Short Story Characteristics


-- Short - Can usually be read in one sitting.

-- Concise - Information offered in the story is relevant to the tale being told.This is unlike a novel, where the story can diverge from the main plot

-- Usually tries to leave behind a single impression or effect.Usually, though not always built around one character, place, idea, or act.

-- Because they are concise, writers depend on the reader bringing personal experiences and prior knowledge to the story.




Four Major components of the Short Story








Plot is the action that takes place in the story.It is a series of connected happenings and their result.In order to have a result, we must have an initial event, or conflict.


Stages of a Plot

-- Introduction of characters

-- The situation:Initial conflict

-- The generating circumstances, which create a

-- Rising action Ė heightened anticipation for the reader

-- Climax

-- falling action and Conclusion.†† These two are also known as a denouement.


Short stories usually have:

-- Dramatic conflict (this is usually the basis of the story).The source of the problems may or may not be overcome in the climax.

-- Foreshadowing.Many stories, despite their surprise ending, have left clues through the story.

-- Repetition.Helps drive home a point.

-- Suspense. Draws readers to the work.



Setting is the background against which the incidents of the story take place.Not merely a place, it includes the place where, the time when, and social conditions under which the story moves along.


This can include atmosphere , the tone and feeling of a story, i.e. gloomy, cheery, etc.


In one form or another, setting is essential to the story.Often, the relevance of the story is lost in another setting.



There must be living beings in the story that think or act in order to keep the story going.They must seem like living and feeling individuals in order for us to feel strongly about them.



The worst thing that could happen for the writer is that you feel indifferent toward the characters. If we donít care for the characters, we are not inclined to keep reading.




Actions or thoughts of the character

-- Conversations the character engages in

-- Conversations of other characters about a third character

-- Authorís own opinion.This might be overt, or may be implied.


Points of View: Presentation of a Story

-- Author Omniscient (all knowing, all seeing).This is a third person point of view.The omniscient author, writing in third person, sees whatever he wants to see, inside or outside his character, in privacy or public, and interprets as he chooses.

-- Author participant (first person).The author may be the main character, or could be a secondary character.

-- Author as an observer (3rd, person).Involves objective treatment, as though the storyteller had no inner sight into the characterís thinking or behavior.

-- Multiple storytellers (3rd. Person).



The theme is the total meaning of the story.IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TIED UP IN A SIMPLE MORAL.Without it, the story lacks meaning or purpose.


Sometimes the theme is stated, sometimes it is only implied.In other stories, the theme may be a direct negation of a traditional theme.

taken and revised from