Parts of Short Stories

If you have ever written or are thinking about writing a short story, it is important to know that a short story contains four elements: setting, plot, conflict and character. If you understand how each of these elements plays a role in short stories, you will be on your way to writing an effective and interesting story.


The setting of a short story is the where the action in the story takes place. It includes the location; weather elements; the everyday life of the characters; and the time of day. For example, the setting in Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" is a lawyer's office in downtown Manhattan, New York, where three scriveners are employed to copy documents day in and day out.


The plot details the events of the story in a sequential order, including a beginning, middle and end. Plots have five elements: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. The introduction reveals a descriptive background of the characters and the setting. In the rising action, a conflict is introduced, and the story begins to build. In the climax of a plot, the story reaches a turning point, and a solution to the conflict is sought. In falling action, events occur because of the conflict, and the conflict is resolved (or, in some cases, not). The resolution is the overall outcome of the plot.


The conflict is the backbone of a story. Without a conflict, no story would exist. The conflict does not necessarily have to be a disagreement between two characters. Two kinds of conflict are possible: external and internal. An external conflict is a struggle with an outside force; an internal conflict is a struggle within one's self. A character dealing with an external conflict might be trying to resolve a disagreement or misunderstanding with other characters. A character with an internal conflict is struggling with inner demons to make a change or decision.


Key characters can be divided in two categories: the protagonist and antagonist. The protagonist is generally the hero of the story, with all major events occurring around this character. The antagonist opposes the protagonist or is in some way the protagonist's enemy and may prove to be an obstacle to overcome.

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