stories?
In this section, read our entertaining short stories specially written for pre-intermediate (CEFR level A2) or intermediate (CEFR level B1) learners.
You will improve your reading fluency and comprehension and develop your vocabulary. Each story has interactive exercises to help you understand and use the language.
Choose a story
Bad blood – A2/B1
When a vampire visits a happy young couple, will true love save their lives?
- Read more about Bad blood – A2/B1
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First star I see tonight – A2/B1
When his physics experiment goes wrong and all the stars disappear, the whole world blames Dr Tomas Streyer. Are the stars gone forever?
- Read more about First star I see tonight – A2/B1
Frank's last case – A2/B1
Sergeant Frank Spike is not a successful police officer. But he has 'a nose for crime'. Will his last case be a success?
- Read more about Frank's last case – A2/B1
Love me, love me not – A2/B1
Two people fall in love. But is their experience real? Or is it just an effect of the medicine they're taking?
- Read more about Love me, love me not – A2/B1
The devil's in the details – A2/B1
A strange salesman knocks on Victoria's door and offers the end to all her problems. Will she say yes or is the price too high?
- Read more about The devil's in the details – A2/B1
The green wars – A2/B1
Two friends take action to create a beautiful green town. But what's the best way to help the environment, and is it worth going to prison for?
- Read more about The green wars – A2/B1
The hole in the wall – A2/B1
Joanna is the last fruit seller in her family. When she goes to the capital city to sell her fruits, she discovers something worth more than money.
- Read more about The hole in the wall – A2/B1
The time travel plumber – A2/B1
Priya's son is ill, she has no money and now her kitchen is flooded. Can time travel make everything better?
- Read more about The time travel plumber – A2/B1
True Beauty – A2/B1
With a new app, a photo can show your true beauty. Read what happens when people see how beautiful they are on the inside.
- Read more about True Beauty – A2/B1
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Story writing is an ancient art form that has been used to entertain, educate, and inform people for centuries. It is a way to share experiences and feelings and to let people know about different cultures and ways of life.
There are many different types of stories, including folktales, legends, myths, fairy tales, short stories, epics, historical fiction, fantasy novels, science fiction books, crime-fiction novels, and autobiographies. Sometimes the same type of story can be told with different subgenres which are stories with distinct features or characteristics. For example, a short story might be non-science fiction instead of science fiction (and it would not necessarily be shorter).
Types of Stories
Fairytales are very common in folklore. They feature characters with magical abilities, like fairies and dwarves, who often grant wishes to the protagonist (the main character). They tend to be fairly simple, not containing much or any violence. The Brothers Grimm famously collected fairy tales that had been passed down through the generations; these are some of the most common fairy tales.
Legends are another type of story that is passed down through generations. They often tell about historical events, but they are not strictly accurate history books. They may contain supernatural elements like gods and monsters, which might help explain natural phenomena. A legend usually takes place over a long period of time involving many characters.
Myths are like legends, but they are usually about gods or heroes. They often explain the origin of things, like why the sun shines or how rivers were formed. Myths usually have a moral lesson to teach.
Epics are long stories that tell the history of a people or a country. They can be very detailed and may be written in poetry or prose. They often have a moral message that teaches about the culture of the people who tell the epic.
Historical fiction is a type of novel that is based on real events, but it is not strictly factual. The author may take some liberties with the facts in order to make a more interesting story. Historical fiction can help people learn about the past, especially if they are unfamiliar with some of the historical events.
Science fiction novels are stories that take place in a world that includes new technology or futuristic inventions. They may include aliens or robots, and they often focus on possible changes to society as a result of these technologies. Science fiction books are usually set in the future.
Crime fiction novels are also known as mysteries or detective stories. In them, a crime is committed and it must be solved by a detective. The reader tries to solve the mystery along with the detective until they find out who committed the crime at the end of the book. The crimes can include poisonings, robberies, or even murders.
These are all very common types of stories. Many other varieties of stories exist as well, such as those contained in comic books and graphic novels. There are also many subgenres of the types of stories that have been mentioned above. For example, fairytales can be about princesses or animals.
The story is a write-up in which one explains any event or creates a fictional event that leads to a series of events followed by a conclusion.
The importance of stories is overlooked sometimes but the story is a work of art that can inspire readers as it stimulates their imagination and allows them to put themselves in the character’s shoes.
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world” -Robert Mckee
Elements of Story Writing-
The setting defines where and when the event took place. It states the geographical location, time( past, present or future) and where the character stands culturally and socially. A good setting is written keeping the five senses in mind -Sight, smell, taste, feel and sound. The reader should be teleported instantly to the place, where the author is trying to take them.
The characters are the lifeblood of any story. Any person, animal or anything which can be personified are known as the character of the story. There could be one main character or more, it depends upon the author. The reader views the story from the character’s viewpoint.
The plot is an organised pattern or sequence of events that make up a story. It is the spine of the story which supports all the actions from and around the characters.
