Virtual Writing Tutor Blog

Grammar check | Essay checker | Writing checker

August 29, 2020

How To Write A Story For Complete Beginners

by Argentina Botezatu , under Writing skills

learn to write stories

Everyone loves to be entertained by a good story. You often find yourself reading the same novel several times. In the same way your friend’s story seems so funny, even if they already told it.

How about kids? They love stories and can listen to one a hundred times and still ask you to read to them again. 

But repeating the same story gets them bored and to be true, we get bored by it too. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could tell your kids a story of your own? 

How To Write A Story?

Oh. That’s simple. You write it. Sit down, get a pen and paper, or a laptop if you prefer to, and start writing. 

The story may start with “Once upon a time… ” or you may even get a little bit creative. That sounds funny, but in reality, you might never get a sincere smile from your kids. 

Still, we have great news for you! There is a simple way to write a great story, easy, and step by step. You don’t need a sudden burst of inspiration. You might get away with your creativity and life experience.

How To Write A Great Story?

Now that’s a little bit more complicated. No, it’s not hard or “impossible”, but you are going to use your brain for this. You’re ready? Let’s get started!

Step 1: Choose The Main Character

How do you do it? Simple. Try to recall some of your favorite childhood memories. Is there something you would like to write about? Great. Choose one and define the main subject line. 

You don’t have to make it perfect. All you need to do is to write down who is the main character. Describe in one sentence what he is going through. Add details about the time and location. Make it short.

Step 2: Add More Characters

Now that you got your starting point, choose the other characters. Split them into two categories: secondary and other ones. Describe each one in 10 words. Write about what they like and don’t like, how they look and act. 

You can use more than 10 words, but don’t expand the limit too much. Describe all your characters, by following up the next formula: 

Name + Look + Personal qualities + Likes/Dislikes + Actions = Character

Step 3: Write The Outline

You want to make it short and clear. Write down one sentence for each of the story elements. Answer shortly to the questions down below. For more clarity, we’ll look at the Brothers Grimm story “Cinderella”.

Introduction: When and where is the action taking place? Who are the main characters? What is the main point of conflict here?

Example: Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Cinderella. She lived with her evil step-mother and evil step-sisters in a land far away.

Rising action: What happens? Describe the actions going on.

Example: Every day, the evil step-mother, made Cinderella work all day long and into the night. 

One day, an invitation to a ball was sent to all the young ladies of the kingdom. The evil stepmother locked Cinderella in her room so she could not attend it. She thought all hope was lost until her fairy godmother appeared. 

Cinderella attended the ball, dressed up in a beautiful gown and glass slippers. She met the prince and danced with him. 

Climax (turning point): What turned the situation upside down? How did the main characters react? 

Example: As the clock turned 12, Cinderella rushed off back home and left the prince only with a glass slipper.

Falling action: How do the characters solve the problem? What do they try to do?

Example: Prince Charming looked for Cinderella throughout the entire kingdom. He tried the slipper on every girl to see if it fit one of them. 

Resolution: How was the conflict solved? What was the solution? How did the story end?

Example: The prince gently slipped the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot. He took her by hand and made her his bride. Cinderella and Prince Charming lived happily ever after.

learn to write stories

Step 4: Fill in The Story

Don’t be overwhelmed by this step. It is not as hard as it seems, and we’ll help you with this. Here are some tips for you:

Write everything in one sitting. This is a solution. Do like this not only the draft but also the whole process. You will notice how easy it is when you will get from one step to another. 

Don’t be afraid of the writer’s block. If you experience one, pass on to the next part of the step, and then return to it later. Write whatever comes to your mind. Don’t try to make it perfect or to sound good, you will edit the text later.

Instead of talking about something that changed the life of the main character, show it. Present the scene to the reader. 

Describe the location and the weather. Write about the main character’s emotions. We promise you, the reader will love this part.

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Winston Churchill

You want to schedule the time you are going to be writing. Choose a time when you are not going to be distracted by chores, work tasks, or other responsibilities. 

The best time to work is in the morning, scientists say. Yet, the burst of creativity is very big after lunch, 4:30 pm, some say even 10 pm. Outline your story in the morning when your mind is clear and you don’t have urgent tasks. Leave the editing for the “creative time” of the day.

A great writer is known not only by his amazing works but also by the correctness of his sentences. A grammar tool makes your story better. 

It helps you choose the right words, avoid misspelling, and other awful mistakes. If you want to write a great story, you want to write correct words. Try Virtual Writing Tutor . Don’t mess up your great story.

Do you remember back in the day when you had to write a short story about your summer vacation? It was interesting, but still, homework is homework. 

Oh, and those confusing points of view? He, She, I. It was overwhelming. Don’t repeat those mistakes. Choose a point of view . 

learn to write stories

Here is a cheat sheet for you:

First Person – It’s a type of narrative when the reader feels like he is in the character’s mind. The I and we perspective . It makes the reader feel connected.

Second Person – It is rarely used in storytelling but still has a connection with the reader. The you perspective , makes the reader feel like you are talking to him.

The third person – From this point of view, you describe the life of the characters. Writing about their emotions and actions from he/she/it/they perspective. Specifically this perspective will still make the reader feel connected to the character in a witness’s way.

Step 5: Edit Your Masterpiece

We are not kidding. You wrote a masterpiece. We are sure your readers or listeners will appreciate your hard work. Finally the last thing you need to do is editing. 

Indeed, don’t touch the story for the next two days, or at least do it in the morning. This way, your impression will be gone and you will edit with a clear mind. 

Choose a quiet space, read your work, and underline the words or parts you don’t like. Write down any commentaries you have. In the end, rewrite the needed parts and read your story out aloud. 

You will see how it sounds and train yourself for a storytelling night with your kids. You can listen to Stuart Mclean, the Canadian radio broadcaster for inspiration. 

Bonus: How To Stay Motivated To Write?

Yet, if the spark in the eyes of your kids isn’t enough then what is then? Or maybe you don’t have kids or any family friends with children. 

If you want to write a story for yourself or even your life story you need to know one thing. Make it a habit. We know right? A habit? Try to tie your writing habit to another one you already do. 

For example, when you drink your morning coffee bring your pen and paper with you. You may use your phone for this.

Write for a short time, even 5 minutes will be enough. Motivation will help you start something, but only habits make you achieve it.

Follow by Email

Want more like this?

Get new posts by email, recent posts.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email

Test your typing online by practicing on your favorite literature. Choose a book below to get started, or subscribe and import your own!

Typing Demo Img

Save up to $333 using promo code: PLOT22




Basics of Writing Stories & Articles for Publication

Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Course Overview

Want to learn how to write stories and articles? Our Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication is designed for the aspiring writer interested in a more compact, economical yet comprehensive program combining the fiction and nonfiction techniques required by editors in today’s markets. Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication is designed to teach the fundamentals of writing fiction and nonfiction for submission to a wide range of magazines published for adult readers. Students write and revise one nonfiction article, one short story, and two outlines targeted to specific magazines to meet their editorial requirements.

Our Basics of Writing course is designed for you to set your own pace. With the help of this course, you can learn how to write stories and articles for publication. The average student takes about 208 hours to complete all assignments. Although most students complete this course in 12 months, IFW allows up to 18 months to complete  Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication.

IFW Background   Email14

Material Included in your Basics of Writing Stories & Articles for Publication

Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Course Manual, IFW Publishing.

The Instruction Manual published exclusively for our students. It contains assignments, idea generators, planning guides, writing and revision techniques and guidelines for preparing a book submission package.


Writers Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, Writers Digest Books, 6th edition, ISBN 978-1-44034-773-3.

Writer's Market 2020 (e-book) guides you through the submissions process with thousands of publishing opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards, and literary agents—as well as new playwriting and screenwriting sections. These listings feature contact and submission information to help writers get their work published.


The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, 4th edition, ISBN 978-0205309023, 2000.

A classic manual on the principles of English language. Decidedly the most practical handbook of grammar, correct usage, punctuation, and effective writing techniques.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing. William Zinsser, Harper Perennial, 7th edition, ISBN 978-0-06-089154-1, 2006.

Known for its sound advice, On Writing Well offers you fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sold, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

Searching: a Research Guide for Writers, IFW Publishing, 6th edition, ISBN 978-1-944743-13-0.

Prepared especially for our students, this handbook introduces a variety of sources and methods available for tracking down information, an indispensable guide to research resources.

Voices in Today’s Magazines, IFW Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889715-48-3.

An anthology of notable published fiction and nonfiction with a purpose: to give you 81 outstanding models of characterization, dialogue, viewpoints, endings, settings, leads, conflict, climax, voice, flashbacks, (and every aspect of each of these elements), to examine, understand, consider and, perhaps, add to your arsenal of skills.

Supplementary Instructional Materials published by IFW Publishing

- Pointers from the Pros - Grammar Tip sheets

Why Choose IFW

IFW 27 1 scaled

Save On Your Tuition

The Institute for Writers makes it easy for you to receive a high quality writing program at an affordable rate. Everything you need to complete Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Course is included in your tuition. Choose which payment option best fits your needs.

College Credits

College Credits and Professional Development Hours: The Connecticut Board for State Academic Awards recommends that our graduates be awarded 4 college credits. No matter where you live, you can obtain these credits from Charter Oak State College—which functions under the credit-granting authority of the Connecticut Board—for a fee anytime within five years of your completion of the Institute’s course. You can have Charter Oak “transcript” these credits to any college, university, or school board. Teachers may be able to receive professional development hours. Check with your district or administrators.

Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Course Details

Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication offers you professional instruction in fiction and nonfiction writing where you’ll learn how to write stories and articles for today’s market.

IFW 22

Course Goals & Objectives

1.       Survey the current magazine market by analyzing published stories and articles 2.     Identify standards of professional writing set by publishers, and learn to meet those standards 3.       Learn techniques of revision and revise successive drafts to be suitable for submission to an editor 4.      Create two plans for articles/stories, write a portion of the manuscript, and summarize the remainder

5.      Write five original articles/stories

6.      Submit one or more story/articles to an appropriate editor for publication

Part 1: Getting Acquainted with the Writer’s World (Assignments 1-4) Learn how to find story and article ideas from your interests and experience, how to observe with a writer’s eye, and how to transform incidents from real life into fiction or nonfiction.

Part 2: Ideas, Techniques, and Markets (Assignments 5-8) Develop techniques to attract and entertain readers by planning and writing stories/articles with universal appeal, and matching to suitable magazines.

1.   Description of a person and autobiographical letter  2.   Story using character from Assignment 1 3.   Nonfiction article and writing interests/goals note  4.   New story or article with market choices  5.   The summary of a new story or article, the opening, and two possible magazine markets 6.   Completed story or article from Assignment 5/goals note  7.   Revision of early story or article, query letter/cover letter, and proposal for personal essay topic 8.   Personal essay or new story, market choice, final questions to instructor

Materials included in your Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Course


Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication  Course Manual, IFW Publishing.


Writer’s Market 2020 (e-book) guides you through the submissions process with thousands of publishing opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards, and literary agents—as well as new playwriting and screenwriting sections. These listings feature contact and submission information to help writers get their work published.

Elements of Style Book IFW 1

Voices in Today’s Magazines, IFW Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889715-48-3.

Black IFW Pen Blog

Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Tuition

Payment Plan I

Payment Plan II

Enroll in our Basics of Writing Stories and Articles for Publication Course for just $99 Down Use Promo Code IFW

IFW Method of payment Box

Begin Your Writing Journey

Method of Payment

Pay using your credit or debit card!

Visa Discover Master Card American Express

International Student Policy

 American Express

Refund Policy

Our student service team focuses on student satisfaction. However, if you choose not to continue your writing course, we offer a refund policy. Cancellations within the first 5 days of enrollment receive a full refund. After the first 5 days your refund amount is based on: * Tuition collected
 * Lessons completed
 * Enrollment date

10 Day No-Risk Trial

Our goal is to provide you with the writing skills and knowledge needed in today’s publishing industry. We are confident that you will enjoy our writing courses so we offer you a 10 day no-risk trial!

If for some reason you are unsure or dissatisfied, we’ve got you covered. The Institute For Writers Student Protection Policy:

  • You have 10 days once you enroll in your course to change your mind. If you’re not completely satisfied, simply notify us, return the materials and get a FULL REFUND. It’s that easy.
  • After 10 days, you have the ability to cancel your course at any time. Whether you have paid in full or on a monthly payment plan, you qualify for our Student Refund Policy.

The Write Practice

How to Write a Short Story: 5 Major Steps from Start to Finish

by Sarah Gribble | 81 comments

Do you want to learn how to write a short story ? Maybe you'd like to try writing a short story instead of a novel-length work, or maybe you're hoping to get more writing practice without the lengthy time commitment that a novel requires.

The reality of writing stories? Not every short story writer wants to write a novel, but every novelist can benefit from writing short stories. However, short stories and novels are different—so naturally, how you write them has its differences, too.

how to write a short story

Short stories are often a fiction writer’s first introduction to writing, but they can be frustrating to write and difficult to master. How do you fit everything that makes a great story into something so short?

And then, once you do finish a short story you’re proud of, what do you do with it?

That's what we'll cover in this article, along with additional resources I'll link to that will help you get started step-by-step with shorts.

Short Stories Made Me a Better Writer

I fell into writing short stories when I first started writing.

I'd written a book , and it was terrible. But it opened up my mind and I kept having all these story ideas I just had to get out.

Before long, I had dozens of stories and within about two years, I had around three dozen of them published traditionally. That first book went nowhere, by the way. But my short stories surely did.

And I learned a whole lot about the writing craft because I spent so much time practicing writing with my short stories. This is why, whether you want to make money as a short story writer or experiment writing them, I think writing short stories is important for every writer who wants to become a novelist.

But how do you write a short story? And what do you do afterwards? I hope that by sharing my personal experiences and suggestions, I can help you write your own short stories with confidence.

Why Should You Write Short Stories?

I get a lot of pushback when I suggest new writers should write short stories.

Everyone wants to write a book. (Okay, maybe not everyone, but if you ask a hundred people if they’d like to write one, I’d bet seventy-something of them would say yes.) Anthologies and short story collections don’t make a ton of money because no one really wants to read them. So why waste time writing short stories when books are what people read ?

There are three main reasons you should be a short story writer:

1. Training

Short stories help you hone your writing skills .

Short stories are often only one scene and about one character. That’s a level of focus you can’t have in a novel. Writing short stories forces you to focus on writing clearly and concisely while still making a scene entertaining.

You’re working with the basic level of structure here (a scene) and learning to perfect it .

2. Building contacts and readers

Most writers I know do not want to hear this, but this whole writing thing is the same as any other industry: if you want to make it, you better network.

When my first book, Surviving Death , was released, I had hundreds of people on my launch team. How? I’d had about three dozen short stories published traditionally by that time. I’d gathered a readership base, and not only that, I’d become acquainted with some fellow writers in my genre along the way. And those people were more than willing to help me get the word out about my book.

You want loyal readers and you want friends in the industry. And the way to get those is to continuously be writing.

Writing is like working out. If you take a ton of time off, you’re going to hurt when you get back into it.

It’s a little difficult to be working on a novel all the time. Most writers have one or two in them a year, and those aren’t written without a bit of a break in between.

Short story writing helps you keep up your writing habit , or develop one, and they make for a nice break in between larger projects.

I always write short stories between novels, and even between drafts of my novels. It keeps me going and puts use to all the random story ideas I had while working on the larger project. I've found over the years that keeping up the writing habit is the only way to actually keep yourself in “writer mode.”

All the cool kids are doing it. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood . . . Google your favorite writers and they probably have a short story collection or two out there. Most successful authors have cut their teeth on short stories.

What is a Short Story?

Now that you know why you should be writing short stories, let’s talk about what a short story is. This might seem obvious, but it’s a question I’ve gotten a lot. A short story is short, right? Essentially, yes. But how short is short?

You can Google how long a short story is and get a bunch of different answers. There are a lot of different editors out there running a lot of different anthologies, magazines, ezines, podcasts, you name it. They all have slightly different definitions of what a short story is because they all have slightly different needs when it comes to providing content on their platform and meeting the expectations of their audiences.

A podcast, for instance, often wants a story to take up about thirty minutes of airtime. They know how long it takes their producers to read a story, so that thirty minutes means they’re looking for a very specific word count. An ezine might aim for a certain estimated reading time. A magazine or anthology might have a certain number of pages they’re trying to fill.

