What is a short story?
Within the narrative genre, the short story is one of the most important sub-genres, due to its great artistic production and the emerging themes, advances and development that its authors have made in their creations for the contribution of universal literature, becoming key references of this art.
Often, the term -story- is used to refer to a person who lies or apologizes with a story he/she has invented, reason why it is used to indicate a gossip. It is a text that is read in a single block without interruptions.
The term -story-, comes from the Latin -computus-, which means: tells. It is precisely the objective of the story, to tell an event that causes emotion in the reader in a concrete way. The story, as a concept, refers to a short narration of imaginary events.
It is possible to define the short story as a type of brief or short narration, which can be of fictional or real content. A short story has a plot that is easily understood by the public, since it is also playful. They are characterized because they often have few characters and it is one who takes the figure of the protagonist, since few literary resources are used because they are short texts.
The story, unlike other types of narrative texts, wants to transmit quickly and concretely, which is why each word used must be meditated, since it has a great importance in the course of the story as it is a short text.
Characteristics of the short story
It is very important to keep in mind that there are stories that vary in many aspects and yet are still considered tales within the narrative genre, as we will see below in its modalities. Even so, they share a series of characteristics that are key to identify this narrative subgenre. These are:
Closeness to the protagonist
Although the narrative genre has a protagonist or protagonists, particularly in the short story the multiplicity of plots is reduced, since the whole central structure is linked to the protagonist figures, unlike what happens, for example, in novels.
Presentation of space and time
Often in the short story, both space and time are presented from the beginning of the story, resorting to the well-known: “once upon a time, in a kingdom far away…”
Action and consequence
In the short story, the actions performed by the characters in the stories, come subject to a positive or negative consequence that is made evident to the reader.
Tendency to fiction
Although the short story can be written based on true facts, the narrative of this type of text usually has a tendency towards fantasy.
Overcoming an obstacle
In short stories, characters, regardless of their level, are often faced with key problems or obstacles that they must solve or overcome in order to achieve their goals. This is one of the most frequent characteristics of this type of text.
The stories feature evil characters drawn with appearances of ugliness, while the good-natured characters will possess an explained aesthetic beauty.
The structure of the story or its parts, should be read as a single structure although they are divided into parts, this is because the type of narrative is short and reading it fragmented could make it difficult to understand and reach the author’s intention. The parts are:
It is the beginning and the part in which the characters of the story are introduced. In addition to this, it also highlights the central situation on which the plot of the story runs or the exact part in which the imbalance of the parts takes place and will be worked on.
Once all the previous elements have been presented, we move on to the central part of the story where the conflicts of the plot are presented. In this phase the characters of the story begin to have unexpected and unpresented actions that will be key in the development of the situation they face.
It is the final part of the story in which, often happens that everything is reestablished balance raised in the first part. The denouement concludes a new situation that evidences the changes and solutions of the knot. There are stories that can end with an open ending, although the denouement can lead the reader to finish it according to his experience with the story and the tools provided.
Types of stories
With the passage of time, the proposals of new writers and in general, the contributions to literature through the years, it has been possible to find a great variety of stories, among which we find the following: the popular story and the literary story, in which other classifications derived from these two main ones are divided.
In this category we find fictional stories whose authors are unknown. Folktales often come from oral tradition, so that their antiquity makes it impossible to know their authors. It is associated with orally transmitted literature, so there may be several versions of the same story.
These are tales whose protagonists are supernatural or fantastic characters, among which are witches, fairies, goblins, mermaids, elves, genies, among others.
The intention of this type of tales is to highlight characteristics of feudal or agrarian societies, so they often feature characters such as kings, princes, maidens, the customs of these societies, among other important aspects.
Its origin is located in the oral tradition but it is created and captured in written format. Literary tales have a known author. In addition, this type of story is associated with the modern fairy tale.
As the name says, they are stories created for children, however, they can also be folk tales or literary tales. These stories stimulate children’s imagination, since the text proposes images that encourage imaginary creation. They often end with a teaching message or advice.
These are stories that narrate events that are directly related to aspects such as justice and delinquency, which is why their crux and outcome are centered on the resolution of a crime or misdemeanor. Here we find a white police story, where the regulating agent or policeman acts correctly and fulfills the duty of finding the wrongdoer, while in the black police story, the police may be immersed in the criminal line and belong to a group outside the law.
Realistic short story
It is a text that presents events that are credible from events that belong to reality. Although they are not in search of being plausible, they achieve it by themselves, since they are invented by the writer. The author clarifies aspects such as the space and time in which the events take place, providing the reader with descriptions that allow him to become familiar with the environment. His characters are usually common agents, endowed with human characteristics that allow us to understand the personality of each one.
