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English & Literature Texts: Short Stories

Year 7-12 | Helpful guides for your English & Literature text studies.

Short story, brief fictional prose narrative that is shorter than a novel and that usually deals with only a few characters.

Read all about the history of the short story at Encyclopedia Britannica.

Most definitions of a short story focus on the following key points:

  1. A short story is a prose narrative

  2. Is shorter than a novel

  3. Deals with limited characters

  4. Aims to create a single effect

Other definitions, however, are more concerned with word count, stating that a short story may range anywhere between 1,000 – 30,000 words. Anything over 30,000 words, however, tends to be considered ‘too long’, and crosses into the classification of a novella. For more information on the difference between the short story and novella, click here.

(From Writer's Edit)

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


Five Reasons Why Writing Short Stories Makes You a Better Writer (Turner Stories)

An author blogs about why we should write short stories to become better at writing in general [read more].

Why You Should Write Short Stories (Writer's Edit)

An interesting article about the significance of short stories and why we should try writing them [read more].

How to Write an Amazing Short Story (Writer's Edit)

A basic 'how to' guide, including tips such as: Eavesdropping and Using Your Own Memory [read more].

10 Tips to Help You Write a Short Story (Writers & Artists)

Author Susmita Bhattacharya offers 10 of her best tips for short story writing [read more].

Six Tips for Writing Short Stories (Writers & Artists)

Award-winning writer Eliza Robertson shares her advice on writing engaging, gripping short stories [read more].

A Shocking (and Fun) Short Story Writing Technique (Writer's Digest)

Author and editor Noelle Sterne challenges budding authors to think about 'expansion' [read more].

The Art of Writing Short Stories (ABC)

Recorded on ABC Radio, presenters interview author Paddy O'Reilly [download audio].

Australian Short Story Writers - Find all Australian writers of short stories who have articles on Wikipedia.

Spineless Wonders - an Australian publisher of short stories, featuring our home-grown short story authors and much more.

Australian Short Story Festival - an annual celebration of our nation's best short stories.

Short Story Writing Prompts

Creative Writing Now provides 44 short story prompts including:

  1. A babysitter is snooping around her employer's house and finds a disturbing photograph...
  2. At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: "Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing."...
  3. Your character picks up a hitch-hiker on her way home from work. The hitch-hiker tries to persuade your character to leave everything and drive her across the country...

Visit the website for more prompts

Short Story Plot Generator - try out this random story prompt generator!


Short Story Competitions

Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition - International competition, many different categories, $5000 top prize

More short story competitions coming in 2019!

Stephen King on Short Stories

In this interview with Rich Fahle of Bibliostar.TV, bestselling author Stephen King discusses the art of writing short stories and short fiction, and the fact that many writers today forgo the short story to write the novel, sometimes before they are ready to navigate "the quagmire of the novel."

Kurt Vonnegut on Short Stories

In this brief video, Vonnegut offers eight essential tips on how to write a short story:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

  4. Every sentence must do one of two things--reveal character or advance the action.

  5. Start as close to the end as possible.

  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them--in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

BBC Bitesize: Short Story Revision

There are no rules with short story writing but this guide contains some suggestions that should help most people to improve their writing.

Use the Bitesize guide on Short Stories to quickly revise ways to improve short story writing.

Covers topics like: Characters, Plot, Settings, Dialogue, Openings and Endings and much more.

Top 10 Classic Short Stories


Writer's Edit have put together a list of their top ten classic short story reading recommendations [read more]:

10. 'The Signal-Man' (Charles Dickens)
9. ‘The Happy Prince’ (Oscar Wilde)
8. ‘The Magic Shop’ (H.G. Wells)
7. ‘The Gift of the Magi’ (O. Henry)
6. ‘Rip Van Winkle’ (Washington Irving)
5. ‘Désirée’s Baby’ (Kate Chopin)
4. ‘The Body Snatcher’ (Robert Louis Stevenson)
3. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (Charlotte Perkins Gilman)
2. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ (Edgar Allan Poe)
1. ‘B24’ (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Australian Short Stories - an essay

For a more in-depth look at Australian short stories, read an essay on by Tony Birch titled 'Not Doing a Nove': Recent Australian Short Fiction.