Everyone has a different definition of how short a short story is, so for the purpose of this series, I’m going to be broad in my definition of a short story.

What qualifies as a short story?

A short story word count normally falls somewhere between 1,000 words and 10,000 words. If you’re over ten thousand, you’re running into novelette territory, though some publications consider up to 20,000 words to be a short story. If you’re under a thousand words, you’re looking at flash fiction.

The sweet spot is between 2,000 and 5,000 words. The majority of short stories I’ve had published were between 2,500 words and 3,500 words.

That’s not a lot of words, and you’ve got a lot to fit in—backstory, world-building, a character arc—in that tiny amount of space. (A book, by the way, is normally 60,000 to 90,000 words or longer. Big difference.)

A short story is one to three scenes. That’s it. Think of it as a “slice of life,” as in someone peeked into your life for maybe an hour or two and this is what they saw.

You’re not going to flesh out every detail about your characters. (I normally don’t even know the last names of my short story characters, and it doesn’t matter.) You’re not trying to build a Tolkien-level world. You don’t need to worry about subplots.

To focus your writing, think of a short story as a short series of events happening to a single character. The rest of the cast of characters should be small.

How to Write a Short Story: The Short Version

Throughout this blog series, I’ll take a deep dive into the process of writing short stories. If you’re looking for the fast answer, here it is:

  • Write the story in one sitting.
  • Take a break.
  • Edit with a mind for brevity.
  • Get feedback and do a final edit.

Write the story in one sitting

For the most part, short stories are meant to be read in one sitting, so it makes sense that you should write them in one sitting.

Obviously, if you’re in the 10K range, that’s probably going to take more than one writing session, but a 2,500-word short story can easily be written in one sitting. This might seem a little daunting, but you’ll find your enthusiasm will drive you to the ending and your story will flow better for it.

You’re not aiming for prize-winning writing during this stage. You’re aiming to get the basic story out of your head and on paper.

Forget about grammar . Forget about beautiful prose. Forget about even making a ton of sense.

You’re not worrying about word count at this stage, either. Don’t research and don’t pause over trying to find the exact right word. Don't agonize over the perfect story title.

Just get the basic story out. You can’t edit a blank page.

Take a break

Don’t immediately edit your story. After you’ve written anything, books included, you need to take a step back . Your brain needs to shift from “writer mode” to “reader mode.” With a short story, I normally recommend a three-day break.

If you have research to do, this is the time to do it, though I highly recommend not thinking about your story at all.

The further away you can get from it, the better you’ll edit.

Edit with a mind for brevity

Now that you’ve had a break, you’re ready to come back with a vengeance. This is the part where you “kill your darlings” and have absolutely no mercy for the story you produced less than a week ago. The second draft is where you get critical.

Remember we’re writing a short story here, not a novel. You don’t have time to go into each and every detail about your characters’ lives. You don’t have time for B-plots, a ton of characters, or Stephen King-level droning on.

Short stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, though. They’re short, but they’re still stories.

As you edit , ask yourself if each bit of backstory, world building, and anything else is something your reader needs to know. If they do, do they need to know it right at that moment? If they don’t, cut it.

Get feedback

If this is your first time letting other people see your writing, this can be a scary step. No one wants to be given criticism. But getting feedback is the most important step in the writing process next to writing.

The more eyes you can get on a piece of writing, the better.

I highly recommend getting feedback from someone who knows about writing, not your mother or your best friend. People we love are great, but they love you and won’t give you honest feedback. If you want praise, go to them. If you want to grow as a writer, join a writing community and get feedback from other writers.

When you’ve gotten some feedback from a handful of people, make any changes you deem necessary and do a final edit for smaller issues like grammar and punctuation.

Here at The Write Practice, we’re huge fans of publishing your work . In fact, we don’t quite consider a story finished until it’s published.

Whether you’re going the traditional route and submitting your short story to anthologies and magazines, or you’re more into self- publishing , don’t let your story languish on your computer. Get it out into the world so you can build your reader base.

And it’s pretty cool getting to say you’re a published author.

That’s the short version of how to go about writing short stories. Throughout this series, I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at different elements of these steps. Stick with me throughout the series, and you’ll have a short story of your own ready to publish by the end.

A Preview of My How to Write a Short Story Series

My goal in this blog series is to walk you through the process of writing a short story from start to finish and then point you in the right direction for getting that story published.

By the end of this series, you’ll have a story ready to submit to publishers and a plan for how to submit.

Below is a list of topics I’ll be covering during this blog series. Keep coming back as these topics are updated over the coming months.

How to Come up With Ideas For Short Stories

Creative writing is like a muscle: use it or lose it. Coming up with ideas is part of the development of that muscle. In this post , I’ll go over how to train your mind to put out ideas consistently.

How to Plan a Short Story (Without Really Planning It)

Short stories often don’t require extensive planning. They’re short, after all. But a little bit of outlining can help. Don’t worry, I’m mostly a pantser! I promise this won’t be an intense method of planning. It will, however, give you a start with the elements of story structure—and motivation to get you to finish (and publish) your story. Read this article to see how a little planning can go a long way toward writing a successful story.

What You Need in a Short Story/Elements of a Short Story

One of the biggest mistakes I see from new writers is their short stories aren’t actually stories. They're often missing a climax, don't have an ending, or just ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness way without any story structure. In this article , I’ll show you what you need to make sure your short is a complete story.

Writing Strategies for Short Stories

The writing process varies from person to person, and often from project to project. In this blog , I’ll talk about different writing strategies you can use to write short stories.

How to Edit a Short Story

Editing is my least favorite part of writing. It’s overwhelming and often tedious. I’ll talk about short story editing strategies to take the confusion out of the process, and ensure you can edit with confidence.Learn how to confidently edit your story here .

Writing a Better Short Story

Short stories are their own art form, mainly because of the small word count. In this post, I’ll discuss ways to write a better short, including fitting everything you want and need into that tiny word count.

Weaving backstory and worldbuilding into your story without overdoing it. Remember, you don't need every detail about the world or a character's life in a short story—but the setting shouldn't be ignored. How your protagonist interacts with it should be significant and interesting.

How to Submit a Short Story to Publications

There are plenty of literary magazines, ezines, anthologies, etc. out there that accept short stories for publication (and you can self-publish your stories, too). In this article, I’ll demystify the submission process so you can submit your own stories to publications and start getting your work out there. You'll see your work in a short story anthology soon after using the tips in this article !

Professionalism in the Writing Industry

Emotions can run high when you put your work out there for others to see. In this article, I’ll talk about what’s expected of you in this profession and how to maintain professionalism so that you don't shoot yourself in the foot when you approach publishers, editors, and agents.

Write, Write, Write!

As you follow this series, I challenge you to begin writing at least one short story a week. I'll be giving you in-depth tips on creating a compelling story as we go along, but for now, I want you to write. That habit is the hardest thing to start and the hardest thing to keep up.

You may not use all the stories you're going to write over the next months. You may hate them and never want them to see the light of day. But you can't get better if you don't practice. Start practicing now.

As Ray Bradbury says:

“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

When it comes to writing short stories, what do you find most challenging? Let me know in the comments .

For today’s practice, let’s just take on Step #1 (and begin tackling the challenge I laid down a moment ago): Write the basic story idea, the gist of the premise, as you’d tell it to a friend. Don’t think about it too much, and don’t worry about going into detail. Just write.

Write for fifteen minutes .

When your time is up, share your practice in the box below. And after you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

Enter your practice here:

View Practice ({"message": "Internal Server Error"} practices)

' src=

Sarah Gribble

Sarah Gribble is the author of dozens of short stories that explore uncomfortable situations, basic fears, and the general awe and fascination of the unknown. She just released Surviving Death , her first novel, and is currently working on her next book.

Follow her on Instagram or join her email list for free scares.

How to Write a Book Description That Sells

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts :

Popular Resources

Book Writing Tips & Guides Creativity & Inspiration Tips Writing Prompts Grammar & Vocab Resources Best Book Writing Software ProWritingAid Review Writing Teacher Resources Publisher Rocket Review Scrivener Review

10 Easy Steps to Building an Author Website

Are You Ready to Become a Writer?

Enter your email to get our free 10-step guide to becoming a writer.

You've got it! Just us where to send your guide.

You've got it just us where to send your book..

Enter your first name and email to get our free book, 14 Prompts.

How to write short stories

How to Write a Short Story That Captivates Your Reader

Trying to write a short story is the perfect place to begin your writing career .

Because it reveals many of the obstacles, dilemmas, and questions you’ll face when creating fiction of any length.

If you find these things knotty in a short story, imagine how profound they would be in a book-length tale.

Most writers need to get a quarter million clichés out of their systems before they hope to sell something.

And they need to learn the difference between imitating their favorite writers and emulating their best techniques.

Mastering even a few of the elements of fiction while learning the craft will prove to be quick wins for you as you gain momentum as a writer.

I don’t mean to imply that learning how to write a short story is easier than learning how to write a novel —only that as a neophyte you might find the process more manageable in smaller bites.

So let’s start at the beginning.

  • What Is a Short Story?

Don’t make the mistake of referring to short nonfiction articles as short stories. In the publishing world, short story always refers to fiction. And short stories come varying shapes and sizes:

  • Traditional: 1,500-5000 words
  • Flash Fiction: 500-1,000 words
  • Micro Fiction: 5 to 350 words

Is there really a market for a short story of 5,000 words (roughly 20 double-spaced manuscript pages)?

Some publications and contests accept entries that long, but it’s easier and more common to sell a short story in the 1,500- to 3,000-word range.

And on the other end of the spectrum, you may wonder if I’m serious about short stories of fewer than 10 words (Micro Fiction). Well, sort of.

They are really more gimmicks, but they exist. The most famous was Ernest Hemingway’s response to a bet that he couldn’t write fiction that short. He wrote: For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.

That implied a vast backstory and deep emotion.

Writing a short story is an art, despite that they are so much more concise than novels. Which is why I created this complete guide.

  • How to Come Up with Great Short Story Ideas

Do you struggle coming up with short story ideas?

Or is your list so long you don’t know where to start?

Writing fiction i s not about rules or techniques or someone else’s ideas. 

It’s about a story well told .

Short story ideas are all around you, and you can learn to recognize them. Then you can write with confidence and enjoy the process.

I recommend these strategies to generate story ideas:

1. Recognize the germ.

Much fiction starts with a memory—a person, a problem, tension, fear, conflict that resonates with you and grows in your mind. 

That’s the germ of an idea that can become your story.

2. Write it down.

Write your first draft to simply get the basics of the story down without worrying about grammar, cliches, redundancy or anything but the plot.

3. Create characters from people you know.

Characters come from people you’ve or have known all your life (relatives). 

Brainstorming interesting, quirky, inspiring, influential people and mix and match their looks, ages, genders, traits, voices , tics, habits, characteristics. The resulting character will be an amalgam of those.

4. Get writing.

The outlining and research has to end at some point.  

You’ve got to start getting words onto the page.

Interested in reading more about these strategies?

Click here to read my in-depth blog post on how to come up with story ideas .

  • How to Structure Your Short Story

Regardless whether you’re an Outliner or a Pantser like me (one who writes by the seat of their pants),  I recommend a basic story structure .

It looks like this, according to bestsellin g Dean Koontz :

  • Plunge your main character into terrible trouble as soon as possible. (That trouble will mean something different depending on your genre. For a thriller it might be life-threatening. For a romance it might mean choosing between two suitors.)
  • Everything your character does to try to get out of the trouble makes it only worse.
  • Eventually things appear hopeless.
  • Finally, everything your character has learned through all that trouble gives him what he needs to win the day—or fail.

That structure will keep you —and your reader—engaged.

  • How to Write a Short Story in 9 Steps
  • Read as Many Great Short Stories as You Can Find
  • Aim for the Heart
  • Narrow Your Scope
  • Make Your Title Sing
  • Use the Classic Story Structure
  • Suggest Backstory, Don’t Elaborate
  • When in Doubt, Leave it Out
  • Ensure a Satisfying Ending
  • Cut Like Your Story’s Life Depends on It

How to Write a Short Story Step 1. Read as Many Great Short Stories as You Can Find

Read hundreds of them—especially the classics .

You learn this genre by familiarizing yourself with the best. See yourself as an apprentice. Watch, evaluate, analyze the experts, then try to emulate their work.

Soon you’ll learn enough about how to write a short story that you can start developing your own style.

A lot of the skills you need can be learned through osmosis .

Where to start? Read Bret Lott , a modern-day master. (He chose one of my short stories for one of his collections .)

Reading two or three dozen short stories should give you an idea of their structure and style. That should spur you to try one of your own while continuing to read dozens more.

Remember, you won’t likely start with something sensational, but what you’ve learned through your reading—as well as what you’ll learn from your own writing—should give you confidence. You’ll be on your way.

How to Write a Short Story Step 2. Aim for the Heart

The most effective short stories evoke deep emotions in the reader.

What will move them? The same things that probably move you:

  • Heroic sacrifice

How to Write a Short Story Step 3. Narrow Your Scope

It should go without saying that there’s a drastic difference between a 450-page, 100,000-word novel and a 10-page, 2000-word short story.

One can accommodate an epic sweep of a story and cover decades with an extensive cast of characters .

The other must pack an emotional wallop and tell a compelling story with a beginning, a middle, and an end—with about 2% of the number of words.

Naturally, that dramatically restricts your number of characters, scenes, and even plot points .

The best short stories usually encompass only a short slice of the main character’s life —often only one scene or incident that must also bear the weight of your Deeper Question, your theme or what it is you’re really trying to say.

Tightening Tips

  • If your main character needs a cohort or a sounding board, don’t give her two. Combine characters where you can.
  • Avoid long blocks of description; rather, write just enough to trigger the theater of your reader’s mind.
  • Eliminate scenes that merely get your characters from one place to another. The reader doesn’t care how they got there, so you can simply write: Late that afternoon, Jim met Sharon at a coffee shop…

Your goal is to get to a resounding ending by portraying a poignant incident that tell a story in itself and represents a bigger picture.

How to Write a Short Story Step 4. Make Your Title Sing

Work hard on what to call your short story.

Yes, it might get changed by editors, but it must grab their attention first. They’ll want it to stand out to readers among a wide range of competing stories, and so do you.

How to Write a Short Story Step 5. Use the Classic Story Structure

Once your title has pulled the reader in, how do you hold his interest?

As you might imagine, this is as crucial in a short story as it is in a novel. So use the same basic approach:

Plunge your character into terrible trouble from the get-go .

Of course, terrible trouble means something different for different genres.

  • In a thriller, your character might find himself in physical danger, a life or death situation.
  • In a love story, the trouble might be emotional, a heroine torn between two lovers.
  • In a mystery, your main character might witness a crime, and then be accused of it.

Don’t waste time setting up the story. Get on with it.

Tell your reader just enough to make her care about your main character, then get to the the problem, the quest, the challenge, the danger—whatever it is that drives your story.

How to Write a Short Story Step 6. Suggest Backstory, Don’t Elaborate

You don’t have the space or time to flash back or cover a character’s entire backstory.

Rather than recite how a Frenchman got to America, merely mention the accent he had hoped to leave behind when he emigrated to the U.S. from Paris.

Don’t spend a paragraph describing a winter morning.

Layer that bit of sensory detail into the narrative by showing your character covering her face with her scarf against the frigid wind.

How to Write a Short Story Step 7. When in Doubt, Leave it Out

Short stories are, by definition, short. Every sentence must count. If even one word seems extraneous, it has to go.

How to Write a Short Story Step 8. Ensure a Satisfying Ending

This is a must. Bring down the curtain with a satisfying thud.

In a short story this can often be accomplished quickly, as long as it resounds with the reader and makes her nod. It can’t seem forced or contrived or feel as if the story has ended too soon.

In a modern day version of the Prodigal Son, a character calls from a taxi and leaves a message that if he’s allowed to come home, his father should leave the front porch light on. Otherwise, he’ll understand and just move on.

The rest of the story is him telling the cabbie how deeply his life choices have hurt his family.

The story ends with the taxi pulling into view of his childhood home, only to find not only the porch light on, but also every light in the house and more out in the yard.

That ending needed no elaboration. We don’t even need to be shown the reunion, the embrace, the tears, the talk. The lights say it all.

How to Write a Short Story Step 9. Cut Like Your Story’s Life Depends on It

Because it does.

When you’ve finished your story, the real work has just begun.

It’s time for you to become a ferocious self-editor .

