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5 Key Elements of a Short Story

Short stories are possibly the most difficult type of fiction to write. You have very limited words to bring about change in your characters. There’s not a lot of room for fluff. If you like to write short stories, you may be missing important pieces of the puzzle. Did you know there are 5 different key elements that every short story should have? There are! Read on and find out what those 5 key elements to a short story are and how using each one properly can help your short stories go from great to phenomenal!


The characters answer the question ‘Who?’. A character can be a person, an animal, or another thing that is alive and takes part in the action of the story. This is a short story, so there is not a lot of time for telling your character’s backstory or having flashbacks to childhood. Tell the reader what they need to know when they need to know it and move on. But at the same time, you need to build a character the reader can relate to and become invested in so they will be compelled to read the story to the end to find out what happens to the characters.


Setting answers the questions ‘When?’ and ‘Where?’. A short story’s setting is the place and time in which the action takes place. This can include scenery, buildings, landscape, weather, seasons, or other time and environment elements. Don’t spend a lot of time on scenery if it’s not crucial to the story. Short stories are short by name, so don’t make them longer than they need to be by describing every book on the shelf in the living room.


Conflict brings an answer to the question ‘Why?’. Conflict is the struggle between two (or more) people or things in the story. The conflict usually involves the main character as representing one side of the conflict. On the other side of the conflict, is the other part of the struggle. This can be another character, the forces of nature, a character’s inner turmoil, or something else. In a short story, there isn’t a lot of time to hem and haw around with character musings, describing scenery, or getting artsy with your prose. Get to the point of the conflict sooner rather than later. Don’t keep your reader waiting.


Plot answers the question ‘What?’. Plot is the series of events and actions that move the central conflict along. In a short story, every sentence, paragraph, and word should move the reader closer to the conclusion of the story. If it doesn’t carry the story forward, don’t put it in.


Theme is central idea of the story. Don’t get creative or philosophical here. Have the theme in mind, and work it in naturally. Don’t shove it in where it doesn’t fit. The theme also helps you identify what the purpose of your story is. It might be helpful to write your theme on an index card and keep it next to your writing space so you can see it and be reminded as you work what the point of it all is.  It could be a moral, lesson, or other important message. Whatever it is, don’t go down a rabbit trail with stuff that doesn’t matter.

In Summary

In grade school, we all learned the basics of writing a story. Answer the 5 W’s. Right? Who, What, When, Where, and Why. The theme is just icing on the cake. Most fans of short stories like to read a story in one sitting. Short stories are usually under 5,000 words long. That’s not a lot of words to display character development. Keep it short, simple, and powerful. Good luck!



What are your tips for writing a short story? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Crush It With Kindle – John Tighe

Crush it With Kindle

Book Title: Crush it With Kindle
Author: John Tighe
Format: eBook
Series: N/A
Volume: N/A
Length: 253 Pages
Publication Date: December 18, 2012
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Summary: John Tighe has put together a great little book for writers seeking to be successful selling their books in eBook format for Kindle. It includes monetizing Kindle books, choosing between niche and genre, how to write your book quickly, how to conduct research, writing your book, editing, and much more.

Pros: It’s very inclusive of the information needed to be successful on Amazon with Kindle eBooks. I especially enjoyed the parts about marketing your book and the book launch itself. Tighe gives tips on advertising, keyword research and usage, attention grabbing titles, why it’s important to use sub-titles, Amazon categories, and much more. It’s all useful information.

Cons: Some parts of the book were discouraging for me. Although they may have been honest, I felt there could be other ways to do what was being described. For example, Tighe recommends getting reviews for your book before you do the official launch. This would include giving away a free review copy of the book to someone in return for a review. I appreciate the fact that Tighe didn’t recommend making up reviews! However, this seems a daunting task as do other tasks in the book. Like I said, however, it may be the truth of it in which case it needs to be said.

Reader Warnings: None

Conclusion: This is a great book for anyone thinking about publishing eBooks on Amazon for Kindle. You can borrow it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Guided Writing Prompt Exercise: Open a Book at Random

Hi Everyone! This post is meant to get you writing! So stop whatever it is you’re doing (unless it’s important, like if you’re in the bathroom or something) and get ready to write!

For this exercise, you’re going to need a book, something to write on, something to write with, and a timer. I’ll discuss each in detail below. If you don’t have a book handy to use, you can use the same prompt I’m going to use. I’ll give it to you in just a minute.

The Book

It can be fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t really matter. However, if your goal is to write fiction, this exercise usually works better if you get a fiction book, if your goal is non-fiction, pick up a non-fiction book, if your goal is poetry, you get the idea.

Writing Materials

Sometimes I use my iPad to write with, sometimes I use my laptop, and other times I use paper and pen. I know, weird. But some people do still use paper and pen when they write. Don’t judge me. Just use whatever is best for you.


You will need a timer to use for the writing exercise. I use a timer on my phone, but you can use a kitchen timer or any other timer you have. If you don’t have anything to use as a timer, you can do the Guided Writing Prompt Exercise along with me in the YouTube video and I’ll time 2 minutes of writing for you.


So, what we’re going to do is just open the book at random and point to a line on the open page. The line we pick will be our writing prompt. You don’t want to use the actual line, word for word, in your writing. That would be plagiarizing. The line should give you an idea, paint a scene, or maybe introduce a character to you that you can use in your piece.

Without further ado, let’s get our line. The book I’m using is called ‘The Mists of Avalon’ by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I randomly open the book and put my finger on a line that reads,

“Gwenhwyfar was weary of the feasting.”

You can use the same line I’m using, or you can use your own book and find your own line to use. Now that you have a prompt, set your timer for a period of time you want to write for. I usually do writing exercises for 15 minutes at a time. If you do the Guided Writing Prompt YouTube video, you’ll write for 2 minutes. You can also pause the video and write for as long as you want and then skip to the end of the video. Whatever your choice, set your timer and get ready to write.

(If you have a writing program like Write or Die, you can use the software to write in as well as time yourself.)

I wrote for two minutes filming the accompanying YouTube video and I’ll post my results in the comments for this post. When your timer goes off, come back here and post your work! If you don’t want the general public to read your piece, email it to me. I’d love to read it! Ready? Go!

Happy Writing!


Here’s what I wrote from this prompt in 2 minutes:
Gwenhwyfar sat at the head table, in front of friends and family and people she didn’t have any idea who they were. They were all stuffing their faces, talking and yelling and laughing loudly. Ale flowed and dogs crept under the tables to catch any food that was dropped. Grease and food dripped from gaping mouths and Gwenhwyfar felt her stomach roll as her eyes revolted at the sight of the gorging. Her betrothed, Prince Arwyn, was more mannered than the rest, but he still turned her stomach with the way he chomped and chewed, food sticking out of the corner of his mouth. She thought it disgusting and vulgar, but she was stuck with him.

Book Review Video for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Hey Everyone!

Happy Saturday! I hope you’re spending today with a nice cup of coffee or tea and a GOOD BOOK! If you haven’t read Gone Girl yet, here’s a new video I just made to review the book for you. As usual, my book review includes a summary, pros, cons, reader warnings, and book stats. I also posted a full article Book Review a little while ago you can check out for additional information.

If you read Gone Girl, let me know what you thought in the comments below or comment on the Video.

Happy Reading!
~ Eileen 🙂

YouTube Book Review Video for Gone Girl

Full Article Book Review for Gone Girl