Short Stories:  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






#1  PLOT

•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 – heightened anticipation for the reader

•Climax - highest point of anticipation - “make or break” for the main character.

•Falling action  and Conclusion.   These two are also known as a denouement.


Short stories usually have properties like the following:

•Dramatic conflict.  Usually the basis of the story.  Source of the problems which may or may not be overcome in the climax.

•Foreshadowing.  May be used to leave clues in the story to lure readers to try to predict the ending.

•Repetition.  At the least, it helps drive home a point. It can also be used to create other literary devices.

•Suspense. Draws readers to the work.



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 is writer is that you feel indifferent toward the characters.If we don’t 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.

•Author’s 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 story teller had no inner sight into the character’s thinking or behaviour.

•Multiple story tellers (3rd. Person).


#4  Theme

The total meaning of the story.  IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TIED UP IN A SIMPLE MORAL. In many cases, stories are packages that allow readers to see the outcomes of certain behaviours. Without a theme, 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 refutation of a traditional theme.