“For me, writing a short story is much, much harder than writing a novel.”-Lynn Abbey

The article is much more than just talking about how to write a short story. Writing short stories is a much more complex task as compared to writing novels. I agree that writing a gripping short story can be a daunting task. But somehow I love to write short stories as much as novels. Before we take a look on how we can write a gripping short story, it’s important to understand what makes it different from a novel.

Word length-

A typical novel can be anywhere around 30,000- 50,000 words. But a short story as the name implies is short! A traditional short story such as written by Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy would lie between 5,000-10,000 words. However, I and my writer friends prefer to write much shorter stories. The reason behind it is gripping readers’ attention with crispier words and bolder expression.

Generate an idea- Before starting the actual process of writing, a writer needs to have an idea to work upon. There are several ways of generating an idea. Here are a few of my favorites-

  • Travel– A small café in the neighbourhood or a visit to a mall would also do the trick. You don’t have to go on an exotic vacation or a retreat to make an idea pop up. Make a point to carry a pen and a notepad and write down pointers as you sip your latte and observe your surroundings while listening to Linkin Park in the background. A change in the scenery stimulates our minds and can prove to be extremely if one is facing writer’s blocks or wants to click upon a new idea.
  • Listen to music– Provided it’s an instrumental track. I find lyrics hindering with my thought process and hence I avoid listening to lyrical music. I tune into a piano or a violin track and mix it up with EDM depending upon the mood of the story. You can check out my Spotify playlist for some inspiration.
  • Watch a movie– Movies like Little Women and London Fields prove to be wonderful for finding inspiration for writing a new short story. Their protagonist is a writer and the process he/she goes through left me in complete awe. You can also find inspiration for your character or story setting through Netflix shows.


Lets’ come to the main agenda. The four steps I follow to write a short story-

  1. Summarize your story in 1 line-After finalizing your idea now is the time to put it on paper. Try and write it in one sentence . Example- I fought the demons through hell only to find I was trapped till eternity. When you write a complete story in a sentence you get to know the start, the end and every loophole that might be there in the middle.
  2. Decide your character’s importance/traits– A short story generally focuses only on one aspect of the character’s life. As a writer, I try to make it as exciting as possible. Due to a constricted word limit, I cannot write much about the character’s background hence, it’s important to show the traits rather than telling. Example- He was a predator who was always hungry. Like a wolf he growled and then attacked his prey. It’s important to make your readers aware about the characteristics of your characters in a bold manner, using fewer words packed with expression.
  3. Story theme– After summarizing your short story and deciding upon whether your main character is a protagonist or an antagonist, it’ll be easier for you to determine the theme of your story. It might be a fantasy mixed with romance or suspense with an element of horror or something entirely different.
  4. Advanced outlining– After getting a general idea of how you want to write your short story it’s time to outline it at an advanced level. I usually add fillers as I proceed writing my own. If you want a general idea how my short stories are like you can click here. Advanced outlining means elaborating the scenes, writing dialogues as and when required and narration. I usually write very few dialogues or skip them altogether because I don’t want to waste words on them.

After following the four steps mentioned above, I am able to write my short stories in a more natural flow with lesser hurdles and blocks. You may add more steps or modify these as per your convenience. I do hope that you’ll be able to write your short story in a better manner if you decide to take up these steps.

Drop a comment if you like this article and subscribe for future posts.