Short Story Worksheet

I made a worksheet from a university’s website for creating short stories. (I guess that’s the engineer bit of me trying to organize things, haha!)

Text boxes are where one can write in the applicable details.



Getting Started

  • What does the protagonist want?
  • What morally signification action does the protagonist take towards that goal?
  • What unexpected consequences occur?
  • What details help tell the story?
  • What morally significant choice does the protagonist make at the climax of the story?

Read a LOT of Chekhov. Then re-read it. Read Raymond Carver, Earnest Hemingway, Alice Munro, and Tobias Wolff. If you don’t have time to read all of these authors, stick to Chekhov. He will teach you more than any writing teacher or workshop ever could.”
-Allyson Goldin, UWEC Asst. Professor of Creative Writing

  • Long-term writing strategies
    • Keep a notebook.
    • Write on a regular, daily basis.
    • Collect stories from everyone you meet.






Developing Characters


Favorite Color  
Favorite Foods  
Drinking Patterns  
Something Hated?  
Strong Memories?  
Any Illnesses?  
Nervous Gestures?  
Sleep Patterns?  




Choose a Point of View

  • First Person?
  • Second Person?
  • Third Person?





Write Meaningful Dialogue

  • Each speaker gets their own paragraph.



Use Setting and Context

  • Time, location, context, and atmosphere.
    • Combine setting with characterization and plot.
    • Include enough detail.
    • Use two or more senses in description.
    • Use substitute descriptive details.






Set up the Plot

  • Explosion or “Hook.” A thrilling, gripping, stirring event or problem that grabs the reader’s attention right away.
  • A character versus the internal self or an external something or someone.
  • Background information required for seeing the characters in context.
  • One or more problems that keep a character from their intended goal.
  • Image, symbol, dialogue, that joins paragraphs and scenes together.
  • Remembering something that happened before the short story takes place.
  • When the rising action of the story reaches the peak.
  • Falling Action. Releasing the action of the story after the climax.
  • When the internal or external conflict is resolve.






Create Conflict and Tension

Possible Conflicts Include:

  • The protagonist against another individual
  • The protagonist against nature (or technology)
  • The protagonist against society
  • The protagonist against God
  • The protagonist against himself or herself.

Yourke’s Conflict Checklist

  • Explain just enough to tease readers. Never give everything away.
  • Give both sides options.
  • Keep intensifying the number and type of obstacles the protagonist faces.
  • Hold fictional characters more accountable than real people. Characters who make mistakes frequently pay, and, at least in fiction, commendable folks often reap rewards.
  • Provide sufficient complexity to prevent readers predicting events too far in advance.
  • Encourage reader identification with characters and scenarios that pleasantly or (unpleasantly) resonate with their own sweet dreams (or night sweats).
  • Reveal something about human nature.
  • Present a struggle that most readers find meaningful, even if the details of that struggle reflect a unique place and time.
  • High Stakes.Convince readers that the outcome matters because someone they care about could lose something precious. Trivial clashes often produce trivial fiction.





Build to a Crisis or Climax

  • What is the turning point of the story? This is the most exciting or dramatic moment.






Find a Resolution

  • The solution to the conflict.


Yourke examines some of the options for ending a story.

  • Readers determine the meaning.
    Brendan’s eyes looked away from the priest and up to the mountains.
  • Clear-cut outcome.
    While John watched in despair, Helen loaded up the car with her belongings and drove away.
  • Parallel to Beginning.Similar to beginning situation or image.
  • They were driving their 1964 Chevrolet Impala down the highway while the wind blew through their hair.
  • Her father drove up in a new 1964 Chevrolet Impala, a replacement for the one that burned up.
  • Character comments.
    I wish Tom could have known Sister Dalbec’s prickly guidance before the dust devils of Sin City battered his soul.
  • Characters converse.
  • Literal Image. Setting or aspect of setting resolves the plot.
    The aqueducts were empty now and the sun was shining once more.
  • Symbolic Image. Details represent a meaning beyond the literal one.
    Looking up at the sky, I saw a cloud cross the shimmering blue sky above us as we stood in the morning heat of Sin City.





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