iUniverse presents tips for writing short stories

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iUniverse loves a good short story. While short stories traditionally do not sell as well as novels, the short story is very important as a concise way of showcasing a writer’s craft. In this digital age, it also serves as an efficient marketing tool. A great short story can be passed around over the Internet to attract new readers. So here’s some advice from iUniverse on how to write an excellent short tale.

short stories

A poster for the film version of Maugham’s “The Vessel of Wrath”

Length. A short story should be 4,000 words or less. In number of pages, that equates to approximately ten pages, single-spaced. This number is more of a guide than a requisite, but make sure not to exceed this number by too many words.


  • The number of characters in a short story should be kept to a minimum. Any non-essential characters should not be included. Characters who mainly serve a brief and inconsequential function should not be named. At most, there can be three main characters.
  • Descriptions: keep character descriptions short – one sentence will do. Saying that Bob was “six-foot-four and had strong Slavic features” will be enough. Give the audience a maximum of two characteristics, and even less for minor characters. We don’t need Dickensian descriptions of how people look and what they wear – save those for your novel!
  • Character development: the short story genre does not allow much room for this, and bear in mind that any development of a character will be quick. Development should only be shown in one character, while others can simply act differently. Somerset Maugham’s “The Vessel of Wrath” serves as a good example of a main character changing dramatically while the others just show different sides to their personalities.


Make sure to check out the iUniverse site for more advice and blogs, as well as iUniverse Facebook and iUniverse Twitter.



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