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Crafting Chronicles: Dive into the Art of Narrative Writing with Our Exclusive FREE Demo!

DEMO lesson for Creative Writing "Novels and Short Stories". (By Edmentum Exact Path) *The lesson has been condensed from its original version.

Fiction Genres

Prose fiction is writing that tells a story. This type of narrative writing includes

novels and short stories. Both share the following defining characteristics of fiction:

  • Theme: A theme is the central idea of the story.

  • Plot: A plot is a sequence of events by which the writer arranges for the story to unfold.

  • Setting: The setting is the location of the action in the story.

  • Characters: The characters are the people (or creatures) in the story. The characters and their interactions create situations that drive the plot.

  • Conflict: Conflict is the tension on which the story is based. It is the problem or situation that determines the movement of the plot.

What's the Difference Between a Short Story and a Novel?

A key difference between a novel and a short story is the story's length. A novel is over one hundred pages, whereas a short story is typically 35 to 40 pages or even smaller.

A novel usually includes a large number of characters crafted with minute detail. The writer develops each character as the story unfolds. Also, unlike a short story, which revolves around a single incident or experience, a novel has several parallel plots.

In a short story, the plot is condensed into fewer events and a shorter period of time, and there are fewer characters. Short stories may have sections but usually do not have chapters. Every piece of detail in a short story is crucial. The writer must skillfully use every element, including the setting and the mannerisms of the characters, to contribute to the story's plot and theme.


Genre is a label that writers and readers assign to a piece of writing to broadly indicate what it is about. As with movies, writing can be a comedy, drama, thriller, mystery, and so on. In fiction writing, there are several subgenres within a genre.

Fiction is also categorized according to the target audience. Women's fiction, children's literature, and young adult fiction are distinct genres. These books portray characters of the same gender or age as the reader, and the stories are about problems and conflicts that people in that group commonly experience.

Examples of children's books include Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Judy Blume's Iggie's House. Blume's Tiger Eyes and Forever and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower are novels for young adults.

Plotting a Story - Using Freytag's Pyramid

Narrative Techniques

"Narrative mode" refers to a set of elements the writer uses to tell the story to readers. It determines the perspective from which the reader hears the story. The narrative mode is characterized by the narrative tense and the point of view, or perspective, from which the story is told.

Narrative tense conveys if the story is unfolding now (in the present), the events in the story have already happened (in the past), or these events are set to happen in the future.

The basic tenses are past, present, and future. Each tense has four forms: simple present, present continuous, present perfect, and present perfect continuous. The number one rule of tense is that you must be consistent in your usage.


A story's narrative describes incidents and people in the author's voice or in the protagonist's voice. The narrative may become tiresome and bore the reader if it is not brought to life with dialogue.

Writers employ dialogue to frame characters, create tension, or push the story forward. Dialogue helps the writer portray the background and personality of each character, making the story more credible and interesting.

Sensory Details

Writers use sensory details to make the reader feel everything a character feels. The description of touch, sound, sight, smell, and feeling elevates the narrative from mere incident to experience.



The short story form is suitable for a narrative that a reader can read in a single sitting but is intended to create a strong effect. This effect may arise from the revealing portrayal of a "slice of life," a plot with an entirely unexpected turn, or the creation of a mood.

Try to keep your plot simple and build your story around only a few characters. You might choose to have just one character, the protagonist. When you outline your story, focus on characterizing your protagonist and revealing the protagonist's motives. Think of the traits that are most closely related to the plot.

One way to build a compelling story is to base your plot on a change or revelation that is completely unexpected to a first-time reader yet seems natural or inevitable after it is revealed, given the "facts" presented earlier. Whether or not you use this method, make sure your plot involves a significant outcome, such as a change in the protagonist's external circumstances or a major change in perspective. This outcome or change should result from an underlying conflict that drives the action in the story. Usually, a short story focuses on a single series of incidents in the same place.

Try to make your story as coherent as possible. Coherence requires that the setting, characters, and plot all work together. The details in the story must match each other.

Consider which narrative point of view will work best for your story. Also, consider whether your narrative suggests a specific tone (the narrator's attitude to the events or characters); otherwise, you can converge on a tone as you write the story.

Use the table below to organize your ideas for a short story.


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