There are five parts of a plot-
Exposition- Introduction; characters, setting and conflict (problem) are introduced.
Rising Action- Events that occur due to the main conflict.
Climax- Climax is the part of the story that has the highest point of tension and drama.
Falling Action- This is where the conflict eases and the character starts resolving the issue.
Resolution- This is where the conflict is resolved and all the loose ends are tied up together.
Conflict is a struggle between the two opposite sides in a story. This is a problem or a challenge around which the plot is based. It forms the main structure of the plot. Conflict can be external and internal. External conflict is created by any outside force, and internal conflict is inside the character’s mind.
The theme of the story is the central idea of the story which the author is trying to convey to the reader. It is the lesson the reader learns after reading the story.
Readers have to sometimes try to see the big message that the writer is trying to give by showing the characters actions or ways of thinking.
Tips on Writing a Good Story-
Develop the Characters- Character development is an integral part of any good story. The characters should have depth in them so that the audience can connect with them. The real reason that Spiderman comics are so famous is that the young audience could connect with that character. So to better develop your characters, read more and observe people around you so that your characters can be relatable which would amount to a good story.
Choose the Setting Carefully - Setting plays an important part in a story and it has wide implications on almost every part of the story. So choose the setting of the story carefully. For example, a story about a black girl becoming the CEO of a company would be different if the setting is in 1995 or the present day. This is because, in the earlier days, racism was much more widespread than it is today. So the girl would have to go through more challenges to become CEO in 1995 compared to today. Hence, setting has a high influence on the story.
Create an Outline of the Plot before Writing- Creating an outline plot or the gist of the story before writing is useful because it helps in connecting ideas in the story and knowing about plot holes before beginning to write the story.
Incorporate dialogues that reveal a Character's Thoughts- Telling about the character’s thoughts makes the story interesting and tells the reader what motivates the character to do what they are doing and is good in driving the plot forward.
Make the Setting more Dynamic- Making the setting more dynamic by describing the scenes using the sensory details like sounds that are heard by the character or describing what they are seeing makes the story more engaging to the reader.
Build circumstances where the Character has to get out of his/her Comfort Zone- Building these types of circumstances makes the story more interesting to the reader because these circumstances can bring forth hidden qualities of the character which can be conveyed through the scene rather than explaining it.
Choose the Ending Carefully- The ending of the story should be such that it fits with the story meaning that it does not look out of place and leaves an impression in the mind of the reader. Almost all good stories provoke an emotional response when they are finished so the ending should not look random or out of the box.
FAQs on Story Writing
1. Is it compulsory to add adverse situations in the story?
No not really unless it fits into the plot. Creating adverse situations just for the sake of it does not make the story more compelling rather it makes the story haphazard. Just like life, a story should have different types of circumstances which the character has to encounter while moving forward.
2. How much backstory should be added to make the story more appealing?
Background story about the characters make the story more appealing to the readers and help them understand the character and his/her actions and motivations but emphasis must be placed that too much backstory can take the focus out of the main context and make the plot deviate.
3. What is the main difference between a good story and a great story?
A good story will have all the basic elements in place and will be well written. It includes a character who undergoes a change, has a strong plot and a well-developed setting. A great story, on the other hand, will have all these elements and will also be thought-provoking. The reader would like to see what happens next, has a strong desire to know more and has a strong emotional response after reading the story. The author has managed to evoke some sort of reaction in the reader. These are some of the qualities that make a story great. A writer should always strive to achieve these qualities in their work.
4. What are the main tips that a writer should remember while writing a story?
The main thing to remember while writing a story is that the plot, setting and characters are all important and need to be well-developed. The story should also be well written with good grammar and sentence structure. The author should also make sure that their work is proofread before submission. Finally, it is important to evoke some sort of reaction from the reader when they finish reading the story. They should want to know what happens next or should have a strong desire to see what the character will do next in that situation.
5. How important is character development in a story?
Character development is very important in a story. A well-developed character will be able to evoke an emotional response from the reader and will also make the story more interesting. The author should make sure that the character undergoes a change during the course of the story and is not static. This will keep the reader engaged until the end. The reader wants to know whether the character will overcome all of the challenges or if they will manage to change for the better. The writer should also make sure that the character is well-rounded and believable. This will help to engage the reader further.
6. How can I make my story more interesting?
Making a story more interesting is all about engaging the reader. The writer should make sure that they have incorporated scenes in which the character has to get out of his/her comfort zone in order to do what they want. The scenes in which they are in their comfort zone don't add much interest for the reader and these passages can be easily skipped. The ending of the story should be carefully chosen so that it does not look out of place and leaves an impression on the reader. It is also important to evoke some sort of reaction from the reader when they finish reading the story. This can be done by making sure that the plot is well-developed, the setting is described in detail and the characters are believable and well-rounded.
