Writing Short Stories – Tips on Narrative Structure & The Writing Process



Recently I posted tips on planning short stories, some of you have found this useful. Here is a link to that post if you missed it.


Today’s focus is Narrative Structure and the Writing Process.



Who tells the story?

A writer needs to decide which narrative structure to use, first person and third person* are the most commonly used narratives. Certain publications may have a preference for one or the other. It is worth researching and reading stories from back issues if their preference is not revealed in the specific requirements.

*first-person (“I”), second-person (“you”), and third-person (“he” or “she”).

  • In a first-person story, a character in the story tells the story;
  • in the second-person the reader is made a character in the story; (rarely used)
  • and in the third-person, an outside narrator tells the story.

To help you decide keep these things in mind;

  • First-person narrators can only tell what they know (which will be limited to what they see firsthand or are told by others),
  • while third-person narrators can either know everything and explore every character’s thoughts, or be limited to only that which can be observed.
  • Some writers switch between narratives and change the narrative structure in each chapter. For short stories it is best to stick to one narrative structure.




Use the story structure planning to plan out your characters and action, often the more detailed your planning – the easier the flow of writing will be.



Remember there is no rule about writing chronologically – look at your plan. Where can you see yourself start? Dive in, start writing.

The writing process is different for every writer (we are as unique as snowflakes, well not quite!) I tend to free write from the plan and complete whole sections of the story. Then return and edit them as I go (before the story is complete.) The hardest part for me is stitching it back together so for short stories I tend to write chronologically, what is known as a linear fashion.

I also edit in a separate folder, that way the original stays intact. A writer who never deletes anything may gain a full USB, however you also have a wealth of treasure left behind in un-used manuscripts.

AND ALWAYS BACK UP! I still need to buy an external hard-drive to do this. So far my back up is hard drive + USB.







Bumps in the Road

There are bound to be low points in the writing process, just as there will be highs. The trick here is to be flexible and hard of hearing when those inner gremlins taunt you about your ability to write and JUST KEEP GOING!

Many of us work on more than one project simultaneously and therefore create some sort of action plan or schedule. This helps you have a daily goal and know what you need to achieve by close of day. For example my action for today is to have the full idea of my short story ready for more detailed planning. So far today I have scribbled nearly 4 pages of notes, I am still in the brainstorming stage really having started yesterday and because freeing as it may seem I am writing cold with no brief bar a word count (6000).

I know this story will evolve and WILL be written because my goals are mapped out and I will stick to them. You need self-discipline as a writer because until you are at the stage of editors and agents there is no one to crack the whip and even then, you are really the only one who can MAKE IT HAPPEN!



What if life gets in the way?

Well… it sometimes does that doesn’t it? No matter how much we might like the idea of writing in our little bubble many of us have responsibilities and things we need to do alongside creating the next best short story or bestseller!

I just make a note on the schedule and copy and paste today’s action into tomorrow… leaving the next day goal where it is, in the hope I can get twice as much done. This is rarely the outcome and until there is a weekend or free morning the action plan continues to be amended until I have caught up.

The point is I DO catch up and this enables me the breathing space for the editing and proofing stage – which I will talk about next time.


Until then… Happy Writing!

pencil paper freestock

22 responses »

  1. Dear do not go back, come forward, except the challange, never thought about third person, writers write about theme, a dream which comes true, some thing fast or some thing later when third person can understand.

    • It is true many people start with a theme and the plot develops from there. Similarly people may not even consider narrative structure or it may be changed later in the writing process.

      There are many different ways to approach the writing process, this is just one of them. I am just sharing some straight forward tips to help people think about what they need or what they need to plan, to create a good short story.

      Thanks for your comments.

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    • You’re welcome – this is one of the most popular posts on the blog – when I get a chance and my own writing life slows a little, I will endeavour to write more helpful posts as they seem appreciated.
      Many thanks.

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      • yes i am with you about what you said thanks to your work.i have a request if you do not mind.i want a short narrative story so please if you know one write it for me.

      • Thanks for the reply to this article, unfortunately I am extremely busy at present and unable to complete the narrative request you make here for a story. Maybe someone else following the blog can offer you time?

      • oky .thanks to your answer during you are so busy.maybe next time ok.do not forget my request

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