Short Stories

Presented by Starla Kaye

The Art of Writing Short Stories

Word Lengths and Definitions for Short Stories

Micro: Up to 100 words; very abbreviated story and difficult to write

Flash: 100-1,000 words; the type found in magazines to fill one page

Short-Short: 1,000-2,500 words; usually found in periodicals or anthology collections

Short: 2,500-7,500 words

Novellette: 7,500-20,000 words

Tips for Writing a Short Story Sources:;

Title for the Story:

* Take time to craft a strong title.

* Note words or phrases from the story and determine which might work for a good title.

* Stay away from one or two word titles, as they seem to be taking the easy way out.

Basic Plan for the Story:

* The story can arise from an event, conflict, or situation.

* Present problems that can occur.

* Show how the problems can be solved.

Theme for the Story:

* Start with a message or thread of meaning to run through the story.

* Make sure every word is related to the theme, excessive words dilute the impact of the story.

Time Span for the Story:

* Because of the short length, the time span must be very short.

* Have the time span be a single event, a single day, or a single hour.

Setting for the Story:

* Choose the setting carefully.

* Appeal to the five senses to make the setting more real.

Characters in the Story:

* Try to have no more than three main characters in a short story, better to have one or two.

* Stick to one POV (Point Of View).

* Do not give detailed character background; keep character description to no more than one single paragraph.

* Use only the characteristics that are most important for the story’s theme.

Dialogue in the Story:

* It must contribute to the main story focus.

Plot in the Story:

* Begin with a hook in the first paragraph that makes the reader want to know what happens next.

* There must be a beginning, a middle, and an end.

* Do not take too much time for build-up so that the climax ends up being only one sentence.

* Complications and conflicts should be only minor because of the story length.


A Special Night

by Starla Criser, from Timeless Love anthology © 2012

Ted glanced with frustration out the picture window in the living room. Dark clouds tumbled across the sky as they had done for most of the day. They had spit snow off and on as well. If any night was made for staying in where it was warm and toasty, it was this one. His seventy-five-year-old body wasn’t really up to getting out in this mess.

He shoved the thought aside and yelled, “Are you coming, Marie? It’s almost five o’clock.” Not that it was such a late hour, unless you were used to settling in for the night about now.

“What’s your hurry, old man?” his cherished wife called back, using the “endearment” she used when he tested her patience. He smiled fondly at the notion. They’d tested each other’s patience for a whole lot of years and he hoped to be doing that for a whole lot more.

“Just dab on your lipstick and let’s go.” He knew she’d be rolling her eyes at him for that.

Any other night Ted would just as soon have stayed home, tucked into his well-worn recliner, TV tuned to whatever ballgame was on that day. But tonight was different. When Marie had gone next door to visit their neighbor earlier, he’d set the TV to record and called Trombolli’s Restaurant, the best Italian food in town. He’d even arranged for one of their special corner tables. He was darn proud of himself for all of it too. Mr. Romantic, he was not. Today was different, though.

He glanced anxiously at his watch. “Marie, get a move on!”

She stepped into the living room doorway. “Usually I have to practically drag you kicking and screaming out any time after three in the afternoon.” Her expression mirrored confusion. “What’s up with you? Not that I’m opposed to going out.”

Patience. A man had to have patience with a woman, and didn’t he know that well after all these years. “What’s to understand? I said we’re going out tonight and we are. Now, get your coat and hat. It’s cold outside.”

The urge to question him more flashed across her time-wrinkled face. A face he loved to look at any time of any day. He didn’t even really notice the wrinkles she complained about. All he saw was the woman he’d married fifty years ago, the one who still took his breath away.

She shook her head, smiled in resignation, and moved to where he had her black leather coat with the big fur collar that she loved so much draped on the arm of the sofa. For a second, he missed the woman who had once seemed to challenge him over every little thing. Her spirited Italian temper had mellowed over the years, especially this last year. She’d started forgetting things more too. Her health had gone downhill as well. His heart ached with the knowledge that they might not have a lot of time left together.

He blinked away the moisture burning his eyes. “Here, let me help you, Sweet Marie,” he said gruffly. He cleared his throat so she wouldn’t suspect he was feeling emotional.

Independent woman that she still was at times, she waved him off. “I can put a coat on by myself, thank you very much. So leave me be, you old fool.” She struggled into the coat, watching him with filmy eyes burdened with cataracts that needed to be taken care of.