7. How do I make sure that my story is well written?
The writer should make sure that their story is well written by proofreading it before submission. They should also make sure that their grammar and sentence structure are correct. The author should also ensure that the plot is well-developed and the setting is described in detail. All of these aspects are crucial for a good story that the reader will enjoy reading. One should also make sure that their work is unique and not similar to any other story that has already been written. The author should add some sort of humour or twist to their work in order to make it stand out from the rest.
- Listen and watch
Do you like listening to and reading stories? Reading stories is a great way to improve your vocabulary and we have lots of great stories for you to watch. Watch stories, print activities and post comments!
A dog's life
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ali and the magic carpet
Angel! Look out!
Buzz and Bob's big adventure
Dark, dark wood
Eric the engine
George and the dragon
Goldilocks and the three bears
I couldn't believe my eyes
I'm too ill
Jack and the beanstalk
Little Red Riding Hood
Monster shopping trip
Much Ado About Nothing
My favourite clothes
My favourite day - Chinese New Year
My favourite day - Christmas
My favourite day - Diwali
My favourite day - Eid al-Fitr
My secret team
Nessie - the Loch Ness Monster
One moment around the world
Our colourful world
Pyramids in Paris
Ratty robs a bank
Romeo and Juliet
Santa's little helper
The animal shelter
The bird king
The clever monkey
The cold planet
The first marathon
The great race
The greedy hippo
The haunted house
The hungry dragon
The lazy bear
The lion and the mouse
The lucky envelope
The lucky seed
The lump of gold
The magic fish
The magic paintbrush
The magic spell
The princess and the dragon
The Ramadan lantern story
The sneaky rabbit
The story of quinine
The treasure map
The ugly duckling
The voyage of the animal orchestra
What will I be when I grow up?
What's that noise?
Why Anansi has thin legs!
English courses for children aged 6-17
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34 English Short Stories with Big Ideas for Thoughtful English Learners
What if you could understand big ideas in English with just a little bit of text?
You don’t need to read an entire English book to learn. A good English short story is often enough!
Stories are all about going beyond reality, and these classics will not only improve your English reading but also open your mind to different worlds.
1. “The Tortoise and the Hare” by Aesop
2. “the ant and the grasshopper” by aesop, 3. “white wing: the tale of the doves and the hunter”, 4. “royal servant”, 5. “emily’s secret”, 6. “the bogey beast” by flora annie steel, 7. “love is in the air”, 8. “the tale of johnny town-mouse” by beatrix potter, 9. “paul bunyan” adapted by george grow, 10. “cinderella” by charles perrault, 11. “little red riding hood” adapted by the british council, 12. “the lottery” by shirley jackson, 13. “the happy prince” by oscar wilde.
- 14. “The Night Train at Deoli” by Ruskin Bond
15. “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
- 16. “Orientation” by Daniel Orozco
17. “Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
18. “the missing mail” by r.k. narayan, 19. “harrison bergeron” by kurt vonnegut.
- 20. “The School” by Donald Barthelme
21. “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
22. “rikki-tikki-tavi” by rudyard kipling, 23. excerpt from “little dorrit” by charles dickens, 24. “to build a fire” by jack london, 25. “miracles” by lucy corin.
- 26. “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal
27. “The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce
28. “the monkey’s paw” by w.w. jacobs, 29. “a tiny feast” by chris adrian, 30. “the story of an hour” by kate chopin, 31. “the zero meter diving team” by jim shepherd, 32. “the velveteen rabbit” by margery williams, 33. “the friday everything changed” by anne hart, 34. “hills like white elephants” by ernest hemingway, how to use short stories to improve your english, and one more thing....
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This classic fable (story) is about a very slow tortoise (turtle) and a speedy hare (rabbit). The tortoise challenges the hare to a race. The hare laughs at the idea that a tortoise could run faster than him, but the race ends with a surprising result.
Have you ever heard the English expression, “Slow and steady wins the race”? This story is the basis for that common phrase . You can read it for free , along with a number of other stories in this list!
This is another great story that teaches a lesson that’s written for kids but adults can enjoy, too . The story tells of a grasshopper who lounges around all summer while his friend the ant prepares for the winter. When winter comes, the two friends end up in very different situations!
The moral is that those who save up during the good times will get to enjoy the benefits when times are bad.
This very short story from India was originally written in Sanskrit (an ancient language). When a group of doves is caught in a hunter’s net, they must work together as a team to escape from the hunter’s clutches.
You can listen to a reading of the story as you read along on this website.
In this story, an old man sets out to ask an African king to dig some wells in his village when their water runs dry. But first, he teaches the king a lesson in humility by showing him how all people help each other. Read the story to see how the clever old man gets the king to do as he asks!
This is a modern-day story about a little girl with a big secret she can’t tell anyone about. When her teacher finds out her secret, they work together to fix the issue.
This story is a good choice for absolute beginners, because it uses only the present tense. It’s also written in very basic English with simple vocabulary and short sentences.