Once you’re happy with the flow of the story, every other element should be examined for perfection: spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, word choice , elimination of clichés, redundancies, you name it.

Also, pour over the manuscript looking for ways to engage your reader’s senses and emotions.

All writing is rewriting . And remember, tightening nearly always adds power. Omit needless words.

She shrugged her shoulders .

He blinked his eyes .

Jim walked in through the open door and sat down in a chair .

The crowd clapped their hands and stomped their feet .

Learn to tighten and give yourself the best chance to write short stories that captivate your reader.

  • Short Story Examples
  • The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  • The Bet by Anton Chekhov
  • The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
  • To Build a Fire by Jack London
  • Journalism In Tennessee by Mark Twain
  • Transients in Arcadia by O. Henry
  • A New England Nun by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
  • Miggles by Bret Harte
  • The McWilliamses And The Burglar Alarm by Mark Twain
  • Vanka by Anton Chekhov
  • Where to Sell Your Short Stories

1. Contests

Writing contests are great because the winners usually get published in either a magazine or online—which means instant visibility for your name.

Many pay cash prizes up to $5,000. But even those that don’t offer cash give you awards that lend credibility to your next short story pitch .

2. Genre-Specific Periodicals

Such publications cater to audiences who love stories written in their particular literary category.

If you can score with one of these, the editor will likely come back to you for more.

Any time you can work with an editor, you’re developing a skill that will well serve your writing.

3. Popular Magazines

Plenty of print and online magazines still buy and publish short stories. A few examples:

  • The Atlantic
  • Harper’s Magazine
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
  • The New Yorker
  • Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
  • Woman’s World

4. Literary Magazines

While, admittedly, this market calls for a more intellectual than mass market approach to writing, getting published in one is still a win.

Here’s a list of literary magazine short story markets .

5. Short Story Books

Yes, some publishers still publish these.

They might consist entirely of short stories from one author, or they might contain the work of several, but they’re usually tied together by theme.

Regardless which style you’re interested in, remember that while each story should fit the whole, it must also work on its own, complete and satisfying in itself.

  • What’s Your Short Story Idea?

You’ll know yours has potential when you can distill its idea to a single sentence. You’ll find that this will keep you on track during the writing stage. Here’s mine for a piece I titled Midnight Clear (which became a movie starring Stephen Baldwin):

An estranged son visits his lonely mother on Christmas Eve before his planned suicide, unaware she is planning the same, and the encounter gives them each reasons to go on.

Amateur writing mistake

Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

White blooming flower

Faith-Based Words and Phrases

learn to write stories

What You and I Can Learn From Patricia Raybon

learn to write stories

Before you go, be sure to grab my FREE guide:

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

Just tell me where to send it:

learn to write stories

Enter your name and email below to instantly access my ultimate self-editing checklist.

Egyptian Arabic

Algerian Arabic

Jamaican Creole English

  • Apply to Teach

How to Write Short Stories for Small Children

How to Write Short Stories for Small Children

Every person during his/her childhood has heard a lot of stories and fairy tales. Most of them are fictional barring a few that are based on actual events. It is not at all difficult to write short stories, all that you need is a good command over the language and a bit of creativity. Apart from these there are certain things that need to be taken care of like the beginning of the story, the ending etc. If you want to try writing short stories for small children then here are few tips that will make your story the best. An appealing and an interesting beginning will arouse the curiosity of the reader which will keep them glued to the story till the end. But before you start writing the first paragraph, you must decide on several story elements. Consider choosing the following before you write the first paragraph:1. Setting (This is where the story takes place.) 2. Time (Commonly most short stories cover a day or up to a week. If your short story covers a month, you will probably need a shorter time period.) 3. Major conflict (that is the main problem that the characters will solve.) 4. Characters (it is advisable to have 2-4 characters in your story. The plot tends to get complicated if you have more than 4 characters) 5. Ending (There should be a resolution and all of the loose ends should be tied up.) Once you have decided on the basic story elements, the next thing is to decide on the major element of the story i.e. the target audience. In the case of short stories it is the children whom we target. After choosing the major story element you can start writing your story. If there are any conversations between the characters which are referred to as dialogues then just keep in mind that each time a different character talks, you need to indent and start a new paragraph. To come up with better dialogues it is suggested to put yourself in the shoes of the characters you are creating as this will help you come up with realistic dialogues. Read the stories of other writers to get an idea of how to go about writing short stories. Consider reading some folklore stories, which are available on the internet. Although you read stories of other authors it is really important to have your own style of writing. The story you write should be different from the ones you have read, in other words the story should be unique. This way you can attract more child readers and at the same time make a good name as a popular author in a short span of time.

I want need to job and person with Disability my deaf

Hi Everyone Good evening Report to you, i want need to work with job in Kuwaiti money purposes to india my home i need a job work and please help me w

Know about Lesotho

Lesotho is a mountainous country found in the continent of Africa. It is the country located near the country of South Africa.

Setswana is one of the South African Official Languages. The Batswana People hold pride in their language and values it as part of their heritage.

مدرسة لتعليم اللغة العربي

مرحباً. أسمي علا خريجة معهد للعلوم العربية وأجيد تعليم اللغة العربية بشكل جيد وخريجة لغة فرنسية واجيد ايضا اللغة الفرنسية والإنكليزية 

According to history Kenya got her independence 1963..the fighters mostly were said to be kikuyu's from Central Kenya e.g Kenyatta,Dedan kimathi.

The Ultimate Productivity Hack is Saying No

The ultimate productivity hack is saying no.   Not doing something will always be faster than doing it.


  • EXPLORE Coupons Tech Help Pro Random Article About Us Quizzes Contribute Train Your Brain Game Improve Your English Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • HELP US Support wikiHow Community Dashboard Write an Article Request a New Article More Ideas...
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Coupons Quizzes Upgrade Sign In
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Improve Your English
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • H&M Coupons
  • Hotwire Promo Codes
  • StubHub Discount Codes
  • Ashley Furniture Coupons
  • Blue Nile Promo Codes
  • NordVPN Coupons
  • Samsung Promo Codes
  • Chewy Promo Codes
  • Ulta Coupons
  • Vistaprint Promo Codes
  • Shutterfly Promo Codes
  • DoorDash Promo Codes
  • Office Depot Coupons
  • adidas Promo Codes
  • Home Depot Coupons
  • DSW Coupons
  • Bed Bath and Beyond Coupons
  • Lowe's Coupons
  • Surfshark Coupons
  • Nordstrom Coupons
  • Walmart Promo Codes
  • Dick's Sporting Goods Coupons
  • Fanatics Coupons
  • Edible Arrangements Coupons
  • eBay Coupons
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • Writing Genres
  • Short Story Writing

How to Write a Short Story

Last Updated: January 31, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Lucy V. Hay . Lucy V. Hay is a Professional Writer based in London, England. With over 20 years of industry experience, Lucy is an author, script editor, and award-winning blogger who helps other writers through writing workshops, courses, and her blog Bang2Write. Lucy is the producer of two British thrillers, and Bang2Write has appeared in the Top 100 round-ups for Writer’s Digest & The Write Life and is a UK Blog Awards Finalist and Feedspot’s #1 Screenwriting blog in the UK. She received a B.A. in Scriptwriting for Film & Television from Bournemouth University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 40 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 4,658,805 times.

For many writers, the short story is the perfect medium. It is a refreshing activity. For many, it is as natural as breathing is to lungs. While writing a novel can be a Herculean task, just about anybody can craft—and, most importantly, finish —a short story. Writing a novel can be a tiresome task, but writing a short story, it's not the same. A short story includes setting, plot, character and message. Like a novel, a good short story will thrill and entertain your reader. With some brainstorming, drafting, and polishing, you can learn how to write a successful short story in no time. And the greatest benefit is that you can edit it frequently until you are satisfied.

Sample Short Stories

learn to write stories

Brainstorming Ideas

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 1

  • For example, you can start with a simple plot like your main character has to deal with bad news or your main character gets an unwanted visit from a friend or family member.
  • You can also try a more complicated plot like your main character wakes up in a parallel dimension or your main character discovers someone else's deep dark secret.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 2

Making Characters that Pop: Finding Inspiration: Characters are all around you. Spend some time people-watching in a public place, like a mall or busy pedestrian street. Make notes about interesting people you see and think about how you could incorporate them into your story. You can also borrow traits from people you know. Crafting a Backstory: Delve into your main character’s past experiences to figure out what makes them tick. What was the lonely old man like as a child? Where did he get that scar on his hand? Even if you don’t include these details in the story, knowing your character deeply will help them ring true. Characters Make the Plot: Create a character who makes your plot more interesting and complicated. For example, if your character is a teenage girl who really cares about her family, you might expect her to protect her brother from school bullies. If she hates her brother, though, and is friends with his bullies, she’s conflicted in a way that makes your plot even more interesting.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 3

  • For example, maybe your main character has a desire or want that they have a hard time fulfilling. Or perhaps your main character is trapped in a bad or dangerous situation and must figure out how to stay alive.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 4

Tips on Crafting a Setting: Brainstorming descriptions: Write the down names of your settings, such as “small colony on Mars” or “the high school baseball field.” Visualize each place as vividly as you can and jot down whatever details come into your head. Set your characters down there and picture what they might do in this place. Thinking about your plot: Based on your characters and the arc of your plot, where does your story need to take place? Make your setting a crucial part of your story, so that your readers couldn’t imagine it anywhere else. For example, if your main character is a man who gets into a car crash, setting the story in a small town in the winter creates a plausible reason for the crash (black ice), plus an added complication (now he’s stranded in the cold with a broken car). Don’t overload the story. Using too many settings might confuse your reader or make it hard for them to get into the story. Using 1-2 settings is usually perfect for a short story.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 5

  • You can also focus on a more specific theme like “love between siblings,” “desire for friendship” or “loss of a parent.”

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 6

  • For example, you may have an emotional climax where your main character, a lonely elderly man, has to confront his neighbor about his illegal activity. Or you may have an emotional climax where the main character, a young teenage girl, stands up for her brother against school bullies.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 7

Creating a Satisfying Ending: Try out a few different endings. Outline a few different endings you could use. Visualize each option and see which ones feel more natural, surprising, or fulfilling. It’s okay if you don’t find the right ending right away—it’s one of the hardest parts of the story to write! How do you want your readers to feel when they finish? Your ending is the last impression you’ll leave on your reader. How will they feel if your characters succeed, fail, or land somewhere in the middle? For example, if your main character decides to stand up to her brother’s bullies but gets scared at the last second, the readers will leave feeling like she still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Stay away from cliches. Make sure you avoid gimmick endings, where you rely on familiar plot twists to surprise your reader. If your ending feels familiar or even boring, challenge yourself to make it more difficult for your characters.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 8

  • “The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov [7] X Research source
  • “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” by Alice Munro
  • “For Esme-With Love and Squalor" by J.D. Salinger [8] X Research source
  • “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury [9] X Research source
  • “Snow, Glass, Apples” by Neil Gaiman
  • "Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx [10] X Research source
  • “Wants” by Grace Paley
  • “Apollo” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz
  • “Seven” by Edwidge Danticat

Creating a First Draft

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 9

  • You can also try the snowflake method, where you have a one-sentence summary, a one-paragraph summary, a synopsis of all the characters in the story, and a spreadsheet of scenes.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 10

  • For example, an opening line like: “I was lonely that day” does not tell your reader much about the narrator and is not unusual or engaging.
  • Instead, try an opening line like: “The day after my wife left me, I rapped on the neighbor’s door to ask if she had any sugar for a cake I wasn’t going to bake.” This line gives the reader a past conflict, the wife leaving, and tension in the present between the narrator and the neighbor.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 11

  • Some stories are written in second person, where the narrator uses “you.” This is usually only done if the second person is essential to the narrative, such as in Ted Chiang’s short story, “Story of Your Life” or Junot Diaz’s short story, “This is How You Lose Her.”
  • Most short stories are written in the past tense, though you can use the present tense if you’d like to give the story more immediacy.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 12

Quick Dialogue Tips: Develop a voice for each character. Your characters are all unique, so all of their dialogue will sound a little different. Experiment to see what voice sounds right for each character. For example, one character might greet a friend by saying, “Hey girl, what’s up?”, while another might say, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages.” Use different dialogue tags—but not too many. Sprinkle descriptive dialogue tags, like “stammered” or “shouted,” throughout your story, but don’t make them overwhelming. You can continue to use “said,” in some situations, choosing a more descriptive tag when the scene really needs it.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 13

  • For example, you may describe your old high school as “a giant industrial-looking building that smells of gym socks, hair spray, lost dreams, and chalk.” Or you may describe the sky by your house as “a blank sheet covered in thick, gray haze from wildfires that crackled in the nearby forest in the early morning.”

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 14

  • You can also end on an interesting image or dialogue that reveals a character change or shift.
  • For example, you may end your story when your main character decides to turn in their neighbor, even if that means losing them as a friend. Or you may end your story with the image of your main character helping her bloodied brother walk home, just in time for dinner.

Polishing the Draft

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 15

  • Notice if your story follows your plot outline and that there is a clear conflict for your main character.
  • Reading the story aloud can also help you catch any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 16

Parts to Delete: Unnecessary description: Include just enough description to show the readers the most important characteristics of a place, a character, or an object while contributing to the story’s overall tone. If you have to clip out a particularly beautiful description, write it down and save it—you may be able to use in another story! Scenes that don’t move the plot forward: If you think a scene might not be necessary to the plot, try crossing it out and reading through the scenes before and after it. If the story still flows well and makes sense, you can probably delete the scene. Characters that don’t serve a purpose: You might have created a character to make a story seem realistic or to give your main character someone to talk to, but if that character isn’t important to the plot, they can probably be cut or merged into another character. Look carefully at a character’s extra friends, for example, or siblings who don’t have much dialogue.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 17

  • For example, the title “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” by Alice Munro is a good one because it is a quote from a character in the story and it addresses the reader directly, where the “I” has something to share with readers.
  • The title “Snow, Apple, Glass” by Neil Gaiman is also a good one because it presents three objects that are interesting on their own, but even more interesting when placed together in one story.

Image titled Write a Short Story Step 18

  • You can also join a writing group and submit your short story for a workshop. Or you may start your own writing group with friends so you can all workshop each other’s stories.
  • Once you get feedback from others, you should then revise the short story again so it is at its best draft.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

You Might Also Like


  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑

About This Article

Lucy V. Hay

If you want to write a short story, first decide on the central conflict for your story, then create a main character who deals with that problem, and decide whether they will interact with anyone else. Next, decide when and where your story will take place. Next, make a plot outline, with a climax and a resolution, and use that outline to create your first draft, telling the whole story without worrying about making it perfect. Read the short story out loud to yourself to help with proofreading and revision. To learn more about how to add details to your story and come up with an interesting title, keep reading the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Ann Clemmons

Ann Clemmons

Mar 16, 2017

Did this article help you?

learn to write stories

Oct 16, 2016

Gael Ronquillo

Gael Ronquillo

Jan 28, 2021

Irena Halder

Irena Halder

Dec 26, 2017

Nicole Altamia

Nicole Altamia

Aug 17, 2016

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

Respect Autistic People

Trending Articles

Plan for a Long Weekend

Watch Articles

Cook Rice in a Microwave

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Don’t miss out! Sign up for

wikiHow’s newsletter

Looking to publish? Meet your dream editor on Reedsy.

Find the perfect editor for your next book

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Last updated on Aug 12, 2022

How to Write a Short Story in 6 Simple Steps

Writing a short novel can be a challenge: in the space of a few pages you’ll have to develop characters, build tension up to a climax, and resolve the main conflict. 

To help you with the process, here's how to write a short story step-by-step:

1. Identify a short story idea

2. define the character’s main conflict and goal, 3. hook readers with a strong beginning , 4. draft a middle focused on the story’s message, 5. write a memorable ending, 6. refine the plot and structure of your short story.

Step by step, we’ll show you how to take a blank page and spin it into short-form narrative gold.

DLxeTh8QO0o Video Thumb

Before you can put your head down and write your story , you first need an idea you can run with. Some writers can seemingly pluck interesting ideas out of thin air but if that’s not you, then fear not. Here are some tips and tricks that will get your creative juices flowing and have you drumming up ideas in no time.

Pro-tip: Interested in writing short stories? We recommend taking this free 10-day course taught by professional editor Laura Mae Isaacman. 

learn to write stories


How to Craft a Killer Short Story

From pacing to character development, master the elements of short fiction.

