What Is The Structure Of A Short Story?

For a long time, great authors practiced their craft by writing short stories and stories before devoting themselves to longer drafts of novels or between novels. Among the many examples are Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Stephen King; among the Italians are Italo Calvino, Dino Buzzati, and the classics Verga and Pirandello.

As a result, the short story has its history and literary value, distinguishing it from longer narratives and preventing it from being considered only as a minor genre or a "summary" of the novels.

Today, short stories may be less well-known and have a more limited market. Still, I advise you not to dismiss them. On the contrary, especially if you are new to writing, consider this literary genre an excellent training ground for practicing narrative design and plot and character analysis.

How long a story must be

The length distinguishes novels from short stories and short stories from short stories, but there are no hard and fast rules.

Based on the number of words in the text, here is a rough classification:

  • less than 1,000 words: very short story or flash story  
  • 1,000 to 5,000 words: short story
  • from 5,000 to 10,000 words: short story
  • 10,000 to 20,000 words: long story or novelette
  • 20,000 to 40,000 words: short story or novel
  • over 40,000 words: a novel

Here is a classification based on the length of the text expressed in editorial folders

  • up to 5 pages: short story
  • from 6 to 30 pages: short story
  • from 31 to 50 pages: long story
  • from 51 to 150 pages: short story or novel
  • over 150 pages: a novel

How to structure a story

How should a story be structured once its length has been determined?

A story is, by definition, a self-contained text. As a result, unlike novels, there are no "series" stories, trilogies of short stories, sequels, or prequels of short stories. After all, if a story had a prequel or sequel, it would almost certainly become a novel.

A story's internal structure is organized in three classic phases of each narrative text:

  • The introduction is the initial part in which the characters are presented, the environment in which the story takes place, and the initial turning point that starts the story;
  • Development is the central part in which the action takes place; the protagonist faces difficulties or overcomes problems and conflicts with the other characters;
  • In conclusion, that is the final part in which the story ends; the protagonist solves problems, achieves his goal, or fails, depending on whether you want to give the story a happy ending or not.

The story does not have to have a happy ending, nor does it have to have a closed ending, that is, an ending in which all problems are solved, in which good triumphs over evil, or in which evil triumphs over good.

Stories, like life, can have an open ending, leaving the issues unresolved and allowing the reader to imagine how he would like things to turn out. This structural choice can make your stories very contemporary.

What matters is not whether or not the story ends but whether or not the protagonist changes during the story. An effective ending is one in which the protagonist has changed since the beginning rather than one that answers all of the readers' questions.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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