The woman in this story finds a pot of treasure on her walk home. As she carries it home, the treasure keeps changing, becoming things of lesser value.
However, the woman’s enthusiasm makes her see only the positive after each change, which would have upset anyone else. Her positive personality tries to make every negative situation seem like a gift!
This story shows how important it is to look at things from a positive point of view. Instead of being disappointed in what we don’t have, this story reminds us to view what we do have as blessings.
This modern story is about a young woman named Penny who is anxious about going to her family’s annual reunion barbecue. But despite screaming children and arguing cousins, Penny ends up happy that she came to the reunion when she starts a conversation with a handsome man.
The story is written in simple English, using only the present tense, so it’s perfect for beginners.
This classic children’s story is about two mice, one from the country and one from the city. Both mice think that the other mouse is so lucky to live in what they think is a wonderful place!
The two mice decide to visit each other in their homes. It turns out that the country mouse has a difficult time in the city, and the city mouse struggles in the country.
In the end, they realize that they believed the old English saying: “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” In other words, each mouse thought the other had a better life, only to discover that they actually preferred their own life!
The story of Paul Bunyan has been around in the United States for many years. He’s the symbol of American frontier life, showing the ideal strength, work ethic and good morality that Americans work hard to imitate.
Paul Bunyan is considered a legend, so stories about him are full of unusual details, such as eating 50 eggs in one day and being so big that he caused an earthquake. It can be a pretty funny read, with characters such as a blue ox and a reversible dog.
This version of the story is also meant to be read out loud, so it’s fast-paced and entertaining. This website has an audio recording with the story, which you can play at slower or faster speeds.
You may already know the story of Cinderella, whether you saw the Disney movie or read a children’s book of it.
However, there are actually many different versions of “Cinderella.” This one by Charles Perrault is the most well-known and is often the version told to children.
“Cinderella” is a beloved story because it describes how a kind and hard-working person was able to get a happy ending. Even though Cinderella’s stepsisters treated her awfully, Cinderella herself remained gentle and humble. It goes to show that even though you may experience hardships, it’s important to stay kind, forgiving and mindful.
This is a story that every English-speaking child knows. It’s about a little girl who meets a wolf in the forest while going to see her sick grandmother. The wolf pretends to be her grandmother in order to trick the little girl.
This story is presented by the British Council as a video with the text clearly spoken. You can then play a game to rearrange the sentences below the video into the correct order, read the text of the story in a PDF file and answer some activity questions (then check your answers with the provided answer sheet.
This website has many other stories you can read and listen to, like “Circus Story” by Sue Clarke, which is an excellent option for learning animal vocabulary, and even adaptations of Shakespeare plays for younger readers.
Every year, the small town in this story holds an event known as “The Lottery.” During this event, someone from the community is randomly chosen.
What are they chosen for? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
You may have heard of the term “mob mentality” and how it can allow for some pretty surprising (and terrible) things to happen. This classic story looks at society, and how much evil people are willing to overlook to keep their society stable.
This is considered to be one of the most famous short stories in American literature. It’s a great example of what is known as a dystopian society, where people live in a frightening way. To learn more, check out this TED-Ed video that tells you how to recognize a dystopia.
Since the story is old, much of the English is outdated (not used in modern English). Still, if you have a good grasp of the English language, you can use this story to give yourself a great reading challenge.
14. “The Night Train at Deoli” by Ruskin Bond
Ruskin Bond used to spend summers at his grandmother’s house in Dehradun, India. While taking the train, he always had to pass through a small station called Deoli. No one used to get down at the station and nothing happened there.
Until one day, when he sees a girl selling fruit and is unable to forget her.
Ruskin Bond is a writer who can communicate deep feelings in a simple way. This story is about our attachment to strangers and why we cherish (value or appreciate deeply) them even though we might never meet them again.
The title is taken from a poem that describes how nature will continue its work long after humanity is gone. But in this story, we see that nature plays a supporting role and the machines are the ones who have taken its place.
They continue their work without any human or natural assistance. This shows how technology has replaced nature in our lives and how it can both destroy us and carry on without humanity itself.
16. “Orientation” by Daniel Orozco
This is a humorous story in which the speaker explains the office policies to a new employee while gossiping about the staff. It’s extremely easy to read, as the sentences are short and the vocabulary is simple.
Many working English learners will relate to this story, as it explains the silly, nonsensical moments of modern office life. Modern workplaces often feel like theaters where we pretend to work rather than get actual work done. The speaker exposes this reality that few would ever admit to.
He over-explains everything from the view out the office window to the intimate details of everyone’s life—from the overweight loner to the secret serial killer. It talks about the things that go unsaid; how people at the office know about the deep secrets of our home life, but don’t discuss them.
Jack’s mother can make paper animals come to life. In the beginning, Jack loves them and spends hours with his mom. But once he grows up, his mother’s inability to speak English keeps Jack from talking to her.
