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A Guide to Writing Short Stories

In the composition section there will be an option to demonstrate narrative writing by composing a short story on a given topic. A quotation from one of the texts on paper one will inspire it but you must focus on the task given rather than the quotation.

Composing a coherent short story in 70 minutes in an exam is very challenging and I would only recommend students who are enthusiastic creative writers to take it on. If you do think the short story might be the option for you then you need to practice writing them on a range of topics.

SHOW don't TELL.

The most important thing to remember is to show your story rather than to tell your story. What's the difference between the two? Well, "telling" is the dependence on simple explanation: Margaret was an old woman. "Showing," on the other hand, is the use of evocative description: Margaret moved slowly down the hall, her stooped form supported by a curved wooden cane gripped in a gnarled hand covered with translucent, liver-spotted skin.

Why is showing better? Two reasons. First, it creates mental pictures for the reader. When reviewers use terms like "vivid," "evocative," or "cinematic" to describe a piece of prose, they really mean the writer has succeeded at showing, rather than merely telling.

Second, showing is interactive and participatory: it forces the reader to become involved in the story, deducing facts (such as Margaret's age) for himself or herself, rather than just taking information in passively. Simply - it is more enjoyable for the reader.

Structuring your Short Story

Short Stories generally adhere to the following structure:

Exposition ➜ Development ➜ Crisis ➜ Climax ➜ Resolution

1.Exposition (Introduction):

Establishing setting and characters - create a specific space and time.

a.Describe the place where your story begins.

b.What is life like for people there?

c.Give the year/month/season/time of day or night.

d.Who are your main characters? Give them names.

e.Raise questions for your reader.


Develop the plot with some of the following options:

a.A problem to solve

b.Conflict between characters

c.A quest

d.Have your characters grow or develop in some way.

3.Crisis (Trigger):

Shake-up your story with something surprising…

a.An event out of the control of the protagonist

b.Reveal some interesting facts about your characters so the reader cares about them in some way.


Build up the tension to a dramatic climax

a.Force main characters to make a critical choice

b.This is the highest point of drama in the story

5.Resolution (The hard bit!)

Bring the story to an end with a satisfactory resolution:

c.Have a reversal in the fortune of the main characters

d.Resolve conflict or problem

e.Give the reader a sense of a proper ending

f.Have a surprising twist that catches the reader off guard.

Irish Independent