7 Engaging Short Stories for Teaching Life Lessons in Secondary ELA

short stories for teaching life lessons

Harness the power of teaching students life lessons in secondary ELA with engaging short stories. Get a head start in your planning with this list of 7 short stories and numerous teaching ideas for bringing life lessons into the classroom.

Whether you teach middle or high school students, you have an important role beyond teaching essential reading and writing skills. As secondary ELA teachers, we can enrich students with knowledge, ideas, and lessons that hold far more meaning than any material in the curriculum and transcend the walls of any classroom. We have a unique and powerful opportunity to expose students to stories that highlight new perspectives, foster empathy, and teach them invaluable life lessons.

By the end of this post, you will have what you need to engage students in short stories that stimulate critical thinking and promote social-emotional learning. Furthermore, these stories encourage moral and ethical development and increase students’ awareness of the world around them. By helping students unpack the life lessons in these stories, we prepare them for life beyond the classroom by empowering them to become responsible, empathetic, and reflective individuals.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

7 Engaging Short Stories for Teaching Life Lessons

1. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Jackson’s short story is perfect for teaching the dangers of blind conformity and herd mentality. (Talk about an important lesson for teenagers!) The story takes place in a seemingly ordinary and pastoral small town where the townspeople gather for the annual tradition of the titular lottery. What seems like a quaint celebration quickly takes a dark turn. Students are always shocked when they realize the “lucky” winner faces a cruel death at the hands of their family, friends, and neighbors. Trust me, they’ll be highly engaged as they explore the dark side of societal norms and unquestioned traditions.

Teaching Idea: Encourage critical thinking by asking students to reflect on the power of social norms and tradition in their own lives. Have them list the traditions and social norms that play a role in their lives before digging deeper and discussing the consequences of blindly following norms without questioning their morality and relevance.

2.  “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin is a thought-provoking story that will challenge students to explore complex moral and ethical questions about sacrificing the well-being of a few for the happiness of many. In the story, the city of Omelas is depicted as a utopian society where everyone is happy and content—or so it seems. Readers eventually discover this happiness relies on the torment and suffering of a single child who, if saved from their tortuous existence, would cause the perfect society to crumble. It’s even more twisted when readers realize the people of Omelas are aware of the child’s suffering and choose to accept it in exchange for their otherwise utopic existence.

Teaching Idea: Before reading, have students work together to define the ideal utopian society. They should consider everything from societal values and policies to societal structures and institutions. After they present their utopia, pose the question asking what they would be willing to give up to make that perfect world possible. Through questions and discussion, lead students to consider the ethical and moral responsibility of a society.

3. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

O. Henry crafts a moving tale of love, sacrifice, and selflessness. The story follows Jim and Della, a young couple facing financial hardship, searching for the perfect Christmas gifts to give one another. Jim and Della both end up sacrificing their most prized possessions to give the other a meaningful gift. The heartwarming irony is that, by giving up their possessions, the presents they receive are no longer useful; Della sells her beautiful hair to buy Jim a chain for his pocket watch, and Jim sells his prized watch to buy Della a set of combs for her hair. Ultimately, their selfless sacrifice means more than any gift they could have gotten each other.

Teaching Idea: Encourage students to participate in a self-reflective writing activity in which they think about the importance of selflessness in their lives. Have them write about sacrifices others have made for their benefit and times they have sacrificed something for someone they cared about.  Follow up with a discussion about the value of making sacrifices for those you love.

4. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs

While “The Monkey’s Paw” is often associated with teaching the lesson of being careful what you wish for, it also serves as a cautionary tale of the consequences of impulsive actions. After the White family comes into possession of a magical monkey’s paw, they are eager to make three wishes—despite warnings of the paw’s dangerous (and deceiving) powers. They are determined to use their wishes to free them of their hardships and give them the life they’ve always wanted. Sure enough, they quickly learn that every wish comes with unintended and often tragic outcomes.

Teaching Idea: Encourage personal reflection by having students contemplate the consequences of their desires, actions, and decisions. Task them with writing about a time when they wanted something or acted without considering the potential outcomes and what they learned from the experience.

5. “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes

“Thank You, Ma’am” is a widely accessible short story with a powerful life lesson about compassion, second chances, and believing the best in others. If that’s not a lesson anyone could benefit from, I don’t know what is! The story revolves around a teenage boy named Roger and a woman named Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. The two initially “meet” when Roger (unsuccessfully) attempts to steal Mrs. Jones’ purse. Instead of turning Roger in, Mrs. Jones takes in his disheveled appearance and responds with a little tough love and a lot of compassion. While initially confused by her response, Roger ultimately learns right from wrong and the value of honesty, respect, and gratitude.

Teaching idea: Have students (literally) illustrate the moral lesson that small acts of kindness and compassion can significantly impact others. Students can work in small groups to create their own comic strips or storyboards that detail a conflict in which compassion and empathy positively change the situation’s trajectory.

6. “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara

“Raymond’s Run” revolves around a young girl named Squeaky who spends her time doing two things: training for races and caring for (and protecting) her mentally disabled brother, Raymond. The story follows Squeaky’s interactions with others as she trains for the town’s upcoming May Day race. Despite coming off as overly competitive and abrasive, readers begin to realize it is more of a defense mechanism as Squeaky tries to remain true to herself while fighting off identities others try to project onto her. In the end, the story is about the power of treating others with respect, recognizing their strengths, and accepting them for who they are. After all, while Squeaky ultimately wins her town’s celebratory May Day race, the true victory is in her personal growth and her new views of those around her.

Teaching idea: Since there are a lot of assumptions made in this story, challenge students to think of a time when they projected an identity onto others or when others projected an identity onto them. Then, have them dig deeper by unpacking the impact of making such assumptions and exploring the power of respecting others for who they are rather than who we assume them to be.

7. “Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Is the grass always greener on the other side? Fitzgerald would argue no. “Winter Dreams” follows the life of Dexter Green, who is first introduced as a young and ambitious golf caddy. He quickly becomes infatuated with Judy Jones, a wealthy young girl who represents everything he desires: success, wealth, and status. Over the years, Dexter chases his dreams (and Judy) only to eventually realize the objects of his desires are not all he cracked them up to be. Ultimately, the story encourages readers to reflect on the implications of societal expectations and superficial ideals on individual happiness.

Teaching idea: Before reading, have students write their own extended definitions of happiness and success. Then, hold a discussion where students compare their definitions. To make it more relevant and relatable, challenge students to consider how modern-day technology, namely social media, has muddled the meanings of happiness, success, and staying true to oneself.

How to Use Literature to Teach Life Lessons

Now that you have a list of short stories you can turn to when wanting to teach students important life lessons, you may be looking for some ways to get students engaged in the (life) lessons at hand. Here are a few ideas to get you started:  

  • Select Relatable Texts: Choose texts featuring relatable characters or challenges to allow students to see themselves in the characters’ shoes, fostering empathy and a deeper understanding of the life lessons woven throughout the story.
  • Facilitate Discussions: Guide students in exploring the moral, ethical, and social implications of the characters’ actions and decisions to encourage critical thinking, perspective-taking, and the development of personal values.
  • Prompt Character Analysis: Ask students to analyze and evaluate the thoughts, motivations and actions of a story’s characters to provide insights into character development and inspire reflection of students’ experiences and personal growth.
  • Assign Reflective Writing: Engage students in reflective writing assignments where they explore how the themes, conflicts, and characters connect to their own lives , encouraging students to internalize the life lessons.
  • Connect to Current Events: Apply a story’s life lessons to current events to showcase how the morals of the story play out in the world around us to make the lessons more tangible and relatable.
  • Encourage Real-World Application: Take time to help students unpack and explore how the lessons in literature can apply to them and society as a whole, encouraging them to identify opportunities to incorporate these lessons into their daily lives.

Bringing Life Lessons into Your Secondary Classroom

Incorporating short stories into secondary ELA is much more than teaching literary analysis skills. It’s about equipping students with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of life today and tomorrow. It’s about fostering empathy, critical thinking, self-awareness, and ethical decision-making, ultimately preparing students to become informed, compassionate, and responsible individuals.

So, let’s rise together to teach the future generation of kind, caring, moral, and empathetic citizens. That said, if you have any other short story titles or teaching tips for teaching life lessons in secondary ELA, share them in the comments below. For the ultimate list of short stories to teach your students, check out my posts about the best short stories for middle schoolers and the best super short stories your high schoolers will love .

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When You Write

A Short Story That Teaches A Lesson: The Power Of Morality In Fiction

Do you remember the last time you were so engrossed in a story that you forgot where you were? The power of fiction lies in its ability to transport us to different worlds, where we can experience emotions and lessons that we may not encounter in our daily lives.

And when it comes to lessons, moral storytelling can be particularly impactful. A short story that teaches a lesson can stay with us long after the last page is turned, influencing our thoughts and actions in unexpected ways.

But what makes a moral story effective? Is it the message itself, or the way it is presented?

In this article, we will explore the power of morality in fiction, and how it can be used to create engaging and emotionally resonant stories. Whether you are a reader looking for inspiration, or a writer seeking to improve your craft, we hope this exploration of moral storytelling will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the power of words.

Key Takeaways

  • Moral storytelling can have a powerful impact on readers by transporting them and teaching them lessons.
  • Effective moral storytelling requires relatable characters and situations, consequences and lessons learned, and emotional impact on readers.
  • Fictional stories that deal with moral issues help us to explore our own values and beliefs, and can inspire change and shape beliefs and perspectives.
  • The power of moral fiction lies in its ability to shape both individual and societal values, making it a crucial tool for promoting positive change.

The Importance of Moral Lessons in Fiction

You can’t help but feel connected to characters who face moral dilemmas. When we read a story about someone struggling with their conscience, we see a reflection of our own inner conflicts. It’s through their struggles that we learn valuable lessons about our own lives. This is the power of moral storytelling in fiction.

It allows us to explore the complexities of moral dilemmas and find empathy for those who face them. The role of empathy and relatability in moral storytelling cannot be overstated. When we read about characters who face tough ethical decisions, we are forced to put ourselves in their shoes.