When his mother tries to talk to him through her creations, he kills them and collects them in a box. After a tragic loss, he finally gets to know her story through a hidden message that he should have read a long time ago.
The story is a simple narration that touches on complex issues, like leaving your home country and the conflicts that can occur within families when different cultures and languages collide.
Thanappa is the village mailman, who is good friends with Ramanujam and his family. He learns about a failed marriage and helps Ramanujam’s daughter get engaged to a suitable match.
Just before the wedding, Thanappa receives a tragic letter about Ramanujam’s brother. To spare them heartache, he decides not to deliver the letter.
The story explores the idea that despite the best of intentions, our actions can cause more harm to our loved ones than we ever intended. If you like this and want to read more by R.K. Narayan, check out the other stories in the author’s “ Malgudi Days” short story collection.
The year is 2081, and everyone has been made equal by force. Every person who is superior in any way has been handicapped (something that prevents a person’s full use of their abilities) by the government. Intelligent people are distracted by disturbing noises. Good dancers have to wear weights so that they don’t dance too well. Attractive people wear ugly masks so they don’t look better than anyone else.
However, one day there is a rebellion, and everything changes for a brief instant.
Technology is always supposed to make us better. But in this case, we see that it can be used to disable our talents. Moreover, the writer shows us how the mindless use of a single value like equality can create more suffering for everyone.
20. “The School” by Donald Barthelme
And that’s just the beginning of the series of unfortunate events at the school in this short story, narrated by a teacher. The story is absurd (ridiculous to the point of being silly), even though the topic is serious. By the end, the kids start asking difficult questions about death that the adults don’t quite know how to answer.
This story leaves a lot of things unsaid, which means you’ll need to “read between the lines,” or look closer at the text to understand what’s really happening.
In “Girl,” a mother tells her daughter how to live her life properly. The mother instructs the girl to do all the household chores, in very specific ways, making it seem like that’s her only duty in life.
Sometimes the mother tells the girl how to attract attention, not to talk to boys and to always keep away from men. Other times, the mother hints that the girl will need to be attractive to men to live a good life.
This story doesn’t feel like a story. There’s no plot, and nothing really happens. But read closely, and you’ll see an important message about how girls are taught to live restricted lives since childhood.
“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is a classic tale about a Mongoose who regularly visits a family in India. The family feeds him and lets him explore their house, but they worry that he might bite their son, Teddy.
One day, when a snake is about to attack Teddy, the Mongoose kills it. This event helps the family accept the mongoose into their family.
This is a simple story about humans and animals living together as friends. It’s old, but the language is fairly easy to understand. It reminds us that animals can also experience feelings of love and, like humans, they will also protect the ones they love.
“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is part of Kipling’s short story collection “The Jungle Book,” which was famously made into a movie by Disney.
Dorrit is a child whose father has been in prison ever since she could remember. Unable to pay their debts, the whole family is forced to spend their days in a cell. Dorrit dreams of seeing the world outside their little cell.
This excerpt (short part of a larger work) introduces you to the family and their life in prison. The novel is about how they manage to get out and how Dorrit never forgets the kindness of the people who helped her.
Injustice in law is often reserved for the poor. “Little Dorrit” shows the government jailing people for not being able to return their loans, a historical practice the writer hated since his own father was punished in a similar way.
A man travels to a freezing, isolated place called Yukon with only his dog for company. Throughout his journey, he ignores the advice other people have given him and takes his life for granted.
Finally, he realizes the real power of nature and how fragile (easily broken) human life actually is.
Nature is often seen as a powerful force that should be feared and respected. The animal in this story is the one who’s cautious and sensible in this dangerous situation. By the end, readers wonder who is really intelligent—the man who could not deal with nature, or the dog who could survive?
This is a modern-day story that describes a group of children gathering around their father to watch little spiders hatch out of their eggs. But the story gets a different meaning as it nears the end. What do you think happened?
26. “Evil Robot Monkey ” by Mary Robinette Kowal
Sly is a character who doesn’t fit into society. He’s too smart for the other chimps, but humans don’t accept him. He is punished for acting out his natural emotions.
But the way he handles his rage, in the end, makes him look more mature than most human beings. Nominated for the Hugo award , many readers have connected with Sly since they can see similarities in their own lives.
“The Boarded Window” is a horror story about a man who has to deal with his wife’s death. The setting is a remote cabin in the wilderness in Cincinnati, and he feels helpless as she gets sick.
There’s an interesting twist to this story, and the ending will get you thinking (and maybe feeling a bit disturbed!).
If you enjoy older stories with a little suspense, this will be a good challenge for you. It talks about the event that made a hermit decide to live alone for decades, with a mysterious window boarded up in his cabin. It also uses a lot of psychology and symbolism, so you may want to read the story more than once to understand everything it has to say.
Be careful what you wish for! One man finds this out the hard way when he brings a magical monkey’s paw home from India. This paw is supposed to grant three wishes to three people. People start to wish on it, only to realize that our wishes can have severe consequences.