Start with an interesting character or setting

Short stories, by their very nature, tend to be narrower in scope than a novel. There’s less pressure to have a rich narrative mapped out from A to Z before your pen hits the paper. Short story writers often find it fruitful to focus on a single character, setting , or event — an approach that is responsible for some true classics. 

John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” is about one character: a suburban American father who decides to swim through all of his neighbor’s pools. While Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” has a larger cast of characters, the story takes place perhaps over one hour in a town square. By limiting yourself to a few characters and one or two locations, you may find it easier to keep your story from getting out of hand and spiraling off into tangents.

Mine your own anecdotes

When it comes to establishing a story’s premise, real-life experiences can be your first port of call — “write what you know”, as the old adage goes. While you might not have lived through an epic saga akin to Gulliver’s Travels, you probably have an anecdote or two that would easily form the basis of a short story. If there’s a funny story you always reach for at a party or a family dinner, you could repurpose for a piece of writing or let it serve as a launchpad for your imagination.

Eavesdrop and steal

There is beauty in the mundane. Writers these days often have a document open in their phone’s notes app to remember things that might spark their imagination at a later date. After all, something you overhear in a conversation between your aunties could be perfect short story fodder — as could a colorful character who turns up at your workplace. Whether these experiences are the basis for a story or function as a small piece of embellishment, they can save your imagination from having to do all the heavy lifting.

It’s not just your own life you can take inspiration from either. Pay extra attention to the news, the stories your friends tell you, and all the things that go on around — it will surely serve you well when it comes to brainstorming a story.

These little snippets can serve as the genesis of a story, or could even make it in verbatim as inspiration for your dialogue. Want more dialogue writing tips? We've got a free course for that.

learn to write stories

How to Write Believable Dialogue

Master the art of dialogue in 10 five-minute lessons.

Try a writing prompt on for size

If you’re still stumped, looking through some short story ideas or writing prompts for inspiration. Any stories that are written with these resources are still your intellectual property, so you can freely share or publish them if they turn out well!

Once you have your idea (which could be a setting, character, or event), try to associate it with a strong emotion. Think of short stories as a study of feeling — rather than a full-blown plot, you can home in on an emotion and let that dictate the tone and narrative arc. Without this emotion core, you may find that your story lacks drive and will struggle to engage the reader. 

With your emotionally charged idea ready to go, let’s look at structure.

You might be tempted to apply standard novel-writing strategies to your story: intricately plotting each event, creating detailed character profiles , and of course, painstakingly mapping it onto a popular story framework with a beginning, middle, and end. But all you really need is a well-developed main character and one or two big events at most.

Short stories should have an inciting incident and a climax

A short story, though more concise, can still have all of the narrative components we’d expect from a novel — though the set up, inciting incident, and climax might just be a sentence or two. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, writers should aim to start their stories “as close to the end as possible”. Taking this advice to the extreme, you could begin your story in medias res , skipping all exposition and starting in the middle of the action, and sustaining tension from there on in.

What’s most important to remember is that short stories don't have the same privilege of time when it comes to exposition. To save time and make for a snappier piece of writing, it’s usually better to fold backstory into the rising action .

Each scene should escalate the tension

Another effective short story structure is the Fichtean Curve , which also skips over exposition and the inciting incident and starts with rising action. Typically, this part of the story will see the main character meet and overcome several smaller obstacles (with exposition snuck in), crescendoing with the climax. This approach encourages writers to craft tension-packed narratives that get straight to the point. Rarely do you want to resolve the main conflict in the middle of the story — if there’s an opportunity for tension, leave it open to keep the momentum going until the very end. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with structure and form

Short stories by design don’t really have the time to settle into the familiar shape of a classic narrative. However, this restriction gives you free rein to play around with chronology and point of view — to take risks, and be experimental. After all, if you’re only asking for 20 minutes of your readers’ time, they’re more likely to go along with an unusual storytelling style. Classic short stories like Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” did so well precisely because O’Connor redrew the parameters of the Southern Gothic genre as it was known — with its cast of characters, artfully sustained suspense and its shocking, gruesome ending.

Want to get creative with POV? Check out our free course to master the concept, and pick the perfect perspective for your story.

learn to write stories

Understanding Point of View

Learn to master different POVs and choose the best for your story.

A lot rides on the opening lines of a short story . You’ll want to strike the right tone, introduce the characters, and capture the reader’s attention all at once — and you need to do it quickly because you don’t have many words to work with! There are a few ways to do this, so let’s take a look at the options.

Start with an action

Starting with a bang — literally and figuratively — is a surefire way to grab your reader’s attention. Action is a great way to immediately establish tension that you can sustain throughout the story. This doesn’t have to be something hugely dramatic like a car crash (though it can be) — it can be as small and simple as missing a bus by a matter of seconds. So long as the reader understands that this action is in some way unusual, it can set the scene for the emotional turmoil that is to unfold.

Start with an insight

One highly effective method for starting a short story is to write an opening hook. A 'hook' can seem an obtuse word, but what it really means is a sentence that immediately garners intrigue and encourages your reader to read on.  For example, in “Mrs Dalloway” (originally a short story), Virginia Woolf opens with the line, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” The reader then wonders: who is Mrs. Dalloway, why is she buying flowers, and is it unusual that she would do so herself? Such questions prompt the reader to continue with interest, looking for answers.

learn to write stories

Start with an image

Another popular way of opening a story by presenting your reader with a strong image. It could be a description of an object, a person, or even a location. It’s not to everyone’s taste (especially if you love plot driven stories), but when done well, a well-drawn image has the ability to linger on the reader’s mind. Let’s go back to our example of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. This story starts opens with a vivid and detailed description of a village: The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. Though this description seems to be setting the stage for a pleasant, lighthearted tale, “The Lottery” actually takes a darker turn — making this opening image of an idyllic summer’s day even more eerie. When this story was published in The New Yorker, readers responded by sending in more letters than for any story that had come before — that’s how you know you’ve made an impact, right?

[ PRO-TIP : To read some of the best short stories, head here to find 31 must-read short story collections . ]

The old maxim of “write drunk, edit sober” has long been misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, a notorious drinker. While we do not recommend literally writing under the influence, there is something to be said for writing feely with your first draft.

Tell us about your book, and we'll give you a writing playlist

It'll only take a minute!

Don’t edit as you write

Your first draft is not going to be fit for human consumption. That’s not the point of it. Your goal with version 1 of the story is just to get something out on the page. You should have a clear sense of your story’s overall aim, so just sit down and write towards that aim as best you can. 

Avoid the temptation to noodle with word choice and syntax while you’re on the first draft: that part will come later. ‘Writing drunk’ means internalizing the confidence of someone on their second bottle of chablis. Behave as though everything you’re writing is amazing. If you make a spelling mistake? Who cares! Does that sentence make sense? You’ll fix that later!

Backstory is rarely needed

Hemingway ’s Iceberg Theory — correctly attributed to the man — is well suited to short stories. Like the physical appearance of an Iceberg, most of which is “under the surface”, much can be inferred about your story through a few craftily written sentences. Instead of being spoon-fed every single detail, your reader can ponder the subtext themselves and come to their own conclusions. The most classic example of this is “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” — a six-word story with a whole lot of emotionally charged subtext. (Note: that story is attributed to Hemingway, though that claim is also unsubstantiated!)

In short, don’t second-guess yourself and if your story truly needs more context, it can always be added in the next revision.

learn to write stories

Nothing is more disappointing to a reader than a beautifully written narrative with a weak ending. When you get to the end of your story , it may be tempting to dash off a quick one and be done with it— but don’t give in to temptation! There are countless ways to finish a story — and there’s no requirement to provide a tidy resolution — but we find that the most compelling endings will center on its characters .

What has changed about the character?

It’s typical for a story to put a protagonist through their paces as a means to tease out some kind of character development. Many stories will feature a classic redemption arc, but it’s not the only option. The ending might see the main character making a choice based on having some kind of profound revelation. Characters might change in subtler ways, though, arriving at a specific realization or becoming more cynical or hopeful. Or, they might learn absolutely nothing from the trials and tribulations they’ve faced. In O. Henry’s Christmas-set “The Gift of the Magi,” a young woman sells her hair to buy her husband a chain for his pocket watch. When the husband returns home that night, he reveals that he sold his watch to buy his wife a set of hair ornaments that she can now no longer use. The couple has spent the story worrying about material gifts but in the end, they have learned that real gift… is their love for one another.

Has our understanding of them changed?

Human beings are innately resistant to change. Instead of putting your characters through a great epiphany or moment of transformation, your ending could reveal an existing truth about them. For example, the ending might reveal that your seemingly likable character is actually a villain — or there may be a revelation that renders their morally dubious action in a kinder light. This revelation can also manifest itself as a twist. In Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” a plantation owner in the Civil War escapes the gallows and embarks on a treacherous journey home. But just before he reaches his wife’s waiting arms, he feels a sharp blow on the back of his neck. It is revealed that he never actually left the gallows — his escape was merely a final fantasy. For these character-driven endings to work, the readers need to be invested in your characters. With the precious few words that you have to tell your story, you need to paint enough of a picture to make readers care what actually happens to them at the end.

More often than not, if your ending falls flat, the problem usually lies in the preceding scenes and not the ending. Have you adequately set up the stakes of the story? Have you given readers enough of a clue about your twist ending? Does the reader care enough about the character for the ending to have a strong emotional impact? Once you can answer yes to all these questions, you’re ready to start editing.

If you’re wondering how to make your story go from good to great, the secret’s in the editing process. And the first stage of editing a short story involves whittling it down until it’s fighting fit. As Edgar Allan Poe once said, “a short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build toward it,”. With this in mind, ensure that each line and paragraph not only progress the story, but also contributes to the mood, key emotion or viewpoint you are trying to express. Poe himself does this to marvelous effect in “The Tell-Tale Heart”:

Slowly, little by little, I lifted the cloth, until a small, small light escaped from under it to fall upon — to fall upon that vulture eye! It was open — wide, wide open, and my anger increased as it looked straight at me. I could not see the old man’s face. Only that eye, that hard blue eye, and the blood in my body became like ice.

Edit ruthlessly

The rewrites will often take longer than the original draft because now you are trying to perfect and refine the central idea of your story. If you have a panic-stricken look across your face reading this, don’t worry, you will probably be more aware of the shape you want your story to take once you’ve written it, which will make the refining process a little easier.

A well-executed edit starts with a diligent re-read — something you’ll want to do multiple times to ensure no errors slip through the net. Pay attention to word flow, the intensity of your key emotion, and the pacing of your plot, and what the readers are gradually learning about your characters. Make a note of any inconsistencies you find, even if you don’t think they matter — something extremely minor can throw the whole narrative out of whack. The problem-solving skills required to identify and fix plot holes will also help you eventually skim the fat off your short story.

What to do if it’s too long

Maybe you’re entering a writing contest with a strict word limit, or perhaps you realize your story is dragging. A simple way to trim your story is to see if each sentence passes the ‘so what?’ test — i.e., would your reader miss it if it was deleted?

See also if there are any convoluted phrases that can be swapped out for snappier words. Do you need to describe a ‘400ft canvas-covered, steel-skeleton hydrogen dirigible’ when ‘massive airship’ might suffice?

Get a second opinion

Send your story to another writer. Sure, you may feel self-conscious but all writers have been embarrassed to share their work at some point in their lives— plus, it could save you from making major mistakes. There’s nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to point out something you missed. More than one pair of eyes is even better! 

Consider professional editing

If you decide to go with a professional editor, it’s your lucky day! Freelance literary editors will work on short stories for a lot less than they would for novels (from as little as $100 for a story under 5,000 words) — and it’s the perfect opportunity to get some experience working with a professional who knows exactly what a great short story should look like.

Now that you know how to a short story people will want to read, why not get it out into the world? In the next post in this series, discover your best options for getting your short story published.

4 responses

Douglas Smith | Writer says:

08/05/2019 – 12:28

I'm a big fan of Reedsy, but the above para on submitting is woefully inadequate, incomplete, and wrong. Contests? Sorry, but I rarely recommend entering contests and certainly no contest (or market) that charges an entry fee. I'll give a biased recommendation for my book PLAYING THE SHORT GAME: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction. I'm a multi-award-winning writer of short fiction published in 26 languages. The book gives a clear strategy on how to go about getting your first sale, then managing that sale, and learning to develop a career in short fiction by leveraging your stories via reprints and other means. Available at all the major retailers: And Reedsy, if you're interested, I offer workshops on each stage of short fiction careers. Would love to partner.

↪️ Vanessa Saxton replied:

17/09/2019 – 03:00

I respectfully disagree here. Any contest that does not charge an entry fee screams amateur. Any writer worth their salt knows this. I am also an award-winning writer, published author, and award-winning writing teacher,

Zack Urlocker says:

14/01/2020 – 05:51

I've written only novel-length stories, and I found this advice very helpful. Of course, it's still not easy to craft a short story, but this has given me some constraints to make it easier.

René Rehn says:

15/04/2020 – 03:04

What a great article! I truly think that mastering the short story is a prerequisite to writing a novel. I've been writing more than a hundred short stories in the past two years and I've learned a lot during that time. Still, there's some information here that made me think quite a bit. The focus on a central emotion is a great point. It's something I've not been thinking about. Sure, my stories end in a sad or terrible way, but I think my stories are generally broader and only lead up to the aforementioned events and emotions. So that's a great point and something I might want to think about on the next one I'll write. Thank you for the great article!

Comments are currently closed.

Join a community of over 1 million authors

Reedsy is more than just a blog. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book.

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account:

Reedsy | Short Story Editors | 2023-03

Meet short story editors

Perfect your story for submission with help from an experienced editor.

How to Write a Story: 10 Tips for Writing Stories

Hannah Yang headshot

Everyone has a story to tell.

It might be a real-world story that changed your life, like a meaningful experience you had when you were a child.

Or it might be a fictional story spun entirely from your own imagination, like a fantasy novel or a rom-com screenplay.

No matter what kinds of stories you’re hoping to write, there are certain storytelling principles that can help you communicate your tale in a powerful and convincing way.

In this article, we’ll give you our top ten tips for how to write a story that resonates with readers.

What Is a Story?

10 tips for how to write a story that resonates, conclusion on how to write a story.

We all know what a story is. After all, we encounter stories every day.

We consume stories in books, movies, newspapers, advertisements, and songs. We hear real-world stories from our friends, family members, and coworkers.

The dictionary definition of a story is “an account of imaginary or real people and events.” But we all know there’s more to it than that.

One particularly powerful definition is from John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story. Truby writes, “A speaker tells a listener what someone did to get what he wanted and why.”

From this definition, you can see that stories are fundamentally driven by their characters. A laundry list of events that happened doesn’t really feel like a story—the chain of events only becomes a story when you understand the “why” that caused those events.

When we consume stories, we learn about how different people handle different circumstances. Stories can entertain us, teach us, and help us relate to new ideas and experiences.

Different Types of Stories

There are so many different types of stories, and they can be classified in several different ways. Here are a few examples:

One story can belong to several different categories at the same time. For example, a true crime TV show counts as nonfiction, belongs to the crime genre, and fits the TV show format.

Now that we’ve discussed what a story is, it’s time to learn how to write a good one. Here are our top ten tips for writing a great story.

Tip 1: Start with an Idea that Excites You

If you’re not excited about your story idea, no one else will be, either.

Besides, it’s much easier to write a good story if you’re passionate about your story ideas. The story writing process often takes several months or even several years, so you need enough motivation to keep you going.

When you have an initial idea, make it even stronger by emphasizing the parts of it that excite you.

Which parts of the story idea hook you in? Is it the character arc of someone who has to learn an important lesson? Is it a beautiful or unique setting? Is it an intense or thrilling conflict?

At the same time, look for any aspects of the idea that don’t excite you so you can strengthen or remove them. Can you make the conflict more exciting? Can you choose a more interesting setting?

The more excited you feel when you start writing, the more likely you’ll be able to finish the writing process with a story that you love.

Tip 2: Know Your Audience

Your favorite movie might not be your grandma’s favorite movie.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that either you or your grandma have bad taste in movies—it just means that different stories appeal to different audiences. In fact, it’s impossible to find a story that everyone in the world likes.

When you’re telling a story, it’s important to figure out your target audience and what they want to see.

How old is your ideal reader? What topics and philosophical questions do they find interesting? How long is their attention span? Which novels, films, and TV shows do they enjoy?