We consider what we would do in their place, and we develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. Fictional stories that deal with moral issues help us to explore our own values and beliefs, and they challenge us to think about the world in a new way. By engaging with these stories, we become more empathetic, more compassionate, and more aware of the complex nature of morality.

The Elements of Effective Moral Storytelling

When it comes to effective moral storytelling, three key elements come to mind:

  • Relatable characters and situations
  • Consequences and lessons learned
  • Emotional impact on readers

You want your readers to be invested in the characters and their struggles, and to see themselves or people they know in the situations presented in the story.

The consequences of the character’s actions should be clear and meaningful, leading to valuable lessons that can be learned.

And finally, the emotional impact of the story should be powerful, leaving readers with a lasting impression and a desire to share the story with others.

Relatable Characters and Situations

As a reader, it’s easy to become invested in the relatable characters and situations presented in a story, allowing us to connect with the moral lessons on a deeper level. When we see characters facing situations that we ourselves have experienced, it creates a sense of familiarity that draws us in and helps us empathize with them.

This empathy is crucial for effective moral storytelling, as it allows us to see the world through the eyes of others, and ultimately, to learn from their experiences.

To make the characters and situations in a story relatable, authors often incorporate universal themes that resonate with readers across cultures and time periods. These can include themes like love, loss, betrayal, and redemption, which are all experiences that most people can relate to on some level.

By exploring these themes through the lens of relatable characters, authors are able to create stories that are both emotionally impactful and thought-provoking. When we see characters overcome challenges and learn valuable lessons, it inspires us to do the same, making us better people in the process.

Consequences and Lessons Learned

By exploring the consequences of characters’ actions and the lessons they learn, authors can create thought-provoking and emotionally impactful stories.

When characters face the consequences of their actions, whether positive or negative, they have the opportunity for personal growth. This growth can manifest in a multitude of ways, from realizing the error of their ways and seeking forgiveness to standing up for what they believe in and making a positive change in their world.

The lessons learned by characters in fiction can also have real-world application. As readers, we can learn from the mistakes and successes of fictional characters and apply those lessons to our own lives. This is the power of morality in fiction – it allows us to explore the consequences of our actions and the lessons we can learn from them, all within the safe confines of a story.

By incorporating personal growth and real-world application into their stories, authors can create narratives that not only entertain but also inspire change.

Emotional Impact on Readers

Immerse yourself in a well-crafted narrative and you’ll find yourself feeling the emotional impact of the story’s twists and turns. The power of morality in fiction lies in the emotional impact it has on readers.

By exploring the psychology behind emotional impact, writers can create stories that resonate with readers long after they’ve finished the last page.

Analyzing reader responses is key to understanding the emotional impact of a story. When readers become emotionally invested in a character’s journey, they’re more likely to remember the lessons learned.

By creating characters that readers can relate to on a personal level, writers can explore moral themes that are universally relevant. Whether it’s a story about love, loss, or redemption, a well-crafted narrative can leave a lasting impact on readers, shaping their beliefs and perspectives for years to come.

Examples of Short Stories with Powerful Morals

You’re in for a treat! Let’s delve into the world of short stories with powerful morals.

‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson will have you questioning the traditions of your community, while ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe will send shivers down your spine with its haunting depiction of guilt.

And who can forget ‘The Gift of the Magi’ by O. Henry? It’s a heartwarming tale of sacrifice and love during the holiday season.

These stories are sure to leave a lasting impression on you and make you reflect on the power of storytelling.

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Step into the world of ‘The Lottery’ and witness the shocking consequences of blindly following tradition. Shirley Jackson’s chilling short story explores the dark side of human nature and the dangers of mindlessly adhering to societal norms.

Set in a small, seemingly idyllic village, ‘The Lottery’ centers around an annual ritual where one person is selected to be stoned to death by the other villagers.

Symbolism runs rampant throughout the story, with objects like the black box and the stones taking on deeper meaning as the plot unfolds. The significance of tradition is also a major theme, as the villagers continue to participate in the lottery despite its horrific outcome.

Jackson’s masterful storytelling keeps readers on the edge of their seats, questioning the morality of the characters and the society they live in. ‘The Lottery’ is a haunting reminder of the power of conformity and the importance of questioning the status quo.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Listen closely, friend, and let me tell you about a heart that beats like a madman’s drum, driving its owner to the brink of insanity in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.

The story is a psychological horror that delves into the mind of an unnamed narrator who is obsessed with an old man’s pale blue eye. The narrator’s obsession with the eye leads him to commit a heinous crime that ultimately drives him to madness.

The power of symbolism and foreshadowing in ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ can’t be ignored. From the first line of the story, the reader is given a glimpse of what is to come. The narrator tells us that he’s not mad, yet it’s clear that he is.

The sound of the heart beating under the floorboards is a symbol of the narrator’s guilt, and it foreshadows his eventual downfall. The heart’s beating grows louder and more frantic as the story progresses, mirroring the narrator’s own descent into madness.

‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is a chilling reminder that our actions have consequences, and that guilt can drive us to the brink of insanity.

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

Take a moment to imagine yourself in the shoes of Jim or Della, the loving couple in O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’, who make a selfless sacrifice to show their love for one another.

The irony of sacrifice is a powerful theme that resonates throughout the story, leaving a lasting impact on the reader’s mind.

O. Henry’s writing style is both engaging and emotionally impactful, drawing the reader into the plot and keeping them invested until the very end.

The story follows the couple, who are struggling financially, as they try to find the perfect Christmas gift for one another.

Della sells her beautiful long hair to a wig-maker to buy a chain for Jim’s beloved pocket watch, while Jim sells his watch to buy combs for Della’s hair.

When they exchange gifts, they realize the irony of their sacrifice and the depth of their love for one another.

This heartwarming tale teaches us that true love is about selflessness and sacrifice, rather than material possessions.

O. Henry’s writing style, with its clever use of irony and powerful emotional impact, makes ‘The Gift of the Magi’ a timeless classic that continues to inspire readers today.

Incorporating Morality into Your Own Writing

Incorporating morality into your writing can deepen the emotional impact of your story. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a great example of this, where the characters’ choices and actions are guided by their moral compasses. By exploring themes of love, friendship, sacrifice, and redemption, Rowling created a world where the characters face moral dilemmas and make difficult choices that ultimately shape their fate.

By developing characters with strong moral values, readers become invested in their journey and feel a sense of satisfaction when they make morally correct decisions. Crafting a plot and conveying a message through morality can also add depth to your story. By creating a conflict that challenges the characters’ moral beliefs, you can create a sense of tension and suspense that keeps the reader engaged.

As the characters navigate through the moral gray area, readers are forced to confront their own beliefs and values. This emotional connection to the characters and their struggles can create a lasting impact on the reader, leaving them with a message that resonates long after they’ve finished reading.

So, when writing your own stories, don’t be afraid to explore the complex themes of morality and use it as a tool to create a more impactful and memorable story.

The Lasting Impact of Moral Fiction

Experiencing a tale that challenges your beliefs and values can leave a profound and long-lasting impression on your psyche. This is the power of moral fiction.

Stories that explore complex themes and challenge societal norms have real-world applications. They encourage readers to critically examine their own moral compass and consider the impact of their actions on others.

The lasting impact of moral fiction can also be seen in its cultural significance. Stories that explore themes of love, forgiveness, and compassion have the power to shape our collective understanding of these concepts.

By presenting a nuanced portrayal of morality, authors can contribute to broader cultural conversations and inspire readers to become more empathetic and compassionate individuals. The power of moral fiction lies in its ability to shape both individual and societal values, making it a crucial tool for promoting positive change.

You leave the world of fiction, but the power of its morals lingers on.

These stories, with their timeless lessons and relatable characters, have the ability to touch your heart and change your perspective. They’re more than just entertainment, they’re tools for personal growth and societal change.

As you reflect on the short stories that have impacted you, remember that you too have the power to incorporate morality into your own writing.

For as long as people crave stories, there will always be a need for tales that teach us the value of kindness, empathy, and compassion. So use your words to inspire, challenge, and uplift your readers.

Recommended Reading...

Why short stories are important for readers and writers alike, why do authors use short stories the advantages of this genre, why are short stories so hard to write understanding the challenges, what is a novelette exploring the short story genre.

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The Integrated Teacher

8 Standout Short Stories With Moral Lessons

Nov 22, 2023

Sometimes, I want a short story to simply be a moment of escape. I don’t want to experience an important life lesson; I just want to be entertained like in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” or Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Other times, however, I want to soak in short stories with moral ideals!

A moral, or theme, teaches us something about ourselves and others. We get to learn and grow in some tangible way, and stories that provide this offering are necessary in the literary canon.

Keep reading below for 8 Standout Short Stories With Moral Lessons that you can use in ANY secondary classroom!

Need help with Reading Test Prep? Check out this  FREE Pack of 3 Test Prep Activities  to help students achieve success on standardized tests!


Table of Contents

A moral, for all intended purposes, is another word for THEME. A theme is the message of a text. Because it is a message, it MUST be written in a complete sentence and contain a connection to a topic or idea from the text. A simple phrase is not quite enough for a thematic statement .

Developing themes for short stories with moral lessons would be a fantastic focus while reading any of the texts below!

1. “To Build a Fire” by Jack London

I love “To Build a Fire” so much! It mirrors my own life in so many ways, which is why it is one of my favorite short stories with moral lessons!

The protagonist, a man with an overabundance of pride and confidence, ultimately fails in an extreme fight for survival. Like me, he believes he can defy the odds and escape an impossible situation.

Teaching this story with passages from  The Call of the Wild or  White Fang might help in rounding out similar ideas regarding the conflict of Man vs. Nature !

Click below for easy-to-teach activities for To Build a Fire by Jack London!

short stories with moral to build a fire

2.  “The Cactus” by O. Henry

One of my favorite things about this short story by O. Henry is its clever twist ending! Many short stories with moral lessons have similar twist endings, which could be why they make such great additions to thematic units !

O. Henry’s “The Cactus” tells the story of a budding romance. A young man tries to charm a young woman, but his boastful nature leads to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Personally, I think we have all been there, at least when it comes to boastfulness. We all have something we get a little prideful about, to our own detriment most of the time.

You could teach a simple plot activity or examine how the characters change and/or develop over the course of the story!

