Short Story Assignment

We will begin many short stories in class. Write many rough drafts, collect ideas and revise stories in your journal. Remember that the more drafts you have the more likely you are to have a short story worth revising. Complete at least one revised short story by the due date.

Elements of a Story: Setting, Characters, Point of View, Conflict/Problem/ Crisis, Plot, Climax & Resolution.

The Emotional Arc: In most stories, there’s a narrative arc and an emotional arc. The narrative arc is what happens–one thing leading to another–a series of scenes that crash together and lead to some sort of rousing climax. The emotional arc is how the character transforms as a result of the narrative.” From “Spilling Blood” Benjamin Percy & Aaron Gwyn.

Suggestions: Limit your stories to keep them short. Present only one problem or conflict. Use no more than one or two scenes, two or three characters, a single point of view and a time period of twenty-four hours or less. You build a story with Action, Description and Dialogue. Don’t neglect any technique.

Short Story Starters

Start with a dialogue. (“Perfect Day for Banana Fish”, “Mikey’s Not Home”)

Begin with a scene. (Postcard story, Cannery Row)

Follow a form. (“In the Current”)

Take characteristics from an excellent story and write your own. (“Reunion”)

Begin with a character. (“Thank You M’am”, “Passing Time with the Master”)

Start with a personal story and fictionalize. (“Nicky Z” “Born Bad”)

Fictionalize a story from a newspaper article.

Begin with an interesting voice and write in second person (“Orientation”)


Prewriting: Analyze short stories you like for ideas and techniques. Collect moments, dialogues, newspaper stories and interesting problems in your journal.

Drafting: Write many short story starts in your journal.

Conferring: Share drafts with friends and classmates even before we confer in class. We are writing for an audience, so your story must work for someone beside the author. Use the in-class conferences to help you with specific problems.

Revising: Start early so you have plenty of time to revise. Remember to revise for one or two things at a time.

Editing: Remember to address any mechanical problems at the end. Don’t forget that any energy the reader uses tending to mechanical problems distracts from your story.

Length: One and a half to three typed pages double-spaced.

Due Date: January 5 (Rough Draft Due: December 22)