The characters in this story immediately regret when their wishes come true. Even though they get what they wanted, it comes at a large cost!
This short story is from the early 1900s and uses some outdated English, but it’s still easy to follow. It reminds us that there are no shortcuts in life, and to be wary if something seems too good to be true.
This story centers around Titania and Oberon, two fairy characters from Shakespeare’s famous play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The two fairies are having a rough time in their marriage when they find a human child. They decide to adopt him, hoping that he’ll help them save their relationship. However, the child develops a deadly, modern disease and the fairies have no idea what to do since they have never known illness or death.
This is a tragic tale about how they try to understand something they’ve never seen before and their deep love for a stranger who is so unlike them. The story explores the grief of parenthood and the uncertainty of knowing whether your child will ever even know you.
This story, written by a woman, is a sad look inside an unhappy marriage. Mrs. Mallard is a woman with heart troubles. When her husband dies, the people who come to give her this news tell it to her gently, so she doesn’t have a shock.
Mrs. Mallard busts into tears and locks herself in her room. At first, she’s upset by the news. But the more she considers it, the more excited she becomes about the idea of the freedom that would come from her husband’s death.
What happens, then, when her husband comes home after an hour, alive and well?
The story explores the conflicting range of the human emotions of grief and hope in a short span, and the impact it can have on a person’s mind and body.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was one of the deadliest accidents of the twentieth century. This is a story about that event seen through the eyes of a father and his sons, who were all unfortunate enough to be close to the disaster area.
The story exposes the whole system of corruption that led to a massive explosion taking innocent lives and poisoning multiple generations. The technical vocabulary and foreign words make this text a little more difficult. However, its plot is relatively easy to follow.
The story is divided into small parts that make it both easy and exciting to read. Its various events show what it was like to live in the former Soviet Union . And just like any other good story, it’s also about human relationships and how they change due to historic events.
A simple, stuffed rabbit toy is given to a young boy as a Christmas present. At first, the rabbit isn’t noticed, as the boy is distracted by much fancier gifts. While being ignored, the rabbit begins to wonder what it means to be “real.”
One day, a certain event brings the rabbit into contact with the boy, and changes the toy’s life forever.
Have you ever loved a toy or doll so much, that you treated it as if it were alive? This story shows the power of love from a very unexpected viewpoint: that of a fluffy stuffed rabbit. It also highlights the importance of self-value, being true to yourself and finding strength in those who love you.
Tradition is important in this school, where the boys always go to fetch water for the class. The girls are teased for being “weaker,” and are last to get other privileges, like having the first choice of magazines. One day, a girl asks the teacher why girls aren’t allowed to get the water, as well. This one question causes a big reaction and leads to a huge change.
The girl’s courage surprises everyone, but it also inspires other girls to stand up for themselves. One act from one brave person can lead to change and inspire others. The story reflects on gender equality and how important it is to fight for fairness. Just because something is accepted as “normal,” doesn’t mean it is right!
At a Spanish train station, an American man and a young woman wait for a train that would take them to the city of Madrid. The woman sees some faraway hills and compares them to “white elephants.” This starts a conversation between the two of them, but what they discuss seems to have a deeper meaning.
This is another very well-known story that asks you to “read between the lines” to find the hidden meaning behind the text. Much of the story is a back-and-forth dialogue between two people, but you can tell a lot about them just from what they say to each other.
There’s a lot of symbolism that you can analyze in this story, along with context clues. Once you realize what the real topic of the characters’ conversation is, you can figure out the quiet, sadder meaning behind it.
Short stories are effective in helping English learners to practice all four aspects of language learning: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Here’s how you can make the most out of short stories as an English learner:
- Use illustrations to enhance your experience: Some short stories come with illustrations that you can use to guess what the story is about. You can even write your own caption or description of the picture. When you finish the story, go back to your image description. How did you do?
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Click here to check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.
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- Explore stories related to a theme: Do you like ghost stories? Science fiction? Romance? If you’re learning about food or cooking, find a short story with a lot of food vocabulary .
- Choose the right reading level: Make sure that you always challenge yourself! One easy way to tell if a story is just right for you is to use the “five-finger test.” Hold up your fist as you read a paragraph, and put up one finger for each word you don’t know. If you have all five fingers up before the end of the paragraph, try to find an easier text.
- Practice “active reading”: Your reading will only help you learn if you read actively . You’re reading actively when you’re paying very close attention to the story, its words and its meanings. Writing with a notebook nearby and in a place with no distractions can help you focus on active reading.
- Choose only a few words to look up: You may be tempted to stop at every unknown word, but it’s actually better to try to figure out its meaning from context clues. This means looking at everything else in the sentence or paragraph to try and guess the meaning of the word. Only look up words that you can’t figure out even with context clues.
- Summarize the story: When you’ve finished reading the story, retell it in your own words or write a summary of it. This will help you to practice any new words you learned, and make sure that you understood the story well. If you’re struggling, read the story again and take notes as you read.