Click to get teaching ideas here>>> The Cactus Lesson BUNDLE

short stories with moral

3.  “After Twenty Years” by O. Henry

Loyalty is a concept students are extremely focused on in middle and high school, so including short stories with moral ideas connected to loyalty is a great way to encourage students to engage with certain texts!  How can a student even navigate the school hallways without friends to help along the way? Loyalty is vital!

But all friendships change over time as any adult knows. The main characters, an officer and a criminal, experience this situation in the story “After Twenty Years” by O. Henry !

Breaking down this easy-to-read plot through a focus on comparing and contrasting the two main characters will help your students get to the moral (theme) of the story quite easily, as you really feel for both characters (even the criminal one).

Click to buy this BUNDLE to make teaching this short story SIMPLE & EASY!

4.  “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury

The story “The Pedestrian,” like its title, is incredibly unassuming. A man in a not-far-off future walks his neighborhood alone. Unlike others who sit in front of screens day and night, the protagonist chooses to go for a stroll, a seemingly innocuous activity.

While on his walk, he encounters an unmanned, robotic police vehicle. Because of its programming, it cannot understand Leonard’s (protagonist’s) intentions and labels him mentally incapable, carting him off to an asylum.

This dark tale teaches about the dangers of reliance on and addiction to technology, a moral we can all learn from! If you need help teaching characterization and theme for “The Pedestrian,” go here !

Need some ideas for teaching scary short stories? Click below!

scary short stories

5.  “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

If you are anywhere near the holiday season, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry is one of the best short stories with moral attributes woven throughout!

This short story depicts a couple lamenting their slightly impoverished state. They want to give each other gifts to celebrate the Christmas season; however, they have limited means, like most people in the world today.

Instead of sitting around moping, they both choose to sacrifice the little they have in an interesting way in order to surprise the other for Christmas. The moral, or theme, involving sacrifice will encourage anyone who reads this short story to think beyond oneself during the holiday season.

Want an easy way to teach characterization, reading comprehension, and visualization for The Gift of the Magi ? Click the image below!

write a short story called a lesson in life

6.  “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst

I don’t know about you, but if you have read “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst , I know you MUST have shed a tear or two. Good short stories with moral elements tend to do so unexpectedly.

Two brothers, one of whom experiences a disability, interact with each other as many siblings do. There is a constant tug of war between brotherly love and annoyance that most people with brothers or sisters can readily understand.

By the end of the story, we cry with the protagonist as he weeps for his brother who dies a tragic death. This story may be difficult to read for some, but it is completely worth it.

We need to be reminded once in a while that life is not just about us and what makes us happy. It also involves investing in the lives of others, especially in the lives of those less fortunate than we are. Ultimately, patience regarding family must take center place in our lives, which the protagonist learns too late. If you need step-by-step activities to teach this classic story, see this link !

7.  “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

I have yet to teach a student who did not like “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant . And engagement is super important when choosing short stories with moral concepts!

Unlike the female protagonist in “The Gift of the Magi,” Mathilde Loisel in the story “The Necklace” is self-focused. She cannot see the beauty of the comfort and security of her middle-class life.

Instead, she always thinks about the finer things in life she cannot attain. I think we have all been there a time or two. We may not envision the same “finer” things, but we all pretty much want more than we currently have.

When Mathilde Loisel is invited to a party, she borrows her friend’s necklace, a symbol to her of wealth. At some point, she loses the “expensive”  diamond necklace and replaces it without telling her friend about its loss. Now, deep in debt, she and her husband become embittered and worn down through extremely difficult physical work. The resolution of the story involves the revelation that the necklace was, in fact, a cheap fake.

Can you imagine the impact of this knowledge on your psyche? Sometimes, it is simply better to tell the truth, even if it hurts your pride to do so. Clearly, this story shines as a prime example of classic short stories with moral concepts everyone should read!

write a short story called a lesson in life

8.  “Thank You, Ma’am” (also known as “Thank You, M’am”) by Langston Hughes

During or around the week of Thanksgiving, “Thank You, Ma’am” (also known as “Thank You, M’am”) by Langston Hughes is one of THE BEST short stories with moral lessons to teach!

Let me give you a quick recap: A young boy attempts to steal a person from an older woman. Interestingly, she does not call the police and demand immediate punishment but invites the young man into her home, feeds him, and demonstrates love and care towards him.

Everyone could learn a thing or two from the older woman, Mrs. Jones.

Here are some thematic statements/morals one could learn from this story:

  • Sometimes it is difficult to fathom someone’s kindness.
  • Certain moments in life can change how you see someone.

thank you maam activities

Why teach short stories with moral lessons?

So often, our English curricula are rife with death, destruction, and despair. Think  Romeo and Juliet, “The Raven,”   or “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” Don’t get me wrong; I love a good scare or death scene.

Sometimes, however, I want to feel hope in the human experience. We need to read about life, love, freedom, and other ideals that are important to us. Foremost, we must offer more short stories with moral lessons to our students, so they too can experience what can be!

If you want to make teaching short stories with moral lessons or other entertaining tales an EASY feat, get the BUNDLE below!

write a short story called a lesson in life

Need more help with teaching short stories with moral lessons? Check out my store  Kristin Menke-Integrated ELA Test Prep !

write a short story called a lesson in life


I primarily focus on  integrating multiple disciplines and subjects. The goal is to make teaching simplified and effective!

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Summaries, Analysis & Lists

Didactic Stories: Short Stories that Teach a Lesson or Have a Moral

didactic short stories

This page contains didactic stories that teach a lesson or have a moral. Some of the stories are fables, which are usually short tales with non-human characters that illustrate a moral, sometimes stating the lesson directly at the story’s end. Other stories are parables, which typically have human characters and illustrate a moral or lesson. If you want more stories of this type, there’s a separate page for Allegories & Fables . For other stories where characters learn something about life, see Epiphanies/Discovery .

Short Stories that Teach a Lesson

“The Treasure of Lemon Brown” by Walter Dean Myers

Greg Ridley is a fourteen-year-old student in danger of failing math. His father tells him he can’t play basketball anymore. While out walking one night, Greg takes refuge in an abandoned tenement building. He finds a local homeless man there, Lemon Brown. ( Summary & Analysis )

Joy | Anton Chekhov

Mitya gets home at midnight, agitated and disheveled but also very happy. He wakes his parents and younger siblings. He has incredible news—he’s going to be known all over Russia.

“Joy” is the first story in the Amazon preview of  Fifty-Two Stories .

“Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes

Mrs. Luella Jones, a large woman with a large purse, is walking home late at night in Harlem. A boy rushes up behind her and tries to grab her purse, but the strap breaks and he falls down. Mrs. Jones grabs the boy and brings him to her apartment. ( Summary & Analysis )

Read “Thank You, Ma’am”

“Hailey’s Shooting Star” by Steven Carman

Hailey’s visiting her aunt and uncle at their new house. She goes down the street to a basketball hoop that a neighbor let’s everyone use. Two boys arrive soon after. They say girls can’t play there, especially girls with one hand.

This story can be read in the preview of Tales from the Bully Box . (45% in)

The Zebra Storyteller | Spencer Holst

A Siamese cat learns to speak to Zebras, taking advantage of the shock of it to tie them up and kill them. ( Summary )

This fable illustrates the function of the storyteller. It can be read in the preview of The Language of Cats and Other Stories .

Before the Law | Franz Kafka

A man tries to gain access to the law. He waits for years, but the doorkeeper prevents him from entering. The man tries various bribes to gain entry.

This parable could illustrate the futility of searching for meaning in life, or the indifference of the universe to humans.

This story can be read in the preview of  The Complete Stories .

“The Happiness Machine” by Ray Bradbury

Leo Auffmann is in his garage full of supplies and tools wondering where he should start. He’s decided to build a Happiness Machine. He works for ten straight days on it. He goes into his house, announces that it’s finished, and collapses into sleep. ( Summary )

“The Emperor’s New Clothes (Suit)” by Hans Christian Andersen

An emperor loves nice clothes and spends all his money on them. He ignores his real duties. Two men say they know how to weave the most beautiful cloth that can only be seen by people who are smart and good at their jobs. The emperor pays them a huge sum of money to make him some clothes.

This story can be read in the preview of  The Complete Stories and Fairytales .

“The Egg” by Andy Weir

You’re killed in a car accident on your way home. You’re concerned about the family you’re leaving behind, which the narrator tells you is what he likes to see. It turns out you’re going to be reincarnated. ( Summary & Analysis )

Read “The Egg”

Didactic Stories, Cont’d

“Why Reeds Are Hollow” by Gabriela Mistral

The reeds started a revolution in the plant world—all plants should be the same height. A few objections are ignored and the wind carries the message everywhere. ( Summary )

The Ambitious Guest | Nathaniel Hawthorne

A family is relaxing around the hearth. They live in a cottage by a mountain. They sometimes hear minor rock slides, but they have a safe spot nearby in case it’s more serious. A young traveler who’s passing through joins the family. He has big plans to make a name for himself. The family speaks on some of their more modest ambitions.

This is the eighth story in the preview of  Classic Short Stories .

“Fox 8” by George Saunders

A fox learns human language by listening in on bedtime stories. A building project threatens the group’s habitat. ( Summary )

The Appointment in Samarra | W. Somerset Maugham

A servant meets Death in a Bagdad marketplace and flees from him.

This parable shows it’s impossible to avoid death.

Read “The Appointment in Samarra”

The Unicorn in the Garden | James Thurber

A man sees a unicorn in his garden eating flowers. He tells his wife but she dismisses it.

This story contrasts fantasy and reality.

Read “The Unicorn in the Garden”

Menagerie, a Child’s Fable | Charles Johnson

When the owner of a pet store doesn’t come in for a few days, the animals get out of their cages and try to survive and govern themselves.

Despite the title, this story is written for the adult reader. It deals with the oppression, racism, fascism, and war in the world.

Read “Menagerie”

The Travelers and the Plane Tree | Aesop

Two travelers rest under a plane tree and complain about how useless it is.

The lesson of this fable is that there’s good in everything, or to appreciate small blessings.