Knowing the audience you’re writing for can help you make the right choices, such as deciding what tone to use and how long to make your story.

Tip 3: Develop Your Characters

Character development is essential in fiction writing.

Take the time to think about your characters’ personalities, motivations, goals, and fears. You need readers to relate to your characters and to feel invested in what happens to them.

You should know what each character wants and why they desire it before you even begin to write the first draft. What is it that each character desires most in the world? What do they fear the most?

Remember that each character sees themselves as the main character of their own story, even if they’re just a side character in the story you’re writing. Make sure they all have their own goals and motivations, and keep those goals in mind as you’re writing the story.

Tip 4: Establish a High-Stakes Conflict

A good story needs conflict to create tension and keep the reader engaged.

Many amateur writers assume that the word “conflict” refers to bad things happening to the main character, but conflict is actually much more specific than that. You can’t just throw in a bad hair day and call it conflict.

The real meaning of conflict is any obstacle that the main character faces while trying to achieve their goals.

For example, if there are no goals involved, a bad hair day is just a bad hair day. But if the main character is a fashion model trying to land a lucrative modeling job, and they need their hair to look good in order to get the job, then the bad hair day becomes a real conflict.

If your conflict doesn’t feel interesting enough, you can raise the stakes. Maybe the character needs to get the modeling job so she can afford to pay for her dad’s heart surgery. Now, the bad hair day matters much more than it did before because her dad’s life could be at risk if she fails.

The higher the stakes are, the stronger the conflict will be, and the more invested the reader will feel.

There are seven types of conflict: character vs character, character vs self, character vs society, character vs fate, character vs nature, character vs supernatural, and character vs technology.

Tip 5: Choose a Compelling Setting

The setting of your story can help you create the right atmosphere.

On a large scale, your setting might refer to the country your characters live in and the decade the story is set in.

On a smaller scale, your setting might refer to the specific apartment your character lives in and the time of day a scene takes place.

The more unique you can make your setting, the more interesting the rest of the story will become. For example, a conversation that happens in a coffeeshop in the middle of the afternoon might feel more interesting if it takes place in a cemetery at night, even if it’s the exact same conversation.

You can even treat the setting as a character in its own right. For example, in horror stories that include a haunted house, the house often acts as an antagonist with its own desires and goals.

Tip 6: Show, Don’t Tell

The renowned Russian novelist Anton Chekhov once said: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

If you “tell” someone about what’s happening in your story, they’ll simply understand a summary of the story.

On the other hand, if you “show” someone the story through actions, sensations, and other descriptive language, they’ll feel like they experienced that event alongside the characters.

Showing has a lot of benefits. It can engross your readers, convey more depth, and make your story feel more immersive.

If you’re not sure how to follow the “show, don’t tell” rule, start by trying to use all five senses when describing your scene. What is the main character seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching?

ProWritingAid’s Sensory Report can help you make sure you’re using all five senses in your writing. The tool highlights words that relate to the senses, such as “bitter” for taste or “silence” for sound, so you can see how well you’re “showing” instead of “telling.”

ProWritingAid detecting sensory words

Tip 7: Learn Story Structure

Different formats of stories have different structures. For example, many plays, films, and novels follow a three-act structure that suggests placing specific plot points, or “story beats,” at specific points in the story.

If you’re writing a short story, on the other hand, you have much less room, so you don’t need to hit a lot of different story beats to create a story arc. Most of the time, you only need two major story beats: the inciting incident and the climax.

You don’t necessarily need to create a story outline in advance if you don’t enjoy the outlining process. However, you do need to understand how to create a satisfying story arc.

A great way to start learning story structure is by studying three-act structure, because it’s a simple option that follows your intuitive understanding of a story’s beginning, middle, and end.

Tip 8: Explore a Thematic Question

Many stories raise interesting philosophical questions.

You can explore your theme through your protagonist’s character arc by having them struggle with that question throughout the movie.

For example, the protagonist of the movie Whiplash is Miles Teller, an aspiring jazz musician at a prestigious music conservatory. Miles struggles with the question of whether the pursuit of greatness is worth sacrificing his happiness.

You can also explore themes by having different characters in your story represent different answers to a thematic question.

In Whiplash , the maestro of Miles’ jazz band abuses his students both physically and emotionally to try to make them great. Meanwhile, Miles’ father is an engineer who seems content with living a boring, unremarkable life, and discourages Miles from pushing himself too hard.

You can use themes to make your story resonate more deeply with readers.

Tip 9: Use Subtext to Add Depth

Subtext refers to a hidden or less obvious meaning within your creative work, rather than what’s announced explicitly on the page.

In real life, we rarely say exactly what we mean. All our interactions have subtext underneath the surface.

For example, you might say, “I’m fine” when what you really mean is, “I’m extremely annoyed, but I’m too polite to say so.” Or you might say, “I’m fine” when what you really mean is, “I’m a little sad, but I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

The same should be true for the characters in your stories. Think about what they’re leaving unsaid, and try to convey that through subtextual clues like body language and emotional tells.

Using subtext can help add depth to your story and make your writing feel more nuanced and realistic.

Tip 10: Edit and Revise Your Work

A good story often requires multiple drafts and revisions to get it just right. Don’t be afraid to cut or change things that aren’t working.

You can ask friends and writing partners for feedback on your story to see if they have suggestions for how to revise.

A grammar checker can also help you revise your story more efficiently. You can use ProWritingAid to catch mistakes, improve your sentence structure, search for clichés, and more.

There you have it—our top ten tips for writing a great story, whether it’s a novel, a screenplay, or something else entirely.

Check out our article on how to start writing a book if you need more ideas.

Good luck, and happy writing!

learn to write stories

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.

Hannah Yang

Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.

Get started with ProWritingAid

Drop us a line or let's stay in touch via :

Creative Writing News

How To Write A Story Like A Literary Great (Story Writing Tips + Examples)

Budding writers often wonder how to write a story. not just a story, but a good story that everyone remembers and recommends. the world is full of stories, so you have to work hard at yours to make it outstanding. so if you often wonder how to create a story, you have come to the right place. .

Prolific writer, Charles Opara in his article, offers writers a step-by-step guide on how to write a good story. This guide will help you figure out how to  create the best story you possibly can. It will also show you how to overcome certain challenges that writers face such as unproductivity nnd writers’ block.

Ready to learn? Let’s read on.

It is almost impossible to learn how to write a story without first understanding the concept of the story. So let’s start by describing or defining a story.

What is a story? 

When you think of a story, think of a necklace .   Or a string of pearls. The entire string is the narrative. Simply put, it is the  fiction-writing mode in which the narrator communicates directly to the reader.

The pearl, in other words, is the description. It usually contains the scenes. (Recall, the four rhetorical modes of discourse: narration, description, exposition, and argumentation.)  

Scene vs. Narrative And Why They Matter In Storytelling and Story Writing

The scenes paint a picture and they usually describe places, things, or characters . Consider the piece of string between two adjacent pearls.

In story writing, scenes move at a fast pace. The events that happen in this part are not detailed, and for that reason, advance much quicker.

Here, the writer wishes to inform the reader that this or that occurred, or that time has passed (events that take place between one scene and the next) albeit summarily. Without this vital part it would be difficult to follow the story, difficult to tell what stage the story is in.

While the pearls handle the significant events the writer wishes to share in detail, the string hides details of events the writer does not wish to bother the reader with. I’m sure you’ll agree that the pearls are the beauty of the necklace, the reason why we buy it. And so it is with fiction.

how to create a fictional tale

A Step-by-Step Guide On How To Write A Good Story.

When writing a story , even if you must sacrifice the plot (that thing that connects all your scenes) you can’t write a good fiction without at least a scene, which would most likely feature a character in a setting.

If you try, the outcome will be something aimed at informing the reader (rather than transporting him to a different time and place) like a story outline, a skeletal account, or plot points. And this is not good.

People read fiction mainly to be entertained, and it’s hard to entertain them when they do not feel drawn to your story.

While creating a story, it is important to note that  scenes are the building blocks of an entertaining story. There is no better way to make readers feel emotions like joy, anger, disgust, lust, horror, sorrow, tension, excitement and the rest than putting them in a scene with your characters.

Learn to move your story forward: How to keep your readers au fait

The renowned German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, who died in 1956, used narrators or narrative figures to fill the missing action in his plays. Today, the use of narrators before a scene opens has become a feature in epic dramas.

These narrators tell us the action that is not played out for us by the actors, the action that we missed between the last scene and the next.

Figure Out What Makes Up A Good Story

Master The Parts Or Elements Of A Story

The plot, the story goal, the theme, the characters, the conflict and the setting, especially the opening and final scenes, are six things you need to determine before you begin to write your story.

If you are clear on these, then, only your writing can let you down. Before I learned how to write a story, I used to be one of those people who didn’t plan my plot right up till the end before I started to write.

This meant I never knew how my story would pan out until I had reached the very last scene nor did I know how my characters would develop .

My theme was often a mystery to me. Which is why I often had to redraft my stories, many times — too many times. Sometimes having to make major changes to the story.

To forestall against this, develop the habit of working with and working through a story plan that includes the six elements of fiction. By story plan, I mean a skeletal framework on what you want to write about. A story plan is a vital step to writing a good story.

How to spin a tale

The elements of fiction (expressed as parts of the figurative story necklace)

Going back to our metaphor of the necklace, let’s appreciate the various elements of fiction better. We find the plot coursing through the whole necklace. Having the same dynamics as fluid, it moves much faster in the narrow string and much slower in the pearl.

As I’ve already said, the beads would be that part of the story where characters perform actions.  The part where your characters and their conflicts unfold, allowing you to form an opinion about them, an opinion not (explicitly) defined for you by the author’s narrative (as we see in the string), allowing you to experience or visualize a character or a setting (through sensory images). The string would be that part that takes you to a scene.

Or, you could say, the events mentioned in summary so the reader can follow the story better (e.g. the passage of time). Looking at the necklace more closely, you’ll notice a repeating pattern in the beads (there usually is, in a good necklace.) This pattern is the theme. There’s one part of the string I still haven’t talked about. The clip.

So, what element of fiction do you think the clip of the necklace represents? Here’s a clue: it’s something that keeps the necklace firmly around your neck. It’s that thing that brings all your elements together. Can you guess? Pause from reading and take a minute to think about it.

The Clip And Its Role In Helping You Learning How To Write A Story.

Without the clip would the necklace stay around your neck? No. It would fall off. So the clip is very important. In fact, without it, there will be no point of owning a necklace; its aim is defeated as you can’t wear it.

If you just carry it in the palm of your hand, no one will see it like it ought to be seen, no one will appreciate it. So what is that which plays the role of a clip in a good story?

It is the thematic statement. The theme has two parts: a concept and a statement. The thematic concept is the design or pattern that we see in the beads while the thematic statement is the clip at the end of the necklace that allows it to be worn. The thematic concept is commonly referred to as the theme.

While there isn’t a common name for the thematic statement, to my knowledge, my guess for its more generic term would be the story goal. (The story goal is different from the character goal, please take note.)

Story goals have to do with the morals or the lessons stories try to teach. The thematic statement is the salient message/idea/point that the reader gets from the story. And what determines this is usually how the story is resolved. So you will not be entirely wrong if you called the clip the resolution.

Decide On What The Point Of Your Story Will Be.

When a story lacks a thematic statement then it is  not a good story because it is all plot and no purpose, a collection of different events (different actions described within a setting) that have nothing binding them together, nothing to make you appreciate why the writer took the trouble to tell them. Many readers consider these type of stories a waste of time.

  What Makes A Good Story?

Most times, as writers, we focus on the art of writing, neglecting the art of storytelling or story-crafting. A lot of us are good writers, but some of us have trouble telling a good story.

When your writing is up to par, and you’re still having trouble getting your stories accepted for publication, it’s time for you to master the art of storytelling.

Storytelling is what takes your writing from raw sentences to real entertainment. It is like the glaze on a ceramic sculpture that makes it look finished.

If writing is artistic expression, storytelling is artistic direction. The two are like hand and glove. And like hand and glove, they can be separated.

Create a story

Storytelling: How Story Writing Works.

Begin by asking yourself what the story you want to write is about . Can you say it in one sentence (called an elevator pitch, a premise, or a logline)?

Whenever you’re trying to figure out what a story is really about, look for the internal conflict. When you ask people what a story is about, most make the mistake of telling you the plot of the story.

Well, it’s not the plot. It’s the theme. And it ought to be so because, when you consider our story necklace metaphor, you’ll see that the theme gives the necklace beautiful patterns; it adds value to it. So it’s all about the theme when trying to decide on the worth of the necklace.

If the necklace is supposed to be a thing of beauty, then, it’s all about the patterns on it. If you can summarize the story you want to write in one sentence and make it include the theme, then, that’s it. That’s what it’s about.

The Two Types Of Conflict.

In a good story, there are usually two types of conflicts: the external one and the internal one.

Why? Because a well-developed story makes us appreciate a character’s inner turmoil, his emotional/ psychological struggle, and in the end, it says something about life. Stories with internal conflicts are deep. When you think of a good story to write, remember that conflicts are important.

They paint pictures about the human condition, the human struggle, the human mind, the human character, the human virtue, the human resilience, and more.  Ultimately, their resolution by characters who show humanities (even if they are aliens) gives your story its meaning, gives it an underlying message, a lesson that can be framed into one sentence called the thematic statement.

The Six Elements of Fiction.

Things like, Point of View and Voice, Tone and many others fall under Style.

The plot is what happens in your story. It usually revolves around an external conflict.

For example, a man takes the bus home from work after his car breaks down.

The external conflict is all that stands in the way of his trying to get home. The need to get home is the character’s goal. It’s a combination of his car breaking down and all the setbacks he encounters on his way home.

The Theme And It Helps You Create A Stronger Story.

The theme is what your sub-story (your deeper, underlying story) is about. And it revolves around your internal conflict.

A man refuses to let his wife give him a ride back home when his car breaks down.

Why does he refuse his wife’s favour?

Because he’s still mad at her for cheating on him with the school coach, his best friend. They’ve already resolved this matter, but he still wants to give her a hard time over it.

So the internal conflict is the emotions he’s still dealing with surrounding his wife’s unfaithfulness, now that he has knowledge of it.

The theme here is infidelity, or dealing with unfaithfulness, the unfaithfulness of a spouse.

Let’s say our story opens with our protagonist trying to start his car. He gets a call from his wife. He tells her he’s having car trouble and turns down her offer to pick him up.

The rest of the scenes in the story detail the things the man sees on his bus trip, and the discomfort and culture shock he has as a result (he has never taken the bus in his life).

While all this is going on, his thoughts flashback to how he learned of his wife’s affair (exposition) and we understand better the phone conversation he had with her in the beginning, why she said something about him wanting to still punish her.

Our example is taken from a short story called The Bus by Brock Clarke . Most of the scenes take place in the bus so it seems the story is about a bus trip, but it’s not.

How to make a story

The internal conflict hints at what the story is really about.

The story is not about a dreadful bus ride. The bus ride is what happens in the story. That is the plot. The story is about a man trying to punish his wife for an affair she had with his best friend by turning down her offer of a ride home from work.

 I know this from the internal conflict. The theme will tell you what the story is about and it usually revolves around an internal conflict.

The Role Of Conflict, Plot, and Theme When Figuring Out How To Write A Story.

You can see that the conflict (both external and internal) is a distinct element of fiction, distinguishable from the plot and the theme. Plot and Theme usually revolve around conflicts. Plot is what happens in a bid to resolve some external conflict. Theme is the idea and the message that the internal conflict brings to our attention.

Do you now see why you should decide what your conflicts will be before you start to type your story? It helps you decide on what will happen in your story and what your story will be about, helps you decide on the plot and the theme.

What happens when a story has more than one external conflict?

Sometimes a story may have several external conflicts and several internal conflicts. But it should have one major internal conflict. If you have two or more internal conflicts, you could end up telling two or more stories instead of one.

That’s not a crime per se, but it is a little too much, from an aesthetic point of view, if you ask me. From an artistic perspective, I don’t advise this. Better for you to break up your story into several chapters and have one theme for each chapter. Or if you’re writing a TV series, have one theme for each episode.

Since the point of a story revolves around an internal conflict, having two internal conflicts would cause some confusion.

(Note that one internal conflict can lead to several external conflicts and not the other way around, not normally. You don’t want your readers to grapple with too many life lessons in one chapter or episode because it would water down or dilute the impact of your piece.)