The intention of these stories is to instill fear in the reader through themes such as crimes, death, catastrophes, among other resources. One of the most important authors of this type of tale is Edgar Allan Poe, who has become a key reference in literature. It includes psychological terror from the environment created by the author.
Comedy short story
They are a type of text that highlights comic situations in which the reader can be entertained and spend a pleasant moment, producing laughter and familiarity with what happens. The plot revolves around aspects such as defects and negative events that happen to the main character, creating comic situations.
The key to this type of stories is to create a plot full of enigmas and secrets that give that mysterious air that manages to catch the reader’s attention. Thus, the author tries to maintain all the tension prior to any event and even more so towards the end of it. It usually includes aspects such as paranormal, magic, crime themes, among others.
As their name indicates, they are stories that originate at this time of the year in which the events that have life in the story happen at Christmas and for this reason they are usually observed only at Christmas time. They are often created for the entertainment of children, but also for families.
It is a type of tale that is born in the course of travels or expeditions that the characters go on. These journeys can be based on reality or be imaginary, this is chosen by the writer. The imaginary elements are usually key resources to keep the audience’s attention.
Romance stories are set in a love story between the characters who are the protagonists of the narrative text. The plot, in some cases, extends to secondary characters and its main axis is the feeling that unites the protagonists. The love that is observed can be sincere or “pure”, but there is also the forbidden love or the idyll between the characters and events that produce them.
They are tales that can mix real elements with fictional elements, and even become a representation of a past history with magical elements or belonging to reality. So, in many cases it can be a narration of a past event but to which new connotations are added to enrich the plot in order to keep the readers’ attention.
While short stories are short but vary in length, micro-stories are texts even shorter than a regular story, often being often only a single paragraph in length that holds the reader and his or her attention. Through a simple structure it leaves to the imagination a great variety of elements pertaining to the beginning or the denouement of the story. They may have elements such as humor, irony, parody, etc. They are concrete and their title
How to write a story?
These are the general guidelines to start writing a short story:
Resorting to a collection of ideas is key when you do not have a specific topic on which you want to start writing, although it is also convenient to do so to enrich the story. The idea we were looking for can come at any time or we can even build it from the ideas we bring to mind. You can draw inspiration from people close to you to start identifying personality traits and start building characters. Their habits and preferences will be very important for the development of the story, their decisions and actions.
Who tells the story? Decide the narrator you want, either first person, second person or third person, this will allow you to identify if he/she will be in the story, if he/she refers to the reader or is himself/herself.
What will be the title? Many people prefer to leave it until the end once they have read their story, but for many others it works to put it first so that the course of the plot follows this reference. Make sure the title is suggestive and not so obvious, this maintains anticipation and intrigue.
Choosing the theme
Once you have chosen the main theme around which your story will revolve, be sure to use concrete words and avoid deviating from the central idea by resorting to other themes. Remember that the starting point should emerge in the characters growing actions to reach, later, the crux of the story.
Writing the introduction
In this first part, as we saw in the structure of the story, it is necessary to make a brief presentation of the characters, as well as the place where the story takes place and the time. It is not necessary to always fall into the “once upon a time…” You can make a presentation from other resources that provide the same effect. The narration of events should gradually lead to the climax of the story.
Although many characters are understood by the reader from concrete thoughts and actions that give an idea of their personality, it is extremely important that you know the characters in depth. To do this, you can make a format or list of their main characteristics, this gives them a personality that, depending on it, will guide them in the course of situations. Include their origin, age, preferences in colors, food, environments, among others. And remember, they should not be elevated to perfection, as this allows identification with the reader.
Description of the knot
As we mentioned, this is the most intense point in the plot of the story, the point that can give the complete twist to what was happening in the story. Make sure to incorporate important changes in the main character’s action, their responses and ways of thinking are crucial to make it according to the obstacle they are trying to overcome.
In this part you should take a look at the length of the story, which should be brief and not cover many pages. Remember that much of the magic of the story is in the suggestions provided by the author, because not everything is explicit in the story, leaving room for the imagination.
This process will gradually lead to the outcome of the story.
Resolution of the story
You have the freedom to give the story an open or closed ending, the first with the possibility for the reader to formulate hypotheses because not everything is given for the creation of the ending and the second, with concrete actions that end the story completely.
Writing a story involves reading stories, so it is key that you turn to this type of texts if you plan to start writing. You will be surprised with the ease with which you gradually begin to expand your imagination to write.
Among the most important works we find the stories of authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, also the stories of Jules Verne, Horacio Quiroga, Augusto Monterroso and Julio Cortázar, recognized mainly for their contributions, originality and style in the writing of their works.
Example of a short story: The Dinosaur by Augusto Monterroso
“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there”.
Its recognition is mainly due to the fact that it is a micro-story, being the shortest story in the world so far known.