Read “The Travelers and the Plane Tree”

The Minister’s Black Veil: A Parable | Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Reverend of a small church turns up one day for the service with a black veil covering his face. His parishioners are confused and uncomfortable with the change. There is much speculation about the reason for the veil, and they hope it’s just a passing fancy.

The black veil could represent Original Sin, secret sin, or pride.

The Country of the Blind | H. G. Wells

Nunez, a mountain climber and adventurer, falls during a climb and ends up finding a village in a nearby valley. The inhabitants have been blind for generations. Nunez has found the legendary Country of the Blind and, as a sighted man, believes he will rule this people.

This parable shows that the adage “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” , is false.

Read “The Country of the Blind”

The Widow and the Parrot: A True Story | Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Gage is an elderly widow, lame, short-sighted and poor, who gets a letter informing her of her brother’s death. She is to inherit her brother’s possessions and money, so she borrows some money from her minister to make the trip to her brother’s town.

This fable has the moral that kindness to animals will be rewarded.

Read “The Widow and the Parrot”

Blemish | John Christopher

A young salesman goes to Swan Upping to sell TV’s. He is told that no one there uses technology of any kind. Meanwhile, the Galactic Ambassador is visiting earth to determine if they can be admitted as a member planet in the Galactic culture.

This parable shows that pride in technology isn’t everything and that simple values shouldn’t be ignored.

The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket | Yasunari Kawabata

The narrator sees a group of children with colorful lanterns looking for singing grasshoppers. They put a lot of effort into making their lanterns and take pride in them. Eventually, a boy, Fujio, finds a grasshopper.

This parable offers a lesson about looking for someone to love— finding someone who is rare like a bell cricket is difficult, and after a heart break even a rare woman will seem common.

Read “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket”

The Star Beast | Nicholas Stuart Gray

There is a streak of light in the night sky and a loud noise is heard. Soon after, at a farm, a creature shows up, human-like, hurt and afraid. They help it, and it attracts a lot of attention from those nearby.

This parable shows that people are capable of being cruel, arrogant or stupid in their dealings with humans and animals.

The Flying Machine | Ray Bradbury

In ancient China, Emperor Yuan is relaxing when a servant excitedly gives him the news that a man was seen flying with wings. The Emperor enjoys simple things, and this amazing development makes him think about his people’s safety and way of life.

This parable could illustrate resistance to change or a desire to hold on to power.

Read “The Flying Machine”

Tiffany | Stacey Richter

The protagonist is told to divide or die, but she doesn’t want to—she wants to be intact and singular.

This story could be a parable about resisting peer pressure or being yourself.

Read “Tiffany”  (Coarse language)

The Other Side of the Hedge | E. M. Forster

A man stops to rest on the side of the road. He is passed by some people, and also thinks of his brother whom he left behind. He notices a small opening in the hedge that lines the road. He pushes his way thru it.

This parable might be encouraging a more relaxed, altruistic, pastoral life over a modern, impersonal life centered around accomplishment.

“The Great Carbuncle” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A group of eight people rest in the Crystal Hills after an unsuccessful search for the Great Carbuncle. Although they all have their own motives, they cooperate to build a hut and start a fire. The searchers include an elderly man who’s been looking his whole life, a chemist who wants to analyze and write about the Carbuncle, a merchant who wants to sell it, a poet who wants inspiration, a prince who wants it as a family symbol, and young newlyweds who want it as a light in their house.

Read “The Great Carbuncle”

The Red Bow | George Saunders

A young girl is killed by dogs. Some men in the village look for the dogs and shoot them. They turn their attention to other dogs that might also be dangerous. Their enthusiasm for making the village safe gets out of hand.

This could be a parable for the dangers of authoritarianism.

I’ll keep adding didactic stories that teach a lesson or have a moral as I find more.

write a short story called a lesson in life

  • Sun. Mar 24th, 2024



Unveiling Life’s Lessons: 10 Captivating Short Story Examples

write a short story called a lesson in life

By Margot Ginter

Unveiling Life’s Lessons: 10 Captivating Short Story Examples

Life is a complex journey filled with ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and countless lessons along the way. Sometimes, it is through the power of storytelling that we can truly grasp the essence of life and its intricacies. Short stories, in particular, have the ability to capture poignant moments and convey profound messages in a condensed format. From tales of love and loss to stories of resilience and self-discovery, short story examples about life encompass a wide range of themes and emotions. These narratives serve as mirrors that reflect our own experiences, allowing us to connect with the characters and delve into the depths of the human condition. Whether it’s a simple anecdote or a complex allegory, these stories have the power to inspire, enlighten, and remind us of the beauty and fragility of life itself.

  • Can you provide an example of a well-written short story?

What are short stories and can you provide some examples?

Which moral story is the best, reflecting on life’s tapestry: inspiring short story examples, unveiling life’s profound lessons: captivating short story examples for reflection.

One exemplary short story that showcases the mastery of storytelling is Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843). Poe’s unwavering focus on the fear of descending into madness is vividly portrayed in this chilling work. With its gripping plot and psychologically complex characters, the story captivates readers from beginning to end. Through meticulous crafting, Poe leaves an indelible mark on the genre, making “The Tell-Tale Heart” a prime example of a finely crafted and unforgettable short story.

In the realm of English literature, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” stands as a prime example of a masterfully crafted short story. With its chilling portrayal of the fear of descending into madness, gripping plot, and psychologically complex characters, this tale captivates readers from start to finish, leaving an indelible mark on the genre.

Short stories are fictional narratives that fall between 1,600 and 20,000 words. They are concise and offer a complete story arc within a limited word count. A renowned example of a short story is Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberries” from 1898. Other notable examples include Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” These bite-sized tales allow authors to explore various themes, characters, and settings in a compact and impactful manner.

In the world of literature, short stories hold a unique place. Ranging from 1,600 to 20,000 words, they offer a complete story arc within a limited word count, allowing authors to delve into various themes, characters, and settings in a concise and impactful manner. Notable examples include Chekhov’s “Gooseberries,” Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” These compact narratives showcase the beauty and power of storytelling within a bite-sized format.

“The Golden Egg” is a moral story that highlights the destructive nature of greed. In this tale, a foolish farmer kills a goose, hoping to obtain all the golden eggs it supposedly carries within its stomach. However, upon opening the bird’s stomach, the farmer is left empty-handed, realizing that their greed has cost them their last resource. This story serves as a reminder that greed can lead to the destruction of valuable resources, making it a compelling choice for the best moral story.

In “The Golden Egg,” the farmer’s foolishness leads him to kill a goose in search of riches. However, his greed backfires as he discovers that the golden eggs were just a myth. This cautionary tale emphasizes the destructive consequences of unchecked greed.

Life is a complex tapestry woven with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and countless experiences that shape our journey. In this collection of inspiring short stories, we delve into the various threads that make up the fabric of life. From tales of resilience in the face of adversity to stories of love and friendship that transcend time, each narrative offers a unique perspective on the human condition. These stories serve as a reminder that no matter how intricate or unpredictable life may seem, there is always room for hope, growth, and the possibility of a brighter tomorrow.

This collection of inspiring short stories explores the intricate and unpredictable nature of life. From tales of resilience to stories of love and friendship, each narrative offers a unique perspective on the human condition. These stories serve as a reminder that no matter the challenges we face, there is always room for hope, growth, and the possibility of a brighter tomorrow.

Short stories have the power to encapsulate life’s profound lessons in just a few pages. They are a medium through which writers can explore the depths of human emotions, experiences, and relationships. From tales of love and loss to stories of perseverance and triumph, short stories offer readers a space for introspection and reflection. These captivating examples serve as a reminder of the complexities of life and the valuable lessons that can be learned along the way. Whether it’s a tale of unexpected kindness or a journey of self-discovery, short stories have the ability to touch our hearts and leave a lasting impact.

Short stories are a powerful medium for writers to delve into the depths of human emotions and experiences. They offer readers a space for introspection and reflection, allowing them to explore life’s complexities and learn valuable lessons. Whether it’s a story of love and loss or one of perseverance and triumph, short stories have the ability to touch our hearts and leave a lasting impact.

In conclusion, short stories about life have the power to captivate readers and leave a lasting impact. They offer a unique perspective on the human experience, presenting characters and situations that we can all relate to in some way. These stories allow us to reflect on our own lives, values, and beliefs, as well as explore the complexities of human relationships and the various challenges we face. Whether they are filled with joy, sadness, or thought-provoking moments, short stories about life serve as mirrors that reflect our own experiences back to us, reminding us of our shared humanity. They remind us that, despite our differences, we all navigate through the highs and lows of life, seeking understanding, connection, and purpose. So, the next time you come across a short story about life, take a moment to immerse yourself in its narrative, for within those pages lie valuable lessons and a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive.


Margot Ginter is a passionate astronomer and stargazer, dedicated to exploring the wonders of the universe. With a degree in Astrophysics and years of experience in research and observation, Margot's blog is a go-to resource for all things related to stars. From explaining complex concepts to highlighting the latest astronomical discoveries, Margot's writing is both informative and inspiring. Whether you're a seasoned astronomer or simply curious about the night sky, Margot's blog is a must-read for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the cosmos.

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Literacy Ideas

Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers

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What Is a Short Story?

The clue is in the title!

Short stories are like novels only…well…shorter! They contain all the crucial elements of fully developed stories except on a smaller scale.

In short story writing, you’ll find the key story elements such as characterization, plot development, themes explored, etc., but all within a word count that can usually be comfortably read in one sitting.

Short stories are just one of many storytelling methods; like the others, they help us derive meaning from our world.

Visual Writing Prompts

How Do Short Stories Differ From Novels?

The reduced scale of a short story explains most of the differences the form has with longer forms such as novels.

Short stories usually have a tighter focus on a single main character and rarely shift between perspectives the way we often find in longer works of fiction.

Space is of the essence in this form, so long passages of exposition are usually avoided and the story starting at the last possible moment.

In purely numerical terms, short stories can be anywhere between about 1,000 to around 20,000 words or so, though many would consider even 10,000 too long.

A short novel clocks in at around 60,000 words, with word counts between 20-60,000 words being taken up by that red-headed stepchild of prose, the novella.


short story writing | story tellers bundle 1 | Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:

How to Write a Short Story

Good storytelling is an art. But, luckily it’s a craft too and, like any craft, the skills and techniques can be learned by anyone.