From our story, our male protagonist could get off the bus and be chased by muggers. This would result in a new external conflict, one that takes place outside the bus: he now wants to escape muggers (the first was getting through an unbearable bus ride home), but it’s still one plot: a man’s effort to get back home after his car broke down (now having two parts: the bus trip and the chase).

When a story has several themes

A story can have several themes. A theme is an idea that the story revolves around. And it is usually rooted in an internal conflict. Several ideas could revolve around one internal conflict. A story can have several themes but it should make a statement about just one (the central theme). From our example, one idea could be unfaithfulness or infidelity. Another could be, resentfulness.

The theme: concept and statement

Earlier, I said the theme is both the idea (concept) and the message (statement) your story carries. If you have an internal conflict, you already have an idea for the theme. What remains now is what statement you make about it. Your theme is not complete unless your story says something about it. And you make it say what you want by how you end your story.

Determine The Thematic Concept Of The Story.

So, what do you think is the thematic concept of our story example?

How about, ‘Resentfulness vs. truly forgiving’? Begrudging vs. Letting go. What about, ‘the things we put ourselves through to make a point’?

Our ending determines what our thematic statement says.

If the bus trip turns out to be an experience our protagonist wishes he had not undergone, then, the thematic statement would be,

‘Resentfulness after reconciliation leads to regret’?

Or, ‘It doesn’t pay to still begrudge those who have told us they are sorry’.

Or, ‘Refusing to let old wounds heal begets new pains’.

Character and Setting Plays A Good Role In Story Writing.

The other elements of fiction, Character and Setting, are self-explanatory. I won’t go into them. I’ll just say, depending on the length of your story, you ought to devote a certain amount of words to character development and setting. In flash fiction, character development is either omitted completely or done in very few words.

The last is Style, also called ‘ writing style ‘ or ‘narrative style’. It’s all about the technique you deploy in your narration. You should decide on what style to use after crafting your story, before you sit down to write it. And so it should also be one of your pre-considerations. Style is your art of writing, or your literary expression. It includes things like POV choice, Voice, Tone, Diction and more. It’s very broad.

How To Write a Story Using Diegesis and Mimesis

From our metaphor of a story, some could argue that the string tells more than it shows, and the pearl, a metaphor for a scene (and since scenes are heavy on description), shows more than it tells.

Showing and telling, telling and showing. Aren’t we, as writers, all too familiar with the terms?

The more technical terms would be Diegesis (telling) and Mimesis (showing). They are both style choices.

In diegesis, the narrator tells the story. The narrator presents the actions (and sometimes thoughts) of the characters to the readers or audience. Diegetic elements are part of the fictional world (“part of the story”), as opposed to non-diegetic elements which are stylistic elements of how the narrator tells the story (“part of the storytelling”).

In Diegesis, there is a filter to the action, a narrative filter that gives us a sense of an authorial presence.

We are made even more aware of this presence by the writer’s voice, especially if he or she speaks in a non-standard dialect. Remember the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett? There are many more examples.

Mimesis is imitative representation of the real world in art and literature. It’s understood as a form of realism in literature.

Dissect The Diegesis vs. Mimesis

Mimesis shows rather than tells, by means of action that is enacted. Diegesis is the telling of a story by a narrator. The narrator may speak as a particular character, or may be the invisible narrator, or even the all-knowing narrator who speaks from “outside” in the form of commenting on the action or the characters. In Diegesis, there’s a filter to the action. In Mimesis, there’s none.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the decision to write with or without a filter is a style choice. So you see, it’s not accurate to say that showing occurs in the beads and telling occurs in the string because it’s a style choice.

A story can be diegetically told, with no aspect of Mimesis. Your writing style pervades all aspects of your story and can be seen in every part of the necklace, both string and bead. The only thing we can be certain of is that the plot moves at a faster pace in the string than in the bead.

Writing is art expression; storytelling is art direction

A good writer is not necessarily a good storyteller and vice versa. Writing is a literary expression; storytelling is literary direction. Some writers do one better than the other.

Think of the other five elements (outside style) as all the things that will make you a good storyteller, a good story crafter while style is everything you need to apply to your writing that will make you a good writer.

To learn how to write a story, learn to create a story plan.

If I’m asked what makes a good story, I would tell them it’s a story that deploys the six elements of fiction (plot, theme, conflict, setting, character and style).

If you want to write better stories, create a story plan that looks something like this:

(You can add other aspects of style not on this list). You can create a story plan before you start writing your story, or after the story has been written. The story plan is supposed to help you figure out ways to plu plot holes and to develop your characters.

Conclusion On How To Write A Story Like A Literary Great.

Good story writing is not as easy as accomplished writers make it seem. But you can write good stories if you choose your scenes, characters and themes wisely. And pay attention to the narrative techniques in your story.

Have you learned the ins and outs of writing a story? Please share your tips with us in the comments section. We want to learn more on how to write a story.

How To Write a good story


Charles Opara is a Nigerian-born author who writes suspense, speculative fiction, and short stories, who is about to publish a collection of short stories. He is a programmer with a passion for groundbreaking technologies. His creative mind enjoys the logic involved in writing stories and programs. In 2015, his horror short “It Happened” was shortlisted for the Awele Creative Trust Prize and in 2017, another story ‘Baby-girl’ was long-listed for the Quramo National Prize in his country. His stories have appeared in Ambit, Flash Fiction Press, and Zoetic Press.

twitter handle: Charles [email protected]

Share this:


Pingback: Ibua 2020 Continental Call/ How To Apply (Prize: $550) - Creative Writing News

Pingback: Ibua Journal 2020 Continental Calls For Poems and Stories/ How To Apply (Prize: $550) – My Blog

Pingback: Narrative Arc, Story Arc, Plot Arc and Character Arc (Definitions + Examples + Tips For Creating A Narrative Arc In Your Story) - Creative Writing News

Pingback: Afritondo Short Story Prize 2021/ How To Apply (Prize: $1000) - Creative Writing News

Pingback: How To Became A Bestselling Author In 24 hours: An Interview With Yvonne Chioma Mbanefo - Creative Writing News

Pingback: Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020 / How To Apply (Prizes: £17,500 + more) - Creative Writing News

Pingback: One Teen Story Contest / How To Apply ($500 + Publication) - Creative Writing News

Pingback: Voyage YA Journal Is Accepting Young Adult Short Stories For Its 2020 Voyage First Chapters Contest/ How to Submit (Payment: $3,500) - Creative Writing News

Pingback: Legendary Tale Anthology Is Accepting Speculative Fiction Submissions/ How to Submit (Awards:$75 + Publication) - Creative Writing News

' src=

Cainara Biondo

Jan 15, 2021 at 4:02 pm

Olá, fazendo uma busca na internet por bons conteúdos que me ajudem a melhor ainda mais minha escrita, encontrei este site e gostaria de parabeniza-los pelo maravilhoso conteúdo, bem explicativo e simples de entender. Estarei lendo outros post. Acredito que com essas dicas, aumentarei meu potencial de conseguir fazer com que minhas histórias viagem pelo mundo!

Desde já agradeço!

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

Post Comment

More From Forbes

The 29 Best (And Free) ChatGPT And Generative AI Courses And Resources

Knowing how to get the best results out of the new breed of generative AI tools that are causing a storm is quickly becoming a critical tech skill.

By now, most of us have probably played around with tools like ChatGPT or Stable Diffusion. They're a lot of fun, but they also have the potential to be helpful in many aspects of our lives.

Taking some advice from experts who can explain the advanced features and best practices is likely to be time well spent for just about everybody. So, here's a list of some of the best courses, guides, and short tutorials that I’ve come across so far. The best thing is these are all completely free. And if you’ve found a resource (or even made one yourself) that you think people will find helpful, please let me know in the comments!

ChatGPT and language AI

Prompt Engineering Course for ChatGPT

A Vanderbilt University course delivered through Coursera that acts as an introduction to writing useful and effective prompts for those with little to no technical skills.

ChatGPT Prompt Engineering for Developers

As the name suggests, this is aimed at those who want to code applications using ChatGPT. It’s taught by AI mastermind Andrew Ng, along with OpenAI’s Isa Fulford, and as it is currently free for a limited time, that’s enough for me to recommend it to anyone who wants to start building an understanding of the more technical side of ChatGPT!

It’s Hard To Rave About A Plain White T-Shirt, So Retailers Are Making AI Do It

Lawyer uses chatgpt in federal court and it goes horribly wrong, how chatgpt is reshaping the c-suite, with new ai leadership position.

ChatGPT Prompt Engineering Course

Does what it says on the tin! A short, friendly course that starts with the very basics and then moves on to some tips and techniques for writing more advanced prompts.

Datacamp: Introduction to ChatGPT

An introductory guide to writing more useful prompts along with a primer on some of the more popular business use cases for ChatGPT.

ChatGPT for Beginners: The Ultimate Use Cases For Everyone

A free course covering using ChatGPT for everyday work and business tasks, as well as building passive income streams and everyday life.

The Fundamentals of ChatGPT

This course should take one and a half to three hours to work through, so it's pretty short, and in that time, you'll learn the basic techniques for putting it to work before moving on to some more technical aspects covering how it is built and trained.

A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to Google Bard

Google’s AI text chatbot interface launched recently and offers a few features that differentiate it from competitors; for example, it will soon be a part of Google Search, which is still the world's most popular search engine.

AI Art and Design

Midjourney Prompt Tricks for Beginners and Veterans

A short, one-hour video introduction to some of the key prompts, tricks, and tips that anyone can use to start making better images with Midjourney.

How To Use Midjourney, AI Art, and ChatGPT to Create an Amazing Website

A video outlining a process for creating websites using a combination of generative AI tools.

Stable Diffusion

A course provided by the University of Central Florida detailing beginner and advanced methods for this powerful AI image tool.

Stable Diffusion – Master AI Course

This one-hour video course covers some of the more technical functionality of the image generation tool, such as Python integrations. It's free, but you can leave the author a tip if you like it.

Stable Diffusion Prompt Tutorial

Learn the basics of prompt engineering to create the images you want.

How To Build A Website With ChatGPT

A tutorial covering how to use ChatGPT to design and build a WordPress website.

AI Music and Audio

How To Generate AI Music

An informative article introducing the topic of AI music creation along with some of the most popular AI tools, including Jukebox, AIVA, and Beatoven.

3 ChatGPT Music Prompts for Generating Chords and Lyrics

Did you know ChatGPT can create music – sort of? While it can’t generate sounds, it can write lyrics and chord progressions. This article explains the process.

Introduction to Ai in Music Production using GPT and Jukebox

How to use OpenAI’s Jukebox generative music AI to create entire songs from scratch, incorporating lyrics from ChatGPT.

The Secrets of Making Music with the AI Jukebox

Another approach to creating music with Jukebox, but this one requires some experience with Python coding.

Video-based Generative AI

How To Create an AI Generated Video with ChatGPT, Synthesia, and Descript

Combining the outputs of different generative AI tools is the best way to make truly customized videos with AI right now. This tutorial describes a simple process.

How To Make Cool AI Videos (Step-by-Step)

Short Youtube video walking through the process of installing and using the Deforum plugin for Stable Diffusion, which lets you make video animations.

How To Use an AI Music Video Generator

A straightforward article with video examples that walks you through some of the options available to musicians wanting to use AI to create videos to accompany their songs.

Learn Descript in Just 15 Minutes

Descript is a powerful AI video editing tool that converts video into an editable text transcript. This is a short, clear video on understanding how to use it.

Pictory AI Tutorial for Beginners

Pictory makes it extremely simple to create short, branded videos and animations as a fun, creative project or to promote a business or service. This is a video tutorial presented in four short parts that will show you the ropes.

Generative AI for Data and Analytics

Practical Data Science on AWS: Generative AI

Presented by DeepLearning.AI, this is a webinar-based tutorial introducing the practical aspects of using tools like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion for data science tasks within the AWS cloud.

Excel AI – Data Analysis Made Easy

A guide to getting started using the language-based generative AI functionality in Excel to uncover insights in your data.

Building Applications

How To Use ChatGPT to Write Code

How To Use ChatGPT to Create an App

Two great articles from ZDNet covering the basics of getting ChatGPT to generate and debug code and how to put it all together into a working app.

Building An App From Scratch With ChatGPT

A video tutorial that takes you step-by-step through the process of creating a to-do list app, learning techniques that can be applied to creating any apps or software.

How to Build a Full App With ChatGPT in 20 Minutes

A short video demonstrating the entire process of creating a simple cryptocurrency-related application.

Build A Chatbot in Python with ChatGPT

Using a chatbot to build a chatbot is just one of the amazing things you can do with generative AI in 2023.

To stay on top of the latest on new and emerging business and tech trends, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter , follow me on Twitter , LinkedIn , and YouTube , and check out my books, Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World and The Future Internet: How the Metaverse, Web 3.0, and Blockchain Will Transform Business and Society .

Bernard Marr

The First Year of AI College Ends in Ruin

There’s an arms race on campus, and professors are losing.

Illustration of a Terminator-style robot wearing a graduation cap and gown

Listen to this article

Listen to more stories on hark

This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic , Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.

O ne hundred percent AI . That’s what the software concluded about a student’s paper. One of the professors in the academic program I direct had come across this finding and asked me what to do with it. Then another one saw the same result— 100 percent AI —for a different paper by that student, and also wondered: What does this mean? I did not know. I still don’t.

The problem breaks down into more problems: whether it’s possible to know for certain that a student used AI, what it even means to “use” AI for writing papers, and when that use amounts to cheating. The software that had flagged our student’s papers was also multilayered: Canvas, our courseware system, was running Turnitin, a popular plagiarism-detection service, which had recently installed a new AI-detection algorithm. The alleged evidence of cheating had emerged from a nesting doll of ed-tech black boxes.

This is college life at the close of ChatGPT’s first academic year: a moil of incrimination and confusion. In the past few weeks, I’ve talked with dozens of educators and students who are now confronting, for the very first time, a spate of AI “cheating.” Their stories left me reeling. Reports from on campus hint that legitimate uses of AI in education may be indistinguishable from unscrupulous ones, and that identifying cheaters—let alone holding them to account—is more or less impossible.

O nce upon a time , students shared exams or handed down papers to classmates. Then they started outsourcing their homework, aided by the internet. Online businesses such as EssayShark (which asserts that it sells term papers for “ research and reference purposes only ”) have professionalized that process. Now it’s possible for students to purchase answers for assignments from a “tutoring” service such as Chegg —a practice that the kids call “chegging.” But when the AI chatbots were unleashed last fall, all these cheating methods of the past seemed obsolete. “We now believe [ChatGPT is] having an impact on our new-customer growth rate,” Chegg’s CEO admitted on an earnings call this month. The company has since lost roughly $1 billion in market value.

Other companies could benefit from the same upheaval. By 2018, Turnitin was already taking more than $100 million in yearly revenue to help professors sniff out impropriety. Its software, embedded in the courseware that students use to turn in work, compares their submissions with a database of existing material (including other student papers that Turnitin has previously consumed), and flags material that might have been copied. The company, which has claimed to serve 15,000 educational institutions across the world, was acquired for $1.75 billion in 2019. Last month, it rolled out an AI-detection add-in (with no way for teachers to opt out). AI-chatbot countermeasures, like the chatbots themselves, are taking over.

Now, as the first chatbot spring comes to a close, Turnitin’s new software is delivering a deluge of positive identifications: This paper was “18% AI”; that one, “100 % AI.” But what do any of those numbers really mean? Surprisingly—outrageously—it’s very hard to say for sure. In each of the “100% AI” cases I heard about, students insisted that they had not let ChatGPT or any other AI tool do all of their work.

But according to the company , that designation does indeed suggest that 100 percent of an essay—as in, every one of its sentences—was computer generated, and, further, that this judgment has been made with 98 percent certainty. A Turnitin spokesperson acknowledged via email that “text created by another tool that uses algorithms or other computer-enabled systems,” including grammar checkers and automated translators, could lead to a false positive, and that some “genuine” writing can be similar to AI-generated writing. “Some people simply write very predictably,” she told me. Are all of these caveats accounted for in the company’s claims of having 98 percent certainty in its analyses?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter, because Turnitin disclaims drawing any conclusions about misconduct from its results. “This is only a number intended to help the educator determine if additional review or a discussion with the student is warranted,” the spokesperson said. “Teaching is a human endeavor.” The company has a guide for humans who confront the software’s “small” risk of generating false positives . Naturally, it recommends the use of still more Turnitin resources (an AI-misuse rubric and AI-misuse checklist are available) and doing more work than you ever would have done in the first place.