- Take breaks: Just because these stories are short, doesn’t mean you need to read them in one sitting! If you find it hard to focus or you’re struggling to understand the story, take a break. It’s okay to read it one paragraph at a time.
I hope you have fun with these English short stories while improving your English language skills.
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials , as you can see here:
If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store .
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How to build your own custom ChatGPT with OpenAI's GPT builder
Now, that's small potatoes. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, recently released a way for anyone to create their own version of ChatGPT. They're calling them GPTs, and you can build one, catered to your company or personal goals, in a matter of minutes.
Here's how to build your own custom ChatGPT using OpenAI's GPT builder.
Note: Building a custom GPT is currently available only to ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise users.
Table of contents:
What are GPTs?
How to build your own custom ChatGPT
How to edit your custom chatbot, what are gpts .
GPTs are custom versions of ChatGPT created by OpenAI users. All you have to do is tell the GPT builder, in plain English, what you want to create, and the builder will take it from there.
Here's what the GPT builder suggested when I asked it to create a chatbot that shares only fun facts about otters.
You can also configure your GPT to browse the web, generate images using DALLE·3 , and run code.
While users with a ChatGPT Plus or Enterprise account can already customize ChatGPT responses with custom instructions , the GPT builder takes things a step further in two notable ways:
Create multiple custom GPTs. There are no limits to how many GPTs you can build, making it easy to toggle between chatbots and get the right kind of AI-powered support for the occasion. Custom instructions, on the other hand, limit you to one set of instructions per user.
Upload knowledge source files. Instead of copying and pasting text from every resource you want ChatGPT to consider when generating a response, you can upload knowledge files directly to your GPT builder, and it'll take care of the rest.
Note: As part of OpenAI's privacy controls , you can opt your account out of model training. This means OpenAI won't be able to access anything containing sensitive information, like your chat history and knowledge files, to train their models. But as with any generative AI, there's always a risk of data breaches , and ways for people to get access to your knowledge sources, so be careful about what you upload in the early days of this feature.
Here's the short version of how to build your own custom ChatGPT using OpenAI's GPT builder.
Go to chat.openai.com and log in.
In the sidebar, click Explore .
Click Create a GPT .
Enter your instructions in the message box of the Create page. Chat with the GPT builder until you get the results you want.
Click Configure to add advanced customizations to your AI assistant. For example, you can change your chatbot's name, further refine the instructions, upload knowledge files, and set up actions.
Click Save , and select how you want to share your custom GPT.
Click Confirm .
Now let's take a closer look at the finer details of using GPTs.
1. Log in to your OpenAI account
Before you get started, you must have a ChatGPT Plus or Enterprise account. Already have the required account type? Click Log in to start chatting.
If you're having trouble logging in, your best bet is to reload your page. For specific login issues, check out OpenAI's troubleshooting tips .
2. Create your GPT
The GPT builder will display a split screen: the Create panel is where you enter your prompts to build your chatbot; the Preview panel allows you to interact with your chatbot as you build, making it easier to determine how to refine it.
Enter your instructions in the message box of the Create page, and then press Enter or Return .
The GPT builder will then suggest a few things based on your instructions: a chatbot name, profile picture, and default conversation starters.
You can accept the initial suggestions or ask the GPT builder to modify them. If you accept the initial suggestions, you can always modify them later on.
The GPT builder will prompt you to enter more specific instructions to finetune your chatbot's behavior.
If you're not sure how you want to modify your chatbot's behavior, that's ok. My suggestion is to test your chatbot in the Preview panel—interact with it how you normally would—and use its responses to inform your modifications. For example, if your chatbot generates lengthy responses, you might tell the builder to keep the responses short. Or if the chatbot produces facts without citing its sources, you can tell it to always cite its sources.
Continue to refine your prompts until your chatbot starts to return the kinds of responses you want your final chatbot to generate.
3. Configure your GPT
Now that you've set up the basics, you can further customize your GPT with advanced settings.
If you want, you can change your chatbot's name and description as you normally would. Here's how to modify the other advanced settings:
Profile picture . Click the profile picture. You can upload your own photo or use DALLE·3 to automatically generate a new one. If you want to specify what kind of image DALLE·3 should create, click Create , and enter your instructions.
Instructions. Update the instructions generated by the GPT builder, or enter additional instructions or guidelines on how your chatbot should or shouldn't behave.
Conversation starters . Click X beside any prompt to remove it. Or enter a new prompt in an empty Conversation starters field.
Knowledge . Want your chatbot to rely on your company's style guide to draft its responses? Or maybe you want it to scan through PDFs of customer personas to give it additional context. Click Upload files , and add any relevant files for it to reference.
It's worth mentioning that my chatbot didn't consistently refer to the guide I uploaded to teach it how to write alternative text. But this could be because I need to write clearer prompts in my GPT instructions. Tinker with it until it's using your uploaded documents in the way you intended.