In this article, we’ll first take a look at some ways to kickstart the short story writing process, before taking a look at some of the structural considerations essential for students to understand before they write their short stories.

We’ll also explore some simple practical activities that will help students to draw on their creative resources and personal experiences to help bring their stories to life.

Finally, we’ll look at some general tips to help students put a final polish on their masterpieces before they share them with the world.

How t o begin a story

short story writing | short story writing guide | Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

Create a Dramatic Question

The first thing a student needs to do when writing a short story is to create a dramatic question. Without a dramatic question, readers will have no motivation to read on as there will be no story .

This dramatic question can take many forms, but as it will be the driver of the plot, it will be the single most important element of the story.

Take the movie Rocky as an example. In it, an aging journeyman boxer, Rocky Balboa, answers two dramatic questions:

1. Will Rocky find love?

2. Can he become the Heavyweight Champion of the World?

Often the dramatic question is of this will she/won’t she type. But, whatever form it takes, there must be some obstacles put in the way of answering it.

These obstacles can come in the form of an external obstacle, such as an antagonist or a negative environment, or the form of an internal obstacle, such as heartbreak or grief.

This is the conflict that creates the crucial element of suspense necessary to engage the reader’s interest.

Whatever form a student’s dramatic question takes, it will provide the plot impetus and how the student will explore their story’s theme.

Practice Activity: Identify the Dramatic Question

It is good practice for students to attempt to identify the dramatic question any time they read a book or watch a movie. Ask the students to think of some classic or popular books and movies that they are already familiar with. Can they extract the major dramatic question from each?

Find Inspiration in the World Around

One of the most common complaints from students, when asked to write a short story, is that they don’t know what to write about. This is the age-old curse of writer’s block.

Figuring out what to write about is the first hurdle students will need to overcome. Luckily, the inspiration for stories lies everywhere. We just need to help students to know where to look.

As writers, students must learn to see the world around them with the freshness of the eyes of a young child. This requires them to pay close attention to the world around them; to slow things down enough to catch the endless possibilities for stories that exist all around.

Luckily, we have the perfect activity to help our students to do this.

Practice Activity: Breathe Life into the Story

We can find stories and the details for our stories everywhere.

Students need to tune their ear to the fragments of stories in snatches of overheard daily conversations. They need to pay enough attention to catch their own daydreaming what-ifs on the bus to school or to keep an eye out for all those little human interest stories in the local newspaper.

Once the living details of life are noticed, students need to capture them quickly by recording them in a journal. This journal will become a great resource for the student to dip into for inspiration while writing their stories.

Those half-heard conversations, those anecdotes of street life witnessed through a bus window, the half-remembered dreams scribbled down while gulping down a rushed breakfast. All these can provide jumping-off points and rich detail for a student’s short story.

Outline and Prepare

Preparation is important when writing a short story. Without a doubt. There is, however, a very real danger of preparation becoming procrastination for our student writers.

Students must learn to make their preparation time count. The writing process is much more productive if students invest some time in brainstorming and organizing their ideas at the start.

To organize their short story, students will need to understand the basic elements of structure described in the next section, but the following activity will first help them to access some of the creative gold in their imaginations. The discipline of structure can be applied afterward.

Practice Activity: Dig for Nuggets

For this activity, give each student a large piece of paper, such as a leaf from an artist’s sketchbook, to brainstorm their ideas. Employing a large canvas like this encourages more expansive thinking.

Instruct students to use colored pens to write sentences, phrases, and fragments, even doodles. Anything that helps them to dump the contents of their mind onto the paper. This is all about sifting through the rubble for those nuggets of gold. Students shouldn’t censor themselves, but instead, allow their mind’s free reign.

To help your students get started, you can provide them with some prompts or questions as jumping-off points. For example:

  • What is your basic premise?
  • What is the story about?
  • Who are your main characters?
  • Where is your story set?  

Encourage students to generate their own questions too by allowing their minds ample room to roam. Generating new questions in this way will help them gather momentum for the telling of their tale.


Even getting off to a great start, students often find themselves in difficulties by the middle of their story, especially if they haven’t achieved a firm grasp of structure yet.

The main elements students will need to master are plot, theme, and character development.

In this section, we’ll take a look at each of these in turn.

short story writing | structuring a short story 1 | Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

Plot refers to the events of the story. This is the what of the tale. It’s useful for students to understand the arc of the plot in five sections: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Exposition: This is the introductory part of your story. It should introduce the reader to the central characters and orientate them to the setting.

Rising Action: Here the student begins by introducing the central dramatic question which will be the engine of the story. A series of obstacles must be placed in the way of the main character that will increase suspense and tension as the story moves forward toward the climax.

Climax: The climax is the dramatic high point of the story. This is where interest peaks and the emotions rise to their most intense.

Falling Action: Now the conflict is resolving and we are being led out to the story’s end.

Resolution: The central dramatic question has been answered, usually in either a happy or tragic manner, and many loose ends are tied up.

Practice Activity: Instruct students to use the five-part plot structure above to map an outline for their tale before writing .

If the plot consists of the series of events that constitute the story, then the theme refers to what those events mean.

The theme of a story is the underlying message of the story.

What is the ‘big idea’ behind all the action of the plot? This is open to a certain amount of interpretation on the part of the reader, but usually, a little reflection by the student writer will reveal what the events of the plot mean to them.

If, as described in the introduction, stories are how we derive meaning from the world, the theme will reveal the writer’s perspective on things.

Practice Activity: Organize students into groups and ask them to list their Top 5 movies or books of all time. Instruct them to briefly outline the main plot points using the plot structure above. When they’ve completed that, instruct the students to discuss what they think the main themes of each of the works of fiction were.


short story writing | Story Elements Teaching Unit | Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

☀️This HUGE resource provides you with all the TOOLS, RESOURCES , and CONTENT to teach students about characters and story elements.


Character Development IN SHORT STORY WRITING

short story writing | character development short story writing | Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers | literacyideas.com

No doubt about it, characterization is essential to the success of any short story. Just how important characterization is will depend on whether the story is plot-driven or action-driven.

In the best writing, regardless of genre or length, the characters will be at least plausible. There is a lot that students can do to ensure their stories are populated with more than just cardboard cutouts.

One effective way to do this is to reveal a character through their actions. This is the old show, don’t tell trick at work.

A good short story writer will allow the character to reveal their temperament and personality through their actions.

For example, instead of merely describing a character as putting a mug on the table, perhaps they bring it down with a thud that betrays their anger.

Another great way to reveal character is in the use of dialogue. How characters speak to each other in a story can reveal a lot about their status, mood, and intent, etc.

Our students must learn to draw complex characters. Archetypes may serve us well in some contexts, but archetypes are not real people. They are caricatures. If our students want to people their fictional world with real people, they need to create complex, even contradictory characters, just like you and I are.

If their characters are too consistent, they are too predictable. Predictability kills suspense, which in turn kills the reader’s interest.

Practice Activity: Reveal Mood through Action

For this simple activity, provide the students with a list of emotions. Now, challenge the students to concoct a short scene where a character performs an action or actions that reveal the chosen mood.

To start, you might allow the students a paragraph in which to reveal the emotion. You might reduce this to just a sentence or two as they get better at it. Remind students that they need to show the emotion, not tell it!


Now students have already had a look at how to begin and how to structure a story, we’ll take a look at a few quick tips on how they can polish their stories generally – especially during the editing process.

Write Convincing Dialogue:

For students, investing time in learning how to write great dialogue is time well spent.

Not only is well-written dialogue great for revealing character, but it will break up intimidating walls of text too.

Dialogue is a great way to move the story forward and to provide subtle exposition.

 As mentioned earlier, journals are the perfect place to dump interesting snatches of conversation that become a valuable resource for writing convincing dialogue – except, of course, if you are passing through North Korea or the like!

Vary Sentence Length:

 When finished with their first drafts, encourage students to read their work out loud when editing and rewriting.

Often, students will be surprised to realize just how regular the rhythm of their sentences has become.

Like musicians, writers have chops. It’s easy to fall back on the same few favored structures time and again. Students can do a lot to spice up their writing simply by varying sentence lengths.

Shorter sentences are pacier and punchier while longer sentences can slow things down, calming the reader, then, boom!

Varying sentence length throughout a story prevents the writing from becoming stale and monotonous.


As with varying sentence length above, the rhythm of a story can be altered through the choice of punctuation.

Students can think of punctuation as musical notation marks. It’s designed to help the reader understand the composer’s intention for how it is to be read and interpreted.

Students should understand punctuation as an imperfect but effective tool. Its use affects not only the work’s rhythm but also the meaning.

It is well worth the student’s time to perfect their use of punctuation.

To Conclude                                                  

There are a lot of moving parts to short stories.

From the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation to crafting a plot and exploring big thematic ideas, mastering the art of short story writing takes time and lots of practice.

With so much ground to cover, it’s impossible to address every aspect in a single unit of work on short story writing.

Be sure to offer students opportunities to see the short story in action in the work of accomplished writers, as well as opportunities to practice the various aspects of short story writing mentioned above.

Draw attention to writing best practices when they appear even in work unrelated to the short story.

Lots of time and plenty of practice might just reveal a latter-day O. Henry or Edgar Allen Poe sat in one of the desks right in front of you.


writing checklists


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How to Write a Scary Story

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7 ways to write great Characters and Settings | Story Elements

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Teaching The 5 Story Elements: A Complete Guide for Teachers & Students

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Identifying the main idea of the story: A Guide for Students and Teachers

write a short story called a lesson in life

Are We Becoming a Nation of Zombies?

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Death Is Inevitable — What Is Your Legacy For Posterity?

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Dolores Cannon, The Three Waves Of Volunteers And The New Earth

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Universal Synchronization, Destiny And The ‘Agents Of Fate’

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Spirit Guides — Don’t Waste Their Time, Just Pay Attention!

