Tips for writing short stories, Part 3

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In this final installment of our short story seminar, iUniverse discusses the formula behind an effective short story and also provides a reading list of exemplary tales.

short stories

The House of Usher

Formula. The formula for composing a good short story is based on a linear chronology. This differs from epics, which often begin in medias res, i.e. in the middle of the action, as well as from many novels. The short story, because of its brevity, does not permit a non-linear storyline.

As for the formula itself, here are the components:

  • Exposition: a fancy word for the early part of a story where you introduce characters and setting
  • Conflict: the first sign of a problem or issue that has to be dealt with
  • Rising action: the tangible steps taken to resolve the issue
  • Climax: the point where the above steps reach a high point that faces the issue
  • Plot resolution: also called the denouement, this is the part where we see what effect the climax had on the problems or challenges faced in the story

Now, iUniverse provides some examples of writers and short stories. While you may have read them before, try to read them again and focus on how they observe the guidelines mentioned in this series.

Washington Irving: The Devil and Tom Walker, Rip Van Winkle

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher, The Telltale Heart

Somerset Maugham: The Vessel of Wrath, A Friend in Need, The Letter, The Outstation

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Speckled Band, The Dancing Men, The Blue Carbuncle

Alice Walker, Everyday Use

Kate Chopin, The Story of an Hour

PG Wodehouse, Uncle Fred Flits By

Thomas Hardy, The Withered Arm

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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