Writing a good short story analysis requires one or two readings of a piece, copious notes and attention to detail. Analyzing short fiction not only helps you learn more about some of the elements it takes to write fiction, the analysis can help you learn more about the author of the work and, in many cases, even something about yourself. While different readers can analyze the same short story and come away with different points of view, there are a few basic elements you can look for that will help you more effectively break down and understand the short stories you read.
Read the short story once as a reader. Enjoy it. Don't be too critical. Read it the second time with a notebook and pen in hand. Make notes about the characters. Particularly pay attention to their goals and motives and the methods they use to reach their goals in the story. Make notes about the backgrounds of the characters and how those backgrounds may play a role in the the way those characters go about obtaining their goals.
Write down any passage you feel is symbolic of something and is used throughout the story to represent that idea. Make a note of the story's overall theme. Ask yourself a few basic questions. Some examples might be: Is there a moral to the story? What point of view does the narrator take? Does the story try to teach or is it simply expository writing? Answers to these questions will help you when you write your analysis of the short story.
Begin your written analysis with a synopsis of the story itself. Tell readers the basic story idea without getting into the plot structure. Introduce the characters of the story.
Discuss the author's point of view in the story and how you feel his point of view or his slant affected the outcome of the story. If, for instance, the story is about a serial killer being executed, show readers the narrator's standpoint on the death penalty and use examples from the story that may have affected reader viewpoint of the death penalty.
Examine the author's use of symbols and metaphor in the story. Show readers how those symbols and metaphors were used and discuss their effectiveness. Describe the settings and moods of the story and whether those elements contributed to the overall success of the story. If the author foreshadows events in the story, give examples of how effective the foreshadowing relates to the foreshadowed events.
Write a couple of paragraphs discussing the author's use of space. Write about pacing and dialogue. Show readers through example how the author uses dialogue to further the story. Discuss her use of action versus exposition. A critical analysis of the short story should include information about the story itself, the writer's handling of the story and the skill level of the technical aspects of short story writing.