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Synchronicity Happens For A Reason — There Are No Accidents And No Coincidences

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Spirit Guides — The Higher Power That Looks Out For Us

write a short story called a lesson in life

Spiritual Hygiene — How To Heal Spiritual Hurt And Injuries

write a short story called a lesson in life

The Science Of Reincarnation — Dr. Stevenson’s Life Work

write a short story called a lesson in life

Carl Jung’s ‘Three Births Of The Human Spirit’

Zen has a rich tradition of storytelling. Actually, just about the entire human race has a rich history of storytelling. Why do we like stories so much? Because we can…

6 Awesome Zen Stories That Will Teach You Important Life Lessons

6 Awesome Zen Stories That Will Teach You Important Life Lessons

Zen has a rich tradition of storytelling. Actually, just about the entire human race has a rich history of storytelling. Why do we like stories so much? Because we can identify with them. Stories, whether real or not, pull and tug at our emotions. We connect personally with stories.

Whereas someone can tell us that it’s important for us to appreciate and care for our parents, another person can tell us a story about the life of a daughter and her mother, and about how neither could ever see eye-to-eye all the way up until the day that the mother passed away.

Even if you aren’t a daughter, but a son, or if it was your father whom you had that type of relationship with, or even if you just feel like you don’t appreciate your mother or father (or both) enough, regardless, a story like that can touch you in a way that someone simply telling you, “hey, it’s important that you appreciate your parents”, could never do.

We need to experience something directly in order to really learn what it’s about. This is wisdom, as opposed to knowledge much like you’d acquire in a class at school, a parrot-like type of learning that serves as a nice basis for establishing the necessary foundation for certain larger tasks, but which can serve little real use elsewhere particularly in advancing your well-being.

I love Zen stories. Not just because I find them fun, because I do (most Zen Buddhist short stories require some level of meditative contemplation to figure out), I love them because their purpose is to teach a lesson. Also, Zen short stories go beyond just Zen. They’re really just stories about life. So keep in mind I only say Zen stories because they originated from the Zen Buddhist tradition. They speak of truths which everyone can learn from, though (as does all of Zen).

The lesson can be anything- any undeniable life truth which can be discovered through a life devoted to looking within yourself. This is the life of any Buddhist, many non-Buddhists, and should be the life of anyone who cares to find the path to true peace and happiness.

These stories only seek to point the way. Don’t take any of them for the truth without investigating them for yourself. The point isn’t to believe blindly, it’s to develop confidence in your life and in the way. By the way, I mean the way to live our best life and ultimately find peace within ourselves and with others. Here’s some of my favorite Zen stories:

1. Everything changes

“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed. “Everything changes,” he said. Then he asked for another question.

Explanation:  One of the foremost teachings in Buddhism is that everything in life is impermanent. Suzuki Roshi (Shunryu Suzuki of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind)  is referring to this impermanence by saying “everything changes”. This is a very deep teaching, but I’ll attempt to sum it up in a way that can be understood and immediately helpful in a few words.

Because it encompasses everything, you can contemplate for hours on end and not realize the full magnitude of the principle of impermanence. You are impermanent, your loved ones are impermanent, your home is impermanent, even our planet is impermanent.

Why is this important? Because it teaches us that grasping onto things is one of the major reasons as to why we suffer. We need to live being aware of the ever-changing nature of reality and appreciate the present moment. It’s not about letting go, it’s really about not grasping in the first place. If we can learn to live in this way, we can find peace in everyday life.

2. Empty your cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Explanation: The story tells it how it is, so I’ll leave it at that.

3. Non-judgment

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Explanation:  The farmer is practicing non-judgment. He understands the true nature of life, that you can’t judge any event as an “end” in a way. Our life doesn’t play out like a work of fiction. There aren’t definite breaks that separate one moment versus another, and there isn’t a perfectly formulated end which everything builds to.

There’s always tomorrow. And whether the day was good or bad, there are a million effects which can arise from one event. Good and bad are interconnected. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. If things seem perfect, they aren’t. If it seems like it’s Armageddon in your corner of the world, it’s not. Things can change in an instant, at all times. And they will at some point or another.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t be happy. On the contrary, it means that we need to realize this truth and live in a way that we’re constantly aware of it in order to find peace and happiness. Don’t let this change the way you live too much just yet, though. For now, just think on it, observe your life through the lens of this infinitely co-arising universe. This act in itself can bring you a great sense of peace.

4. Right and Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case. Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body. When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.” A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

Explanation:  This story is pretty straightforward, but it certainly doesn’t make you think any less than the rest. How quickly would most people turn their back on those who commit a crime like stealing, just as the pupils did. But look deeper and you might just see another human being. Someone that simply needs to be shown the path.

Don’t write people off so easily. Expressing compassion isn’t always easy, but we’re all together in this life, so we can’t just help those that keep good behavior. Those people who commit such crimes are often some of the people that need help with the most basic spiritual and human principles, such as right and wrong.

If you have a loved one who’s committed a crime before you’ll know exactly what I mean. You know they can be better and they shouldn’t be thrown out just because they did something wrong at some point. Sure, we need to keep order, so they should be disciplined for their behavior, but we also need to take the time to teach them right and wrong. We should strive to lift them up just as we strive to lift ourselves and those we love up despite their own flaws.

5. Be the boss

A horse suddenly came galloping quickly down the road. It seemed as though the man had somewhere important to go. Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

Explanation:  This is a short but well-known Zen story with a powerful meaning behind it. The horse symbolizes our habit energy. The story explains the way we usually live, at the mercy of our old habit energies which have been established not by our intentional actions, but by our surroundings and mindless activity.

The horse is pulling us along, making us run here and there and hurry everywhere and we don’t even know why. If you stopped to ask yourself from time to time why exactly you’re running around so much, sometimes you might have an answer, but it’s never a very good one. You’re just used to it, it’s how we’re taught to live.

But as much as we run, it gets us nowhere. We need to learn how to take back the reigns and let the horse know who’s boss.

You’re the boss, you’ve always been the boss, so start acting like it.

6. Watch yourself

There was once a pair of acrobats. The teacher was a poor widower and the student was a young girl by the name of Meda. These acrobats performed each day on the streets in order to earn enough to eat. Their act consisted of the teacher balancing a tall bamboo pole on his head while the little girl climbed slowly to the top. Once to the top, she remained there while the teacher walked along the ground. Both performers had to maintain complete focus and balance in order to prevent any injury from occurring and to complete the performance. One day, the teacher said to the pupil: ‘Listen Meda, I will watch you and you watch me, so that we can help each other maintain concentration and balance and prevent an accident. Then we’ll surely earn enough to eat.’ But the little girl was wise, she answered, ‘Dear master, I think it would be better for each of us to watch ourself. To look after oneself means to look after both of us. That way I am sure we will avoid any accidents and earn enough to eat.’

Explanation:  This one isn’t a specifically Zen story, but it’s said to have been told by the Buddha himself. This story is meant to illustrate that taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do to take care of others.

By learning how to nourish your mind and body you’ll naturally begin to treat those around you with more compassion, love, and kindness and create a more positive impact on the world around you as a whole. There is no division, taking care of yourself (in a spiritual sense, not in a material “buy myself things” kind of sense) equals taking care of others.

Specifically, by taking care of yourself, the Buddha was referring to mindfulness. The Buddha also said that by taking care of others, by showing them compassion and loving-kindness, we take care of ourselves.

by Matt Valentine

Dylan Harper

Dylan Harper

Dylan is a 32-year-old surfer from California. He traveled the world, rode the waves and learned the universal concept of oneness. He is a vegan for over a decade and, literally, wouldn't hurt a fly. He was reunited with his twin soul in Greece, where they got married and settled... for now. Dylan is a staff writer for DreamcatcherReality.com and teaches surfing to children.

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Life Lessons

They say there is a lesson in every mistake. Every experience teaches us something. Life lessons are the bedrock of growth and progress. Soulveda brings you a treasure trove of stories with many-a-lesson.

Freedom and Living Amidst Nature

By Team Soulveda

This city

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The red planet

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A grateful heart is a happy heart

By anula aradhya.

The stranger on the bus

The stranger on the bus

By ankit sinha.

learn to say no

Learn to say no

Hard work does pay off

Hard work does pay off

A chance worth giving

A chance worth giving

By attreyee ghosh.

She leapt and flew

She leapt and flew

The elixir of true happiness

The elixir of true happiness

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There is no tomorrow

The Class of 2021

Class of 2021

By priyadarshini das.

An unforgettable ride home

An unforgettable ride home

By gargi deshpande.

Winning is Not Everything

Winning is not everything

Be the change you want to see in the world

Be the change you wish to see


The reason to go on

By kasturi roy.

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Short Stories about Life: 21 Inspirational Short Stories about Life

short stories about life

Some of the most memorable lessons in life come from stories. Stories are fundamental to the way we process life experiences and the feelings that surround them. Stories are a way to encapsulate life’s memorable moments and enduring life lessons. The human brain is programmed to perceive patterns and grasp the plot sequences of stories to store them in long-term memory.

We strongly believe that good stories can change lives; thus, we have a list of some amazing short stories about life that will teach you valuable lessons, help you deal with various life situations and inspire you to take on life differently.

1. The Secret to Success

Quote about success - short story about life

Once a young man asked the wise man, Socrates,   the secret to success . Socrates patiently listened to the man’s question and told him to meet him near the river the following day for the answer. So the next day, Socrates asked the young man to walk with him towards the river. As they went in the river, the water got up to their neck. But to the young man’s surprise, Socrates ducked him into the water.

The young man struggled to get out of the water, but Socrates was strong and kept him there until the boy started turning blue. Finally, Socrates pulled the man’s head out of the water. The young man gasped and took a deep breath of air. Socrates asked, ‘What did you want the most when your head was in the water?” The young man replied, “Air.” Socrates said, “That is the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you wanted the air while you were in the water, then you will get it. There is no other secret.”

Moral of the short story:

A burning desire is the starting point of all accomplishment. Just like a small fire cannot give much heat, a weak desire cannot produce great results.

  2. The coldest winter

It was one of the coldest winters, and many animals were dying because of the cold. The porcupines, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep each other warm. This was a great way to protect themselves from the cold and keep each of them warm, but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After a while, they decided to distance themselves, but they too began to die due to cold. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or choose death. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with a few wounds caused by their close relationship with their companions to receive the warmth of their togetherness. This way, they were able to survive.