​​Read: ChatGPT is about to dump more work on everyone

In other words, the student in my program whose work was flagged for being “100% AI” might have used a little AI, or a lot of AI, or maybe something in between. As for any deeper questions—exactly how he used AI, and whether he was wrong to do so—teachers like me are, as ever, on our own.

S ome students probably are using AI at 100 percent: to complete their work absent any effort of their own. But many use ChatGPT and other tools to generate ideas, help them when they’re stuck, rephrase tricky paragraphs, or check their grammar.

Where one behavior turns into another isn’t always clear. Matthew Boedy, an English professor at the University of North Georgia, told me about one student so disengaged, he sometimes attended class in his pajamas. When that student submitted an uncharacteristically adept essay this spring, Boedy figured a chatbot was involved, and OpenAI’s verification tool confirmed as much. The student admitted that he hadn’t known how to begin, so he asked ChatGPT to write an introduction, and then to recommend sources. Absent a firm policy on AI cheating to lean on, Boedy talked through the material with the student in person and graded him based on that conversation.

A computer-science student at Washington University in St. Louis, where I teach, saw some irony in the sudden shift from giving fully open-book assignments earlier in the pandemic to this year’s attitude of “you can use anything except AI.” (I’m withholding the names of students so that they can be frank about their use of AI tools.) This student, who also works as a teaching assistant, knows firsthand that computers can help solve nearly every technical exercise that is assigned in CS courses, and some conceptual ones too. But taking advantage of the technology “feels less morally bankrupt,” he said, “than paying for Chegg or something.” A student who engages with a chatbot is doing some kind of work for themselves—and learning how to live in the future.

Another student I spoke with, who studies politics at Pomona College, uses AI as a way to pressure-test his ideas. Tasked with a research paper on colonialism in the Middle East, the student formulated a thesis and asked ChatGPT what it thought of the idea. “It told me it was bogus,” he said. “I then proceeded to debate it—in doing so, ChatGPT brought up some serious counterarguments to my thesis that I went on to consider in my paper.” The student also uses the bot to recommend sources. “I treat ChatGPT like a combination of a co-worker and an interested audience,” he said.

Read: The college essay is dead

The Pomona student’s use of AI seems both clever and entirely aboveboard. But if he borrows a bit too much computer-generated language, Turnitin might still flag his work for being inauthentic. A professor can’t really know whether students are using ChatGPT in nuanced ways or whether they’ve engaged in brazen cheating. No problem, you might say: Just develop a relationship of mutual trust with students and discuss the matter with them openly. A good idea at first blush, but AI risks splitting faculty and student interests. “AI is dangerous in that it’s extremely tempting,” Dennis Jerz, a professor at Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, told me. For students who are not invested in their classes, the results don’t even have to be good—just good enough, and quick. “AI has made it much easier to churn out mediocre work.”

Faculty already fret over getting students to see the long-term benefit of assignments. Their task is only getting harder. “It has been so completely demoralizing,” an English teacher in Florida told me about AI cheating. “I have gone from loving my job in September of last year to deciding to completely leave it behind by April.” (I am not printing this instructor’s name or employer to protect him from job-related repercussions.) His assignments are typical of composition: thesis writing, bibliographies, outlines, and essays. But the teacher feels that AI has initiated an arms race of irrelevance between teachers and students. “With tools like ChatGPT, students think there’s just no reason for them to care about developing those skills,” he said. After students admitted to using ChatGPT to complete assignments in a previous term—for one student, all of the assignments—the teacher wondered why he was wasting his time grading automated work the students may not have even read. That feeling of pointlessness has infected his teaching process. “It’s just about crushed me. I fell in love with teaching, and I have loved my time in the classroom, but with ChatGPT, everything feels pointless.”

The loss that he describes is deeper and more existential than anything academic integrity can protect: a specific, if perhaps decaying, way of being among students and their teachers. “AI has already changed the classroom into something I no longer recognize,” he told me. In this view, AI isn’t a harbinger of the future but the last straw in a profession that was almost lost already, to funding collapse, gun violence, state overreach, economic decay, credentialism, and all the rest. New technology arrives on that grim shore, making schoolwork feel worthless, carried out to turn the crank of a machine rather than for teaching or learning.

What does this teacher plan to do after leaving education, I wonder, and then ask. But I should have known the answer, because what else is there: He’s going to design software.

A common line about education in the age of AI: It will force teachers to adapt . Athena Aktipis, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, has taken the opportunity to restructure her whole class, preferring discussions and student-defined projects to homework. “The students said that the class really made them feel human in a way that other classes didn’t,” she told me.

But for many students, college isn’t just a place for writing papers, and cutting corners can provide a different way of feeling human. The student in my program whose papers raised Turnitin’s “100% AI” flag told me that he’d run his text through grammar-checking software, and asked ChatGPT to improve certain lines. Efficiency seemed to matter more to him than quality. “Sometimes I want to play basketball. Sometimes I want to work out,” he said when I asked if he wanted to share any impressions about AI for this story. That may sound outrageous: College is for learning, and that means doing your assignments! But a milkshake of stressors, costs, and other externalities has created a mental-health crisis on college campuses. AI, according to this student, is helping reduce that stress when little else has.

Read: The end of recommendation letters

Similar pressures can apply to teachers too. Faculty are in some ways just as tempted as their students by the power of the chatbots, for easing work they find irritating or that distract from their professional goals. (As I pointed out last month, the traditional recommendation letter may be just as threatened by AI as the college essay .) Even so, faculty are worried the students are cheating themselves—and irritated that they’ve been caught in the middle. Julian Hanna, who teaches culture studies at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, thinks the more sophisticated uses of AI will mostly benefit the students who were already set to succeed, putting disadvantaged students even further at risk. “I think the best students either don’t need it or worry about being caught, or both.” The others, he says, risk learning less than before. Another factor to consider: Students who speak English as a second language may be more reliant on grammar-checking software, or more inclined to have ChatGPT tune up their sentence-level phrasing. If that’s the case, then they’ll be singled out, disproportionately, as cheats.

One way or another, the arms race will continue. Students will be tempted to use AI too much, and universities will try to stop them. Professors can choose to accept some forms of AI-enabled work and outlaw others, but their choices will be shaped by the software that they’re given. Technology itself will be more powerful than official policy or deep reflection.

Universities, too, will struggle to adapt. Most theories of academic integrity rely on crediting people for their work, not machines. That means old-fashioned honor codes will receive some modest updates, and the panels that investigate suspected cheaters will have to reckon with the mysteries of novel AI-detection “evidence.” And then everything will change again. By the time each new system has been put in place, both technology and the customs for its use could well have shifted. ChatGPT has existed for only six months, remember.

Rethinking assignments in light of AI might be warranted, just like it was in light of online learning. But doing so will also be exhausting for both faculty and students. Nobody will be able to keep up, and yet everyone will have no choice but to do so. Somewhere in the cracks between all these tectonic shifts and their urgent responses, perhaps teachers will still find a way to teach, and students to learn.

Why birds and their songs are good for our mental health

Birds are a way to connect with nature, which is associated with better body and brain health, research shows.

Richard Sima photo

Looking to improve your mental health? Pay attention to birds.

Two studies published last year in Scientific Reports said that seeing or hearing birds could be good for our mental well-being.

So give them a listen as you learn why they may help.

Research has consistently shown that more contact and interaction with nature are associated with better body and brain health.

Birds appear to be a specific source of these healing benefits. They are almost everywhere and provide a way to connect us to nature. And even if they are hidden in trees or in the underbrush, we can still revel in their songs.

“The special thing about birdsongs is that even if people live in very urban environments and do not have a lot of contact with nature, they link the songs of birds to vital and intact natural environments,” said Emil Stobbe , an environmental neuroscience graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and author of one of the studies.

Recent research also suggests that listening to recordings of their songs, even through headphones, can alleviate negative emotions.


Being around birds is associated with better mental health

Everyday encounters with the bird kind are associated with better mental health.

In one study , researchers asked about 1,300 participants to collect information about their environment and well-being three times a day using a smartphone app called Urban Mind .

The participants were not explicitly told that the researchers were looking at birds — the app was also collecting data about other vitals such as sleep quality, subjective assessment of air quality, and location details. But the 26,856 assessments offered a rich data set of what is associated with mental well-being in real time in the real world.

By analyzing the data, the researchers found a significant positive association between seeing or hearing birds and improved mental well-being, even when accounting for other possible explanations such as education, occupation, or the presence of greenery and water , which have themselves been associated with positive mental health.

The benefits persisted well beyond the bird encounter. If a participant reported seeing or hearing birds at one point, their mental well-being was higher, on average, hours later even if they did not encounter birds at the next check-in.

Warbler and Bobolink

Ryan Hammoud , a PhD candidate at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London and an author of the study, called it a “time-lasting link.”

Intriguingly, the birds benefit both healthy participants and those who have been diagnosed with depression, which is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide and does not always respond to conventional pharmaceutical treatments .

This has an interesting implication for trying to protect and preserve environments to sustain bird life, Hammoud said, “because people with depression do show positive effects toward birdsong and birdlife in the area.”

Listening to birdsongs alleviates feelings of anxiety and paranoia

The birdsongs you are hearing may already be helping your mood.

A second study found that listening to short — just six-minute — audio clips of birdsong could reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and paranoia in healthy participants.

“Listening to birdsong through headphones was able to hit the same pathways that might be beneficial toward mental well-being,” said Hammoud, who was not involved in the second study. “That’s a very, very nice finding,”

Researchers asked 295 online participants to self-assess their emotional states and to take a cognitive memory test. Then they randomly assigned the participants to listen to birdsongs or traffic noise, of more or less diversity. The researchers then had the subjects remeasure their emotional and cognitive states.

A woodpecker

Participants who listened to more diverse birdsongs (featuring the acoustic acrobatics of eight species) reported a decrease in depressive symptoms in addition to significant decreases in feelings of anxiety and paranoia. And those who listened to less diverse birdsongs (two bird species) also reported a significant decrease in feelings of anxiety and paranoia.

(This study was conducted in Europe, and the birds featured were also European. The ones you are seeing and hearing now are more likely to be encountered by our North American readers in their backyards.)

By contrast, listening to more or less diverse traffic noise worsened symptoms of depressive states.

The research shows the “healing aspects of nature, or also the not-so-positive effects of urban surroundings,” said Stobbe, an author of the second study.

Previous research on the health effects of nature sounds found that they could even confer cognitive benefits, though the second study did not replicate that finding.

Why nature and birds may benefit us

Birds help us feel more connected with nature and its health effects, Stobbe said, and the more connected we are to nature, the more we can benefit from those effects.

One hypothesis on nature’s salubrious effects, known as the attention restoration theory, posits that being in nature is good for improving concentration and decreasing the mental fatigue associated with living in stressful urban environments. Natural stimuli, such as birdsong, may allow us to engage in “ soft fascination ,” which holds our attention but also allows it to replenish.

Nature — and birdsong — also reduce stress. Previous research has found that time spent in green outdoor spaces can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels , Hammoud said.

It is not yet understood how birdsong affects our brains, but neuroimaging studies have found brain responses of stress reduction to other forms of nature exposure.

Walking in nature vs. an urban environment decreased self-reported rumination, which is linked to a risk of depression and other mental illnesses, and decreased activity in a part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex associated with rumination. Viewing green scenery engages the posterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with behavioral stress responses and may help regulate the reduction in stress responses from nature exposure.

Going out to see birds also tends to encourage more physical activity, which has its own panoply of mental health benefits , and exercising outdoors may, in turn, magnify the health benefits of exercise.

[ Sign up for the Well+Being newsletter, your source of expert advice and simple tips to help you live well every day ]

How to get the most out of birds

When we go outside, it is easy to forget that birds are also there singing their hearts out if we don’t pay attention.

“Try to be aware. And that’s actually all that you need to do,” Stobbe said. “And with this little step, you can be one step closer to getting those beneficial effects or enhancing the time that you spend outdoors.”

Be curious.

What is that bird? Smartphone applications such as Merlin Bird ID and BirdNet , both produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, can help identify the bird producing the song and visualize its spectrogram . Apps such as these or eBird also help identify the bird you are seeing from its size, colors and location.

Tools such as BirdCast give live maps of bird migrations in your area — and reveal just how much bird activity you may be missing.

Be involved.

We can enjoy our feathered friends at any level of intensity. You can watch and listen to birds in your own backyard . You can also find a birding group and meet other birders in your area.

Be present.

We can find more joy by savoring the birds we see and the songs we hear. One recent preliminary study found that birdwatchers who paid attention to the joy they felt for each bird reported greater mental health benefits than those who merely counted the birds they saw.

Birdsongs can be used to soothe our minds in a stressful world, or in a clinical setting to treat patients with anxiety or paranoia, both studies suggest.

“People can use easy, accessible treatment or prevention techniques by just listening to an audio CD of things representing nature,” Stobbe said. “Or, of course, also going inside nature and trying to seek those effects.”

Sandhill crane

Do you have a question about human behavior or neuroscience? Email Br[email protected] and we may answer it in a future column.

About this story

Audio recordings of individual birds from eBird and of grouped songs from Xeno-canto Foundation and Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Audio editing by Ariel Plotnick . Illustrations by George Wylesol for The Washington Post. Design and art direction by Chelsea Conrad . Development by Garland Potts .

Want to learn more about birding?

Birdwatching at home can help you learn about your local ecosystem. Start in your own yard.

Bring the joy of birds into your life with these five apps .

Birds become stars of their own nature documentaries with this ‘smart’ feeder.

What does a hoot look like? What about a croak? Spectrograms see the sounds of nature .

Which birds are the biggest jerks at the feeder?

TikTok is testing an in-app AI chatbot called ‘Tako’

learn to write stories

AI chatbots, like ChatGPT, are all the rage, so it’s no surprise to learn that TikTok is now testing its own AI chatbot, as well. Called “Tako,” the bot is in limited testing in select markets, where it will appear on the right-hand side of the TikTok interface, above the user’s profile and other buttons for likes, comments and bookmarks. When tapped, users can ask Tako various questions about the video using natural language queries or discover new content by asking for recommendations.

For instance, when watching a video of King Charles’ coronation, Tako might suggest that users ask “What is the significance of King Charles III’s coronation?”

Or, if users were looking for ideas of something to watch, they could ask Tako to suggest some videos on a particular topic — like funny pet videos. The bot would respond with a list of results that include the video’s name, author and subject, as well as links to suggested videos. From here, you could click on a video’s thumbnail to be directed to the content.

learn to write stories

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot by

The bot was discovered being publicly tested by app intelligence firm , and TikTok confirmed the tests are now live.

“Being at the forefront of innovation is core to building the TikTok experience, and we’re always exploring new technologies that add value to our community,” a TikTok spokesman told TechCrunch. “In select markets, we’re testing new ways to power search and discovery on TikTok, and we look forward to learning from our community as we continue to create a safe place that entertains, inspires creativity and drives culture.”

However, though says it found the AI chatbot in tests on iOS devices in the U.S., TikTok says the current version of the bot is not currently public in the U.S., but it is being tested in other global markets, including an early limited test in the Philippines.

We also understand the bot will not appear on minors’ accounts.

Behind the scenes, TikTok is leveraging an unknown third-party AI provider that TikTok has customized for its needs. That modification does not include the use of any in-house AI technologies from TikTok or parent company ByteDance.

Upon first launch, TikTok advises users in a pop-up message that Tako is still considered “experimental” and its feedback “may not be true or accurate” — a disclaimer that applies to all modern AI chatbots, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s AI, among others. TikTok also stresses that the chatbot should not be relied on for medical, legal or financial advice. (We understand the wording in the image below may reflect an earlier version of the bot rather than the current tests.)

learn to write stories

The disclosure also notes that all Tako conversations will be reviewed for safety purposes and, vaguely, to “enhance your experience.” This is one of the complications that come with using modern AI chatbots, unfortunately. Because the technologies are so new, companies are opting to log customer interactions and review them to help their bots improve. But from a privacy standpoint, that means the AI conversations are not being deleted after chats end, which poses potential risks.

Some companies have worked around this consumer privacy concern by allowing users to delete their chats manually, as Snap has done with its My AI chatbot companion in the Snapchat app. TikTok is taking a similar approach with Tako, as it also allows users to delete their chats.