Ted forced himself to keep his distance. She needed this independence more than she needed his help. He knew all too soon there would be a time when it would be different. Again, he blinked back tears. Old fool is right. He didn’t want to think about any of that getting-older business today.

As she reached for the crazy knitted hat she’d made years ago, one he thought pitiful looking, he pulled on his own coat. She tugged the multi-colored hat down over her ears. It made her reddish-blondish-whitish hair flip up all around the lower edge of the hat. He planted the worn leather cabby-style hat she’d given him for his fortieth birthday on his balding head. He guessed his hat was in as sorry a shape as hers, but he wouldn’t give it up either.

“Okay, I’m ready,” she said at last, all bundled up and looking curious. “Where did you say we’re going?”

“Didn’t say and you know it.” His glance shifted down and he noticed she still had on her house slippers. She’d forgotten again. That pinch of pain around his heart squeezed harder.

“Just a minute.” He hurried off to the bedroom for her dress shoes.

When he returned with them, she merely smiled and let him exchange her slippers for the sturdy shoes. She didn’t even question why he did it.

He stood, his ancient bones creaking with the movement from having bent over. Swallowing back a lump in his throat, he gently took her small hand and led her out of the house.

“Are we going to Patricia’s? We haven’t seen the grandkids in ages,” she said as he helped her into the car in the garage.

Ted hesitated to answer. They’d seen their oldest daughter and her kids just last weekend. Last week, today, tomorrow, ten years ago. Time didn’t really matter much in Marie’s world anymore. With a sigh, he decided to tell her exactly where they were going.

“I’m taking you to Trombolli’s.”

Her forehead furrowed a second and she nodded. He walked with a heavy heart around to the driver’s side of the twenty-year-old Chevy Impala he wouldn’t trade for any fancy new car. Like his precious wife, it was a keeper.

When he eased onto the driver’s seat, Marie glanced at him uncertainly. “Today is special, isn’t it?” She worried her lower lip and focused on her age-spotted hands folded in her lap. “I should know, shouldn’t I?”

Fifty years today. Yes, she should know what today meant. Birthdays and anniversaries had once meant so much to her. Now they were just a blur, an unknown.

He swallowed down that irritating lump in his throat again. “It’s a special night because I’m taking my Sweet Marie out to her favorite restaurant, that’s all.” Never would he tell her the truth. It would make her sad that she didn’t remember, and that’s just what he’d told their family. He wanted her to be happy. As happy as she could be for whatever time she had left with him.

“Oh, but it’s so expensive. Maybe we should stay home. I could make us dinner.”

He reached over to stop her protest by putting a finger gently to her thin lips. “Nothing’s too expensive for my wife.” He blinked back those foolish tears once more. “Now, buckle up.”

Before he could pull his finger away, she caught his hand, turned it, and whispered a kiss against his shaking hand. “You’re a good husband and I love you so.”

“Not half as much as I love you, old woman.” He smiled at her and meant every word.


Short Story Analysis

A Special Night from TIMELESS LOVE

Length and Type: 1,180 words, short-short story

Title: A Special Night, which ties to the theme of the story

Basic Plan:

* The story arises from an event – the special night Ted has planned for his wife.

* Problems that occur – Both are elderly, with less energy; testing each other’s patience; dealing with the life-altering changes of personality change and dementia

* How problem can be solved – Patience out of his love for his wife

Theme: Proving his love for his wife no matter the problems he must face

Time Span: One night

Setting: The home of Ted and Marie

Characters: Ted and Marie, husband and wife

Dialogue: Hints of frustration, determination, patience, love


* Hook – Ted glanced with frustration out the picture window in the living room. Dark clouds tumbled across the sky as they had done for most of the day. They had spit snow off and on as well. If any night was made for staying in where it was warm and toasty, it was this one. His seventy-five-year-old body wasn’t really up to getting out in this mess.

* Complications – Her confusion about why he is insistent on going out that night; she struggles with putting on her coat; she forgets to change from her house slippers to her shoes

* Beginning – Ted is determined to take his wife out to dinner on their 50th anniversary.

* Middle – Ted must be patient with Marie as she reluctantly gets ready to go out with him, knows she needs her independence.

* End – In the car, he faces more proof of her dementia issues in her admission that she knows the day is special,

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