3. Meaningless Goals

Meaningless Goal- Stories about life

A farmer had a dog who used to wait by the roadside for vehicles to come. As soon as one came, he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake the car. One day the farmer’s neighbor asked the farmer, “Do you think the dog is ever going to overtake those vehicles?” The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one.”

Many people in life behave like that dog who is pursuing meaningless goals.

4. A lesson in giving 

Many years ago, when I worked as a transfusion volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little three-year-old girl suffering from a disease. The little girl needed blood from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same condition. The boy had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness and was the only hope for his sister.

The doctor explained the situation to the little brother and asked if the boy would give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate only for a moment before he took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I will do it if it will save my sister.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale, and his smile faded. Finally, he looked up at the nurse beside him and asked with a trembling voice, “When will I start to die?”

The young boy had misunderstood the doctor and thought he had to die to save his sick sister.

5. Everyone has a Story

Quote about Judging people- Short story about Life

A young man in his twenties was seeing out from the train’s window shouted…

“Father, look at the trees! They are going behind!”

The young man’s father smiled at the man, and a young couple sitting nearby looked at the young man’s childish comment with pity.

Suddenly, the young man exclaimed again.

“Father, look at the clouds! They are all running with us!”

The couple couldn’t resist and said to the old man.

“Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?”

The older man smiled and said

“We did, and we are just coming from the hospital. My son was blind from birth, and he just got his vision today.”

Every person in the world has a story. Don’t judge people before you truly know them. The truth might surprise you.

6. Unnecessary Doubts

Short stories about life- relationship

A boy and a girl were playing together. The boy had a collection of beautiful marbles. The girl had some candies with her. The boy offered to give the girl all his marbles in exchange for all her candies. The girl agreed. The boy gave all the marbles to the girl but secretly kept the biggest and the most beautiful marble for himself. The girl gave him all her candies as she had promised. That night, the girl slept peacefully. But the boy couldn’t sleep as he kept wondering if the girl had hidden some more tasty candies from him the way he had hidden his best marble.

Moral: If you don’t give your hundred percent in a relationship, you’ll always keep doubting if the other person has given their hundred percent.

7. Soar Like an Eagle

Did you know that an eagle can foresee when a storm is approaching long before it breaks?

Instead of hiding, the eagle will fly to some high point and wait for the winds to come.

When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind can pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle soars above it.

The eagle does not escape or hide from the storm; instead, it uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the stormy winds which others dread.

When the storm of life or challenges hits us, we can rise above them and soar like the eagle that rides the storm’s winds. Don’t be afraid of the storms or the challenges in your life. Use it to lift you higher in your life.

8. The reflections

Quote about Life and karma- Short story about life

Once a dog ran into a museum filled with mirrors. The museum was unique; the walls, the ceiling, the doors and even the floors were made of mirrors. Seeing his reflections, the dog froze in surprise in the middle of the hall. He could see a whole pack of dogs surrounding him from all sides, from above and below.

The dog bared his teeth and barked all the reflections responded to it in the same way. Frightened, the dog barked frantically; the dog’s reflections imitated the dog and increased it many times. The dog barked even harder, but the echo was magnified. The dog, tossed from one side to another while his reflections also tossed around snapping their teeth.

The following day, the museum security guards found the miserable, lifeless dog, surrounded by thousands of reflections of the lifeless dog. There was nobody to harm the dog. The dog died by fighting with his own reflections.

Moral: The world doesn’t bring good or evil on its own. Everything that is happening around us reflects our thoughts, feelings, wishes and actions. The world is a big mirror. So let’s strike a good pose!

9. Stopped by a brick

A successful young executive was riding his brand new Jaguar down a neighborhood street when he noticed a kid darting out from between parked cars. He slowed down a little bit as he appeared near it, and a brick smashed into his car’s door. He slammed on the brakes and drove back to the place where the brick had been thrown.

The furious man jumped out of his car and caught the nearest kid shouting, “What was that all about? What the heck did you do to my car? Why did you do it?”. The young boy was a little scared but was very polite and apologetic. “I am sorry, Mister. I didn’t know what else to do,” he pleaded. “I had to throw the brick because no one else would stop for my call to help.”   With tears rolling down his cheeks, he pointed towards the parked cars and said, “it’s my brother, he rolled off the curb and fell off his wheelchair, and he is badly hurt. I can’t lift him.”

The sobbing boy asked the man, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He is hurt, and he is too heavy for me.” The young man was moved beyond words and tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Then, he hurriedly lifted the other kid from the spot and put him back in the wheelchair. He also helped the little kid with his bruises and cuts.  

When he thought that everything would be ok, he went back to his car. “Thank you, sir, and God bless you,” said the grateful kid. The young man was too shaken up for any word, so the man watched the little boy push the brother who uses a wheelchair down the sidewalk. It was a long and slow ride back home to the man.   When he came out of the car, he looked at his dented car door. The damage was very noticeable, but he did not bother to repair it. Instead, he kept the dent to remind him of the message; “Do not go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.” 

Moral : Life whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we do not listen to it, it throws a brick at us. It is our choice, listen to the whisper or wait for the brick.

10. Shark Bait

A marine biologist was involved in an experiment with a shark. He placed a shark in a tank along with other small bait fishes.

As expected, the shark ate every single fish.

The marine biologist then inserted clear fiberglass to create two sections within the tank.   He placed the shark in one area and smaller fish in the other section.

The shark quickly attacked, but then he bounced off the fiberglass. The shark kept on repeating this behavior. It just wouldn’t stop trying.

While the small fish in the other section remained unharmed and carefree, after about an hour, the shark finally gave up. 

This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time, the shark got less aggressive. Eventually, the shark got tired and simply stopped attacking altogether.

The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass. The shark, however, didn’t attack. Instead, it was trained to believe in the existence of a barrier between it and the baitfish.

The moral: After experiencing setbacks and failures, many of us emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark, we choose to stay with past failures and believe that we will always be unsuccessful. We build a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier between where we are and where we want to go. Don’t give up. Keep trying because success may be just a try away.

11. The Old Carpenter

A carpenter with years of experience was ready to retire. He communicated with his contractor about his plans to leave the house-building business to live a more leisurely retired life with his wife and family. The contractor felt a little upset that his excellent and experienced carpenter was leaving the job, but he requested the carpenter to build just one more house for him.

The carpenter agreed with the contractor, but his heart was not in his work like it used to be. He resorted to shoddy craftmanship and used inferior materials for building the last house of his career. It was an unfortunate way to end his career. When the carpenter completed the house and the employer came to inspect the home.

He looked around the house, and just before he exited the house, he handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.” This was a massive surprise to the carpenter. Although it was supposed to be a good surprise, he wasn’t feeling good as he felt a deep shame inside him. If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in a home that wasn’t built that well.

Moral : Like the carpenter, we build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up with less rather than the best. Give your best. Your attitudes and the choices you make today will be your life tomorrow; build it wisely.

12. Build like a Child

short stories about life- career

On a warm summer at a beautiful beach, a little boy on his knees scoops and packs the sand with plastic shovels into a bucket. He upends the bucket on the surface and lifts it. And, to the delight of the little architect, a castle tower is created. He works all afternoon spooning out the moat, packing the walls, and building sentries with bottle tops and bridges with Popsicle sticks. Finally, with his hours of hard work on the beach, a sandcastle will be made.

In a big city with busy streets and rumbling traffic, a man works in an office.   He shuffles papers into stacks, delegates assignments, cradles the phone on his shoulder and punches the keyboard with his fingers. He juggles with numbers, contracts get signed and much to the delight of the man, a profit is made. All his life, he will work. He was formulating the plans and forecasting the future. His annuities will be sentries, and Capital gains will be bridged. An empire will be built.

The two builders of the two castles have very much in common. They both shape granules into grandeurs. They both make something beautiful out of nothing. They both are very diligent and determined to build their world. And for both, the tide will rise, and the end will come. Yet, that is where the similarities cease. The little boy sees the end of his castle while the man ignores it. As the dusk approaches and the waves near, the child jumps to his feet and begins to clap as the waves wash away his masterpiece. There is no sorrow. No fear. No regret. He is not surprised; he knew this would happen. He smiles, picks up his tools and takes his father’s hand, and goes home.

The man in his sophisticated office is not very wise like the child. As the wave of years collapses on his empire, he is terrified. He hovers over the sandy monument to protect it. He tries to block the waves with the walls he made. He snarls at the incoming tide. “It’s my castle,” he defies. The ocean need not respond. Both know to whom the sand belongs.

Go ahead and build your dreams, but build with a child’s heart. When the sun sets, and the tides take – applaud. Salute the process of life and go home with a smile.

13. A   cup and   coffee 

Short story about life -Coffee Cup

A group of highly established alumni got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation among them soon turned into complaints about their stressful work and life. The professor went to his kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups, including porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive and some exquisite. The professor told them to help themselves with the coffee.

After all the students had a cup of coffee in their hands, the professor said: “Did you notice all the nice looking cups are taken, and only the plain inexpensive ones are left behind. While it is normal for everyone to want the best for themselves, but that is the source of problems and stress in your life. “The cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most of the cases, it’s just more expensive and hides what we drink.”, the professor continued.

“What   all of you wanted was coffee, not the cup, but all of you consciously went for good-looking expensive cups and then began eyeing on each other’s cups.”

“Let’s consider that life is the coffee, and the jobs, houses, cars, things, money and position are the cups. However, the type of cup we have does not define or change the quality of our lives.”

Moral: Sometimes, we fail to enjoy the coffee by concentrating only on the cup we have. Being happy doesn’t mean everything’s around you is perfect. It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections and find peace. And the peace lies within you, not in your career, jobs, or the houses you have.

14. A funny Joke

Once a wise man held a seminar to teach people how to get rid of sorrows in their life. Many people gathered to hear the wise man’s words. The man entered the room and told a hilarious joke to the crowd. The crowd roared in laughter.

After a couple of minutes, he told them the same joke, and only a few of them smiled.

When he told the same joke for the third time, no one laughed anymore.

The wise man smiled and said,” You can’t laugh at the same joke over and over. So why do you cry over the same problem over and over?”