Capabilities . By default, your chatbot can browse the web and create AI-generated images. If you also want it to run code or analyze data, click Code Interpreter .
Actions. If you want your chatbot to retrieve external information or take actions outside of the ChatGPT platform, click Add Actions . Here you can specify how you want your chatbot to use any third-party APIs.
With AI Actions by Zapier , for example, you can connect your custom GPT with thousands of other apps. This way, you can take action in apps like Slack, Google Calendar, and Notion—all from within ChatGPT's interface. To do this, follow the instructions from Zapier .
If you want some of the same functionality of GPTs but in your other apps, Zapier's ChatGPT integration lets you write and execute code, analyze data on CSVs, and even get questions answered based on your documents—straight from the apps you use most. Learn more about how to automate ChatGPT with Zapier .
4. Save your GPT
Once you're happy with your chatbot, click Save . (If you already created your custom GPT and are publishing changes to it, click Update .)
Select who you want to share your custom chatbot with: Only me , Only people with a link , or Public . If you're on an Enterprise plan, you'll also have Anyone at [your company] as an option.
Click Confirm .
ChatGPT, along with any custom GPTs you build, will appear in the side panel of the ChatGPT home page. Click the GPT you want to use and interact with it the way you normally would.
Here's the custom chatbot I created to write alternative text descriptions for an image used in a Zapier blog article.
Of course, since the GPT builder is in beta—and because ChatGPT has a tendency to hallucinate —it's always a good idea to confirm the accuracy of your custom GPT's responses.
6. Share your GPT
If you made your custom GPT available to others, here's the easiest way to share your chatbot.
Click the GPT you want to share.
Click Copy link .
Paste and share the link as you normally would.
Despite how intuitive it feels to click the pencil icon next to your custom chatbot in the side panel of ChatGPT so that you can edit your chatbot, clicking that will only cause disappointment—I mean, let you start a new chat. Here's how to edit your custom chatbot.
Click Edit next to the GPT you want to modify.
Update your GPT settings.
Click Update , then click Confirm .
And here's how to delete a custom GPT.
In the sidebar, click Explore .
Next to the GPT you want to delete, click the More icon, which looks like an ellipsis ( ... ).
Click Delete GPT .
In the confirmation window, click Delete GPT .
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have serious business to get back to—which is absolutely not code for I'm going to continue to refine my very important Otterly Fascinating chatbot.
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How to use Zapier's ChatGPT plugin
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Jessica Lau is a senior content specialist at Zapier. Outside of writing, she likes to snuggle her dogs, and provide unsolicited podcast and book recommendations.
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Why Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ Went Viral on TikTok
T wo decades ago, Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader behind 9/11 , laid out his attempted justification for the terror attack against the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people in his “Letter to America.”
This week, that same letter went viral on TikTok among a new generation, many of whom are debating the Israel-Hamas war and the role played by the U.S. For some, a big part of bin Laden’s justification—American support for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in what the U.N. deems a violation of international law —resonates with what’s going on now in the Middle East, leading them to renew calls for a Gaza ceasefire .
In one video (which was still live on the app as of Thursday afternoon) with more than 900,000 views, a TikToker made the claim that “everything we learned about the Middle East, 9/11, and ‘terrorism’ was a lie.” Others on social media have criticized the videos as sympathizing with terrorists and legitimizing violence.
In a statement posted on X Thursday, TikTok said, “Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism. We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.”
The company also says that the content did not reflect a widespread trend, but rather a few posts on the platform. “The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate. This is not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”
More From TIME
Views on videos shared with the hashtag #lettertoamerica had over 14 million views on Thursday, CNN reported , but as of Thursday afternoon the phrase could not be searched on the app due to guideline violations.
This isn't the first time TikTok has faced controversy for what's been shared on the app. The company has responded to Republican criticism that the platform was biased toward pro-Palestinian content by pointing to polling that shows younger people are more sympathetic to Palestinians.
While tens of thousands of people recently publicly showed their support for Israel in the U.S. and condemned anti-Semitisim in France , hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in pro-Palestinian protests around the world, calling for a ceasefire to protect civilians in Gaza, since the start of the war on Oct. 7.
Bin Laden’s letter appeared to go viral after TikTokers found a translated copy published by The Guardian in 2002, although the news site removed the letter on Nov. 15.
The Guardian told TIME in an emailed statement on Nov. 16 that after the transcript was widely shared on social media without the full context “we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualized it instead.”
The letter argues a justification for the killing of civilians, referencing reports of American and other government-sponsored violence against Muslims in the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Chechnya , Kashmir and Lebanon , and economic sanctions in Iraq that left people hungry.
The letter also accuses the U.S. of hypocrisy for allowing Israel to occupy Palestinian territories for decades in disregard of United Nations’ law and for violating its own law by imprisoning people in Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials .
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Write to Simmone Shah at [email protected]