It’s unclear if the AI chatbot is logging data associated with the user’s name or other personal information, though. The long-term data retention policies or privacy aspects of the chatbot also couldn’t be determined at this time.

learn to write stories

The security risks of AI chatbots have led some companies to ban such bots at work, including Apple, which has gone so far as to restrict employees from using tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Microsoft-owned GitHub’s Copilot over concerns about confidential data being leaked. Others who have recently enacted similar bans include banks like Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan , as well as Walmart , Samsung and telecom giant Verizon.

Why consumers would even want an AI chatbot in TikTok is another matter.

While most companies are experimenting with AI in some way, shape or form, TikTok believes the chatbot could do more than just answer questions about a video — it could also become a different way for users to surface content in the app, beyond typing into a search box.

This could become a threat to Google if TikTok’s tests were successful and the chatbot publicly rolled out, given that Google has already noted how Gen Z are turning to TikTok and Instagram as the first place they go to search on certain subjects. Soon, Google will begin  rolling out a conversational experience in search , but if TikTok had its own in-app AI chatbot, that could encourage younger users to bypass Google altogether.

Update, 5/25/23, 9 AM ET: At the time of publication, TikTok shared additional information about Tako on its Twitter account. We’ve updated with additional details, where relevant.

1/ We're in the early stages of exploring chatbot tools with a limited test of Tako with select users in the Philippines. Tako is an AI-powered tool to help with search and discovery on TikTok. — TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) May 25, 2023

Four elementary school kids work on laptops in classroom

New approach to teaching computer science could broaden the subject’s appeal

learn to write stories

Associate Professor of Learning Technologies, Georgia State University

Disclosure statement

Lauren Margulieux receives funding from Snap, Inc., Google, the National Science Foundation, and the US Department of Education.

View all partners

Despite growing demand for computer science skills in professional careers and many areas of life, K-12 schools struggle to teach computer science to the next generation.

However, a new approach to computer science education – called integrated computing – addresses the main barriers that schools face when adding computer science education. These barriers include a lack of qualified computer science teachers , a lack of funds and a focus on courses tied to standardized tests.

Integrated computing teaches computer science skills like programming and computer literacy within traditional courses. For example, students can use integrated computing activities to create geometric patterns in math , simulate electromagnetic waves in science and create chatbots for literary characters in language arts.

As a professor of learning technologies , I have been designing integrated computing activities for K-12 students for the past five years. I work with faculty and students in teacher training programs to create and test integrated computing activities across all academic subjects.

In my research , I have found that integrated computing solves three major hurdles to teaching computer science education in K-12 schools.

Challenges to teaching computer science

Fitting a new academic discipline into an already crowded curriculum can be a challenge. Integrated computing allows computer science education to become part of learning in other classes, the way reading skills are also used in science, math and language arts classes.

Teacher knowledge is another difficulty when it comes to teaching computer science in K-12 schools. While people who specialize in computer science are often recruited to more lucrative careers than teaching, integrated computing develops all teachers’ computer science knowledge. Teachers do not need to become computer science experts to teach computer literacy and programming skills to their students.

Teacher holds tablet while working in classroom

In fact, the most surprising result of my research is how quickly teachers learn to teach integrated computing activities. In about two hours, teachers can use a pre-made computer science lesson in their classrooms. In the future, I will teach them to use artificial intelligence to create their own lessons for their students. For example, a science teacher recently asked me how she could create a data analysis activity for her class. AI tools would allow her to quickly design the technical aspects of this activity.

And finally, integrated computing also addresses students’ reluctance to take elective computer science classes when they have little knowledge of computer science. In 2022, over half of U.S. public high schools offered computer science, but just 6% of students took these classes. Students who do take computer science in high school typically have had early exposure to computer science . Integrated computing can give all students early exposure to computer science, which I believe will increase the number of students who take computer science courses later in school.

Computer science for everyone

Early exposure to computer science in school is especially important for students from groups underrepresented in computer science . A 2022 report from, a nonprofit that advocates for more computer science education in K-12 schools, found that students who are Latino, female or from low-income or rural areas are less likely to be enrolled in foundational computer science courses.

Teachers who want to build their computer science knowledge and apply it to their classroom can try these free self-paced, online integrated computing courses that I developed, and which are tied to micro-credentials. Also, this sortable list of integrated computing activities provides free lesson plans. The activities require only a computer – no prior knowledge is needed, and young learners can complete them outside of class, too.

Integrated computing provides a path to increase computer literacy for all K-12 students. As technology advances at an increasing rate, I believe schools must take care that our young people do not fall behind.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Mathematics
  • Teacher training
  • Computer science
  • K-12 education
  • microcredentials
  • K-12 schools
  • Computer science education

learn to write stories

Research Strategy and Impact Officer

learn to write stories

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology

learn to write stories

Translational Science and Behavioural Design Architect

learn to write stories

Student Engagement Project Officer

learn to write stories

Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences

  • Give this article


Supported by

Japanese Moon Lander Crashed Because It Was Still Three Miles Up, Not on the Ground

Kenneth Chang

By Kenneth Chang

Send any friend a story

As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.

A software glitch caused a Japanese robotic spacecraft to misjudge its altitude as it attempted to land on the moon last month leading to its crash, an investigation has revealed.

Ispace of Japan said in a news conference on Friday that it had finished its analysis of what went wrong during the landing attempt on April 25. The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander completed its planned landing sequence, slowing to a speed of about 2 miles per hour. But it was still about three miles above the surface. After exhausting its fuel, the spacecraft plunged to its destruction, hitting the Atlas crater at more than 200 miles per hour.

The lander was to be the first private spacecraft to successfully set down on the surface of the moon. It is part of a trend toward private companies, not just governmental space agencies, taking a leading role in space exploration.

learn to write stories

Why It Matters: Learning and improving.

A review of data showed that the software guiding the descent appeared to lose track of the landers’s altitude when it passed over the rim of a crater on the moon’s surface that was about two miles higher than the surrounding terrain.

The software erroneously concluded that the sensor had malfunctioned and rejected altitude measurements that were actually correct.

The engine, altimeter and other hardware operated properly, indicating that the overall design of the spacecraft is sound. Software fixes are easier to complete than major hardware overhauls.

“This is not a hardware failure,” said Ryo Ujiie, the chief technology officer of Ispace, during a news conference on Friday. “We don’t need to modify the hardware side.”

The failure, however, pointed to shortcomings in Ispace’s testing of the spacecraft’s landing software, which was developed by Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Mass.

A decision to change the landing site, after the design of the spacecraft was finalized in early 2021, most likely contributed to the crash.

Originally, Ispace officials had chosen Lacus Somniorum, a flat plain, as the landing site. But then they decided that Atlas, an impact crater more than 50 miles wide, would be a more interesting destination.

That meant the landing software was not designed to handle the change in altitude as the spacecraft passed over the crater rim, and simulations did not catch that oversight.

On Tuesday, NASA released images taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that appeared to show the crash site.

Background: A bumpy path to the moon.

A mix of private companies, organizations and government space agencies have tried to return to the moon in recent years. But landing on the lunar surface has turned out to be more difficult than many expected.

The Beresheet lander, from an Israeli nonprofit named SpaceIL, launched to the moon in 2019, but it crashed. The Indian Space Research Organization attempted to land a lunar spacecraft the same year, too, and that vehicle, Vikram, also crashed.

Only China has landed robotic spacecraft on the moon recently, with three successes in three attempts over the past decade.

What’s Next: Try, try again.

Takeshi Hakamada, the founder and chief executive of Ispace, said the schedule for the company’s next two missions — involving an almost identical lander next year and a larger spacecraft in 2025 to the far side of the moon — remains largely unchanged.

“We have a very clear picture of how to improve our future missions,” Mr. Hakamada said.

Ispace had obtained insurance for the lander, and the financial impacts on the company would be small, Mr. Hakamada said.

More spacecraft are scheduled to launch to the moon later this year. As part of a NASA program that is hiring private companies to take scientific instruments to the moon, Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh and Intuitive Machines of Houston, are scheduled to send spacecraft to the moon later this year.

The Indian space agency also announced this week that Chandrayaan-3, a follow-up to its moon landing attempt in 2019, could launch as early as July 12.

Kenneth Chang has been at The Times since 2000, writing about physics, geology, chemistry, and the planets. Before becoming a science writer, he was a graduate student whose research involved the control of chaos. @ kchangnyt


  1. How to Write a Story In 6 Steps: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide to

    Others work in pieces they arrange later, while others work from sentence to sentence. Whether you're writing a novel, novella, short story, or flash fiction, don't be afraid to try out different voices, and styles. Experiment with different story writing techniques, story ideas, and story structures. Keep what works for you and discard the ...

  2. How to Write a Short Story: Step-by-Step Guide

    Short stories are to novels what TV episodes are to movies. Short stories are a form of narrative writing that has all the same elements as novels—plot, character development, point of view, story structure, theme—but are delivered in fewer words. For many writers, short stories are a less daunting way to dive into creative writing than attempting to write a novel.

  3. How to Write a Story: The 10 Best Secrets

    But until you write the first two drafts, polishing is probably a waste of your time. 8. Know the Rules, Then Break Them. Good writers know all the rules for the type of story they're writing and follow them. Great writers know all the rules and break them. However, the best writers don't break the rules arbitrarily.

  4. How to Write a Great Story in 5 Steps

    To be a story, the following five elements must be present: Setting. Plot. Conflict. Character. Theme. In our six-word example above, the reader is tasked with inferring most of these elements from the few words provided, like who the characters are and the conflict that led to the baby shoes being placed for sale.

  5. Top 100 Short Story Ideas

    Top 10 Story Ideas. Tell the story of a scar. A group of children discover a dead body. A young prodigy becomes orphaned. A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. A talented young man's deepest fear is holding his life back.

  6. How to Write a Short Story: Free Tutorial : The Write Practice

    Writers like Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, and Stephen King learned the craft of writing through short stories before they published their first novels. Even though short stories have gone out of favor, they are still the best way for writers to learn the craft quickly. In this free tutorial, you will learn why short stories are ...

  7. How To Write A Story For Complete Beginners

    Step 3: Write The Outline. You want to make it short and clear. Write down one sentence for each of the story elements. Answer shortly to the questions down below. For more clarity, we'll look at the Brothers Grimm story "Cinderella".

  8. Practice typing by retyping ENTIRE novels

    Test your typing online by practicing on your favorite literature. Choose a book below to get started, or subscribe and import your own! Improve your typing speed and accuracy in multiple languages. Sign in, track your progress, and level up as you learn to type faster and better. Never lose your place — Auto-save at the start of each line.

  9. Learn How To Write Stories

    Material Included in your Basics of Writing Stories & Articles for Publication. Writers Market,edited by Robert Lee Brewer, Writers Digest Books, 6th edition, ISBN 978-1-44034-773-3. Writer's Market 2020 (e-book) guides you through the submissions process with thousands of publishing opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and ...

  10. 10 Writing Styles That'll Transform Your Narrative (+ Examples)

    Academic writing is the scholar's canvas, marked by precision, clarity, and a logical progression of ideas. This style graces the pages of textbooks, research papers, and scientific articles, avoiding slang and colloquialism and sticking to a third-person voice. For example: In discussing environmental science, you might write, "Empirical evidence suggests a direct correlation between ...

  11. How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish

    That's a level of focus you can't have in a novel. Writing short stories forces you to focus on writing clearly and concisely while still making a scene entertaining. You're working with the basic level of structure here (a scene) and learning to perfect it. 2. Building contacts and readers.

  12. How to Write a Short Story: 9 Proven Steps

    1. Recognize the germ. Much fiction starts with a memory—a person, a problem, tension, fear, conflict that resonates with you and grows in your mind. That's the germ of an idea that can become your story. 2. Write it down. Write your first draft to simply get the basics of the story down without worrying about grammar, cliches, redundancy ...

  13. How to Write a Short Story: The Short Story Checklist

    Learning how to write a short story is essential to mastering the art of storytelling. With far fewer words to worry about, storytellers can make many more mistakes—and strokes of genius!—through experimentation and the fun of fiction writing. Nonetheless, the art of writing short stories is not easy to master.

  14. How to Write Short Stories for Small Children

    Consider choosing the following before you write the first paragraph:1. Setting (This is where the story takes place.) 2. Time (Commonly most short stories cover a day or up to a week. If your short story covers a month, you will probably need a shorter time period.) 3. Major conflict (that is the main problem that the characters will solve.) 4.

  15. 23 Best Books For Learning To Write Fiction

    Book #6: The Writing Experiment: strategies for innovative creative writing by Hazel Smith. This book is great for: Experimental writing. Hazel Smith is an Australian creative writing teacher and lecturer, who uses this book to: Theorise the process of writing. Champion experimental approaches.

  16. How to Write a Short Story (with Pictures)

    Creating a First Draft. 1. Make a plot outline. Organize your short story into a plot outline with five parts: exposition, an inciting incident, rising action, a climax, falling action, and a resolution. Use the outline as a reference guide as you write the story to ensure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

  17. How to Write a Short Story in 6 Simple Steps

    To help you with the process, here's how to write a short story step-by-step: 1. Identify a short story idea. 2. Define the character's main conflict and goal. 3. Hook readers with a strong beginning. 4. Draft a middle focused on the story's message.

  18. Write Stories For Children, Children's Story Writing Course

    'Write Storybooks For Children' is the world's most popular online course designed for anyone who has ever dreamed of writing children's stories.. Whether you want the recognition and reward of becoming a bestselling children's author or, the simple joy and satisfaction of delighting the children in your life - this award-winning course gives you everything you need to write ...

  19. How to Write a Short Story: Your Ultimate Guide

    Learning how to write a short story includes learning how to write a great title or headline. And let's face it, a great title or headline gets readers to pay attention. Put your creative writing skills to work here. Come up with a bunch of different titles, and ask our writing partners or target audience for feedback. Step 8 - Get feedback

  20. Writing Short Stories: The Essential Guide

    Fiction Writing: A Complete Novel Outline Chapter by ChapterA Bestselling Course - Learn this Hollywood secret and complete a comprehensive novel outline in as little as 2 weeks!Rating: 4.6 out of 5461 reviews4 total hours43 lecturesAll LevelsCurrent price: $11.99Original price: $74.99. Mike Dickson.

  21. How to Write a Story: 10 Tips for Writing Stories

    Tip 6: Show, Don't Tell. The renowned Russian novelist Anton Chekhov once said: "Don't tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.". If you "tell" someone about what's happening in your story, they'll simply understand a summary of the story.

  22. How To Write A Story Like A Literary Great (Story Writing Tips

    To learn how to write a story, learn to create a story plan. If I'm asked what makes a good story, I would tell them it's a story that deploys the six elements of fiction (plot, theme, conflict, setting, character and style). If you want to write better stories, create a story plan that looks something like this:

  23. The 29 Best (And Free) ChatGPT And Generative AI Courses And ...

    Stable Diffusion. A course provided by the University of Central Florida detailing beginner and advanced methods for this powerful AI image tool. Stable Diffusion - Master AI Course. This one ...

  24. The First Year of AI College Ends in Ruin

    The company, which has claimed to serve 15,000 educational institutions across the world, was acquired for $1.75 billion in 2019. Last month, it rolled out an AI-detection add-in (with no way for ...

  25. Why birds and their songs are good for our mental health

    Listening to birdsongs alleviates feelings of anxiety and paranoia. The birdsongs you are hearing may already be helping your mood. A second study found that listening to short — just six-minute ...

  26. TikTok is testing an in-app AI chatbot called 'Tako'

    AI chatbots, like ChatGPT, are all the rage, so it's no surprise to learn that TikTok is now testing its own AI chatbot, as well. Called "Tako," the bot is in limited testing in select ...

  27. New approach to teaching computer science could broaden the subject's

    As a professor of learning technologies, ... Write an article and join a growing community of more than 164,900 academics and researchers from 4,634 institutions. Register now.

  28. Pulitzer Prize Music winner 2023: Rhiannon Giddens for Omar

    Singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, who grew up in North Carolina, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music Monday for co-writing " Omar ," an opera about the journey of an enslaved man in the South ...

  29. Japanese Moon Lander Crashed Because of a Software Glitch

    A software glitch caused a Japanese robotic spacecraft to misjudge its altitude as it attempted to land on the moon last month leading to its crash, an investigation has revealed. Ispace of Japan ...