Elements and Characteristics of Short Stories
Short stories tend to be less complex than novels. Usually, a short story will
focus on only one incident, has a single plot, a single setting, a limited
number of characters, and covers a short period of time.
In longer forms of fiction, stories tend to contain certain core elements of
dramatic structure: exposition (the introduction of setting, situation and
main characters); complication (the event of the story that introduces the
conflict); rising action, crisis (the decisive moment for the protagonist and
their commitment to a course of action); climax (the point of highest
interest in terms of the conflict and the point of the story with the most
action); resolution (the point of the story when the conflict is resolved); and
Because of their short length, short stories may or may not follow this
pattern. Some do not follow patterns at all. For example, modern short
stories only occasionally have an exposition. More typical, though, is an
abrupt beginning, with the story starting in the middle of the action. As
with longer stories, plots of short stories also have a climax, crisis, or
turning-point. However, the endings of many short stories are abrupt and
open and may or may not have a moral or practical lesson.
Of course, as with any art form, the exact characteristics of a short story
will vary by author.
Determining what exactly separates a short story from longer fictional
formats is problematic. A classic definition of a short story is that one
should be able to be read it in one sitting, a point most notably made in
Edgar Allan Poe's essay "The Philosophy of Composition" (1846). Other
definitions place the maximum word length at 7,500 words. In
contemporary usage, the term short story most often refers to a work of
fiction no longer than 20,000 words and no shorter than 1,000.
Short Story Structure
• Create a narrative lead:
o show the main character in action,