Writing Your Short Story: Structure Lessons

This is the rubric that guides us as we develop our stories and as we evaluate our final drafts. Short Fiction Narrative Rubric 2014-2015.

We are writing a realistic fiction story. What is realistic fiction? See here.


Seeing the World as a Writer–write about something that interests you and that you care about:

Lesson: Set goals as a writer and try out ideas: Generate story topics and questions about the topic.

  • Want an interesting story? Ask an interesting question. Really go inside  your question. For example, try a “What if…?” Start to wonder about the story behind the story, and explore where that exploration takes you.
  • See The Big Question for a list of questions from literature that you could use to base a story around. This list is from Jim Burke’s book, What’s the Big Idea? Burke got the list from Holt McDougal Harcourt’s Literature Series.
  • Create a story through looking at conflicts that appear in the world around you.
  • Create a story from a news article topic.
  • Create a story based on a theme.
  • Create a story based on a belief–something you believe to be true or important.
  • Ira Glass talks about story telling. Part 1. Part 2.  Part 3. Part 4.
  • 21 plot ideas
  • story elements
  • Great advice for writing and building a story.
  • Plot recipes based on short stories read in class

These are the elements of a realistic fiction story.

Lesson:  Rehearse writing while keeping focused on a few small moments: Choose a story idea. Commit to a central situation, character, setting. Pre-write through one of the following and do so in three parts: 1. introduce the characters, setting, and problem; 2. develop the problem and choices the characters make; 3. and finally, the change and/or resolution.


Character creation and development. Characters’ relationship to the central trouble, or situation, or plot. Who is your character? What is the role he/she plays? What does the character want and how will the story show those desires or dreams? How will the character change? Define and refine your characters. Try out small scenes with your characters.

Creating a Character Sketch inside the rising action.

Some other ways to help you create characters in case you need them:


Create a rich setting and backstory.

Choose setting details to fit your focus and purpose.

Creating Mood:

Lesson: Engage and orient the reader. What happens in the basic situation of the story? Introduce characters, and hone your story’s point of view. Establish the setting.

Crafting a Lead:

DEVELOPING PLOT: How to build RISING ACTION: Playing and experimenting with scenes


Lesson: Draft a problem scene. Make your plot and conflict high-energy and intense.

Advice from Writer’s Digest blog, “Expert Tips for Writing Action Scenes”:

Create more energy with specific verbs.

Lesson: Build the body of your writing piece. Pacing & small moments.

Include a clear setting woven into the moment or scene.
Have characters thinking, talking, acting in the scene.
Show character motivation in the scene.

From The 10 Commandments of How to Write a Thriller Writer’s Digest blog:

  1. Start with action; explain it later.
  2. Make it tough for your protagonist.
  3. Give the protagonist the initiative.
  4. Give the protagonist a personal stake.
  5. Give the protagonist a tight time limit, and then shorten it.
  6. Choose your character according to your own capacities, as well as his.
  7. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read.

Lesson: Writing Dialogue. Craft dialogue that rings true.

Mentor text: “The Lie”

Lesson: Revision: 

Cutting Extra Words.
What to Cut, What to Keep

Lesson: Description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters. Select the right words and descriptions throughout your story. Choose precise details, nouns and verbs. Word choice affects mood.

Mentor Text: “Three Skeleton Key”

Specific nouns bring life to your writing.

Lesson: Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and figurative and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events. Specific words are powerful. Sensory detail adds richness.

Mentor Text: “The Most Dangerous Game”

Use figurative language to polish your writing.

Lesson: Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.

The climax has four essential elements:

  1. The run-up to the climactic moment (last-minute maneuvering to put the pieces in their final positions)
  2. The main character’s moment of truth (the inner journey point toward which the whole story has been moving)
  3. The climactic moment itself (in which the hero directly affects the outcome)
  4. The immediate results of the climactic moment (the villain might be vanquished, but the roof is still collapsing)
  5. More advice here

Lesson: RESOLUTION. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events.

Questions to ask about your plot from the Writer’s Digest blog:

  • Is there any point where a reader might feel like putting the book down?
  • Does the novel feel like it’s about people doing things?
  • Does the plot feel forced or unnatural?
  • Is the story out of balance? Too much action? Too much reaction?
    Here are some possible thing to do about it.
  • A satisfying ending. Article from Writers Digest blogger.

Lesson:  Revision: Varied sentence structure adds interest to writing.

What am I trying to say? A good suggestion to use when you’re stuck or want to sharpen your writing.

Lesson: Why it’s worth your time to read your piece aloud. See this article at theWriter’s Digest blog.

Lesson: Other author’s craft:


Lesson: Tantalizing Titles. Looking Closely.

Web link for how to create a title.

Proofread: Revise your story to perfection.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s