How To: Crafting A Short Story

Writing Tutorial

How To: Crafting A Short Story


Creative writing is possibly one of the most daunting tasks a non-native writer can have. Filling the void of white space can be overwhelming when you don’t have the rules of academic or journalistic forms of literature to hide behind. So, how do you undertake an assignment that calls for your creative expression when you’re use to having the structure of formats to guide you? You let loose! Here are five steps you can take to help you with your short story or creative writing assignment.

Sample Problem

“How do I begin?” “What do I write about?” “How do I tell the tale?”
If any of these questions have you stumped, then it’s time to release your writing anxiety.
I specifically used the word “crafting” in the title of this tutorial for a reason. Think of creative writing as a way to create a collage of things which inspire you, yet you’re using words as your end result. If you’re new to the world of creative writing, then it’s best you actually visualize your story before sitting down to write. Character development is potentially one of the most important aspects of creating a story. If you can create a person, then you can create an environment to follow.


1. Start by gathering materials which spark your creative expression.
For example, free color swatches from Wal-Mart or Lowes, pages from a comic book or magazine, an old movie ticket that you found in your back pocket with a ball of lint, a freshly picked flower, your favorite wrapping paper, etc. Compile three to four things minimum and arrange them on a backdrop of your choice. This can be on a piece of construction paper or a white board. For reference, conduct a google search on “Vision Board” as you will be doing something similar, yet on a smaller scale. I would suggest doing one to two “boards” which will represent your character(s). Pay attention to the color scheme and overall makeup of the items. Are they rough and grungy or light and airy? Pay attention to how it affects your mood. Does it make you happy or do you feel a bit of sadness? All of this will be translated into the creation of your character later on.

2. Write down what you see as if you’re constructing someone’s personality and give your character a name. By now, you should be able to know whose story you’d like to tell. Is your character a woman, a man, a child, a dog, a cat, or a really cool dragon that talks? For example, I have created a board adorned with dried roses, worn yellow fabric, torn pages of random poetry, and fresh blades of grass all glued to an 8×11 white piece of paper. My character is Sunny, a 15 year-old girl who spends most of her time during summer vacations laying in a large field of grass behind her grandparents home. She picks flowers while she’s out all day and keeps them tucked inside of her favorite book of poems by Edgar Allan Poe. She’s always aloof, losing her thoughts in the passing clouds. She doesn’t speak much and enjoys being alone, but doesn’t quite understand her loneliness nor the nature of her feelings.

3. Now that you have your character(s), develop your setting. You can follow the vision board idea for this as well, but it won’t be necessary if you’ve given your character a robust nature. Sunny spots a robin one afternoon while laying under a tree. The setting here is nature. Since this is a short story, this setting does not need to change, so don’t feel the need to create a novel. Every element of the story involving Sunny can happen right under that tree.

4. Create your plot/story-line. What parallels do you want to take your character through? Will they struggle to find a purpose or will they succeed to find a reason? The robin flies down to Sunny and lands on her chest. The robin speaks to her and she’s in shock. She learns that the robin holds the secrets of the heart and proceeds to tell Sunny why she’s truly not happy with always being alone. Sunny faints and wakes up an hour later. She feels dizzy as she lifts from her slumber and vaguely remembers the robin speaking to her. She questions if it was all a dream. Remember, this is a short story. You devise what your conclusion is or will be; whether you’ll have one or not. Be descriptive. Create dialogue if you must. This would be a great time to research point of view. Will your story be in first, second, or third person? *hint hint: 1st person may suit you better on first try*

5. Breathe. There are truly no rules in the realm of creativity. Once you’ve allowed your mind to escape from it’s day-to-day routine by igniting your imagination for a bit, be sure to edit your draft like your life depends on it. Creative or not, it’s always best to use proper grammar and present a short story that is clean and concise.

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