15. Two Neighbors

A wise and successful man bought a beautiful house with a vast orchard. But, not all were happy for him. An envious man lived in an old house next to him. He constantly tried to make his fellow neighbor’s stay in the beautiful house as miserable as possible. He threw garbage under his gate and did other nasty things.

One fine day the wise man woke up in a good mood and went into the porch to notice buckets of garbage thrown there. The man took a bucket, and cleaned his porch. He carried a bucket and went to knock on his envious neighbor’s door. 

The envious neighbor heard a knock at his door and gleefully thought, “I finally got him!”. He answered his door, ready to quarrel with his prosperous neighbor.   However, the wise man gave him a bucket of freshly picked apples, saying, “The one who is rich in something, shares it with others.”

16. Changing Vision

There once lived a wealthy man who was bothered by severe eye pain. He consulted many physicians,   but none could treat his ache.   He went through a myriad of treatment procedures, but his pain persisted with more vigor. He looked for every available solution for his pain and approached a wise monk renowned for treating various illnesses. The monk carefully observed the man’s eyes and offered a very peculiar solution.

The monk told the man to concentrate only on the green color for a few weeks and avoid other colors. The man was desperate to get rid of the pain and was determined, ready to go to any extent. The wealthy man appointed a group of painters, purchased green paint barrels and directed that every object, his eye was likely to fall to be painted green.

After a few weeks, the monk came to visit the man to follow up on the man’s progress. As the monk walked towards the man’s room, the appointed painter poured a bucket of green paint on the monk.   The monk could see that the whole corridor and the room were painted green. As the monk inquired about the reason for painting everything green, the wealthy man said that he was only following the monk’s advice to look at only green.

Hearing this, the monk laughed and said, “If only you had purchased a pair of green spectacles worth just a few dollars, You could have saved a large share of your fortune. You cannot paint the world green.”

Moral: Let us change our vision, and the world will appear accordingly.

17. A boat for all feelings

Once there was an island where all the feelings and emotions lived together. One day a big storm from the sea was about to drown the island. Every emotion on the island was scared, but Love made a boat to escape. All the feelings jumped in the boat except for one sense. Love got down to see who it was. It was Ego! Love tried its best to bring Ego to the boat, but Ego didn’t move. Everyone asked Love to leave Ego and come in the boat, but Love was meant to Love. It remained with Ego. All other feelings were left alive, but Love died because of Ego!

18. Waiting for rabbit suicide

Once there lived a lazy farmer who did not enjoy working hard in the fields. He spent his days napping under a tree. One day, while he was resting under a tree, a fox came chasing a rabbit. There was a loud THUMP–the rabbit had crashed into the tree and died.

The farmer picked up the dead rabbit and took it home, frustrating the hell out of the fox. The farmer cooked and ate the rabbit for dinner and sold its fur at the market. The farmer thought to himself, “If I could get a rabbit-like that every day, I’d never have to work again.”

The next day, the farmer went right back to the tree and waited for another rabbit to die similarly. He saw a few rabbits, but none of them ran into the tree-like before. Indeed, it was a very rare incident, but the farmer did not realize it. “Oh well,” he thought cheerfully, “There’s always tomorrow.” Since he was just waiting for the rabbit to hit a tree and die, he did not give any attention to his field. Weeds grew in his rice field. Soon, the farmer had to be hungry as he ran out of his rice and never caught any other rabbit too.

Moral: Do not wait for good things to come without doing anything. Do not give your life to luck without working for success.

19. Twenty Dollar Bill

A well-known speaker started his seminar by holding up a brand new twenty-dollar bill. In the room filled with people, he asked if anyone would like to have his $20 bill. Hands in the rooms started going up. He crumpled and crumbled the bill and asked the crowd if anyone was still interested in having the bill. The hands were still up, signing that people still wanted the crumpled $20 bill.

He then dropped the bill on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked up, now crumpled and dirty $20 bill. “Does anyone still wants the bill?” he asked. Still, the hands went into the air.

The speaker said, “Today, we have all learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the bill, you still wanted it because it did not lose its value.”

“Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We may feel as if we are worthless, but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.”

Moral: Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, we are priceless. The worth of our lives comes not from where we are from or who we know, but from who we are.

20. The Little Wave:

The Little wave Story about Life

A little wave was bobbing along in the ocean and was having a grand old time. He was enjoying the wind and the fresh air as it traveled– until he noticed that all the other waves in front of him were crashing against the shore. “Oh My God, this terrible,” The little wave thought. “Look what is happening to all the other waves, and I will have to face the same fate!”

When the little wave was in a state of panic, another wave came across and asked the little wave, “Why are you distressed, my friend?”

The little wave said, “We are all going to crash against the shore and face our end! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?”

The second wave answered with a smile, “No, you don’t understand. You’re not just a wave; you are a part of the ocean.”

21. Start with yourself

The following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in the Crypts of Westminster Abbey: 

When I was young and free, and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. 

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. 

And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed my life first, then by example, I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.

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Short Story Lesson Plans

Teaching short stories? Meet standards, provide student choice, and encourage differentiation with these teaching ideas. #ShortStories

Short stories can provide diverse and fun lessons. With those lessons, you can pack in mentor sentences, student choice, writing lessons, and more. Read how two teachers balance it all.

Melissa’s Approach

Use short stories to meet standards and teach literary devices. As an instructional coach, Melissa models reading skills for her students. Plus, since short stories are short, they are easy to use as differentiation tools in reader’s workshop. Try it in middle or high school by starting with these tips !

Lauralee’s Ideas

Short stories are the perfect opportunity to provide student choice. Because teachers can hit a variety of standards from literature to language to writing with short stories, allow students a voice in what they read. By providing student choice, you are creating student buy-in .

Teaching short stories? Meet standards, provide student choice, and encourage differentiation with these teaching ideas. #ShortStories

We both typically teach short stories in August , but we find them useful to scaffold difficult concepts all year.

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write a short story called a lesson in life

How to write your life story: 7 tips to start

Aspiring autobiographers often mail us asking, ‘how can I write my own story?’ Try these 7 life writing tips to start:

  • Post author By Jordan
  • 62 Comments on How to write your life story: 7 tips to start

write a short story called a lesson in life

Aspiring autobiographers often mail us asking, ‘how can I write my own personal story?’

How can I craft a compelling narrative?’ It can seem like a daunting task writing and researching your life experiences.

It can be a challenging writing project, but a valuable and creative one. It’s a chance to organise the narrative arc of your life, key impactful moments in your life, reappraise where you’ve been and where you’re going. You’ll also see what life lessons you have experienced and can share that with readers. It can be a rewarding creative writing project. 

There are several book genres to consider when writing a life story: autobiography (a whole sweep of a life), memoir (which tends to focus on a theme, or a particular time in one’s history), or an essay collection. 

Try these seven life writing tips to start:

1. Decide whether you’ll write non-fiction or fictionalize

There are many ways to approach life writing. You could follow a non-fiction approach and set down dates, facts and memories as close to events as they occurred as possible.

Another option is to fictionalize and blur the line between fact and fiction. This approach to life writing may be useful if you want to:

  • Protect your identity or those of others while writing about trauma or difficult subject matter
  • Experiment with elements of fiction and a playful approach even if you are wanting to write it as a nonfiction book of real-life events. 

Hedi Lampert, one of our writing coaches, takes this approach in her fictionalized memoir, My Life with my Aunt. Although it’s based on a true story, there are many fictionalised elements in it.

Although you might go with a non-fiction approach, add all the elements of fiction that you need to. For example, include strong characters (build them up in the reader’s mind), flesh out the supporting cast, include description, use the five senses as much as possible, include dialogue, and so on. 

Example of experimental life writing: Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes

The French theorist Roland Barthes begins his memoirs with a preface that reads:

It must all be considered as if spoken by a character in a novel. Roland Barthes,  Roland Barthes  (1977).

Barthes proceeds to give the reader fragments written in the third person , alternating with captioned photographs from his youth. For example, in one fragment titled ‘Arrogance’ he writes:

He has no affection for proclamations of victory. Troubled by the humiliations of others, whenever a victory appears somewhere, he wants to go somewhere else . Barthes,  Roland Barthes ,  p. 46.

Describing himself in the third person, Barthes gives the reader insights into his views and values, as an ordinary autobiography might . Yet in their fragmentary, third-person presentation (without narrative), they become like brief, philosophical musings, rather than a traditional linear ‘story’ with character development. The memoir is told very much in the voice of a theorist and scholar of language.

How to write your story - quote by Mary Karr | Now Novel

2. Choose an approach to time

Time is an interesting element to conside r when deciding how to write your life story.

For example, will your book cover birth to the present day? Or a few weeks or months spanning either side of a momentous life event?

First-person narrators in fiction give us examples of narrative approaches to time we can also adopt in writing about our lives.

For example, the title character of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield begins his story by describing the setting for his birth:

To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. Charles Dickens,  David Copperfield  (1850), p. 5 (1992 Wordsworth Editions).

After detailing the day and time of his birth, David goes into closer setting detail:

I was born at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or ‘thereby,’ as they say in Scotland. I was a posthumous child. My father’s eyes had closed upon the light of this world six months, when mine opened on it. Dickens,  David Copperfield,  p. 6.

This approach to time gives a linear sense of the way a life progresses, from childhood. It’s a common narrative approach in many bildungsromans (coming-of-age stories).

You can also, however, experiment with time in writing your life story.

You could start with a significant event that happened later in adulthood, for example, and circle back to past scenes that illuminate backstory and help the reader to understand what led up to later events.

As you plan how you’ll write  time in your life story, ask, ‘What would provide the strongest dramatic effect?’

Begin Your Story with Confidence

Delve into your life story with our Kickstart Your Novel course. Over six weeks, gain the clarity and direction needed to start writing compellingly about your experiences.

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3. Do what you need to set aside any fear

Many writers feel daunted when embarking on a new project. This is often particularly acute when writing about more personal experiences or real life where you don’t have the protective veil of fictional characters.

When the acclaimed biographer of Virginia Woolf, Hermione Lee, was asked whether fear is a useful emotion for a biographer, she replied:

The fear has to be channeled somehow into the energy of the work. While you’re doing it, I think you have to feel that she is yours and you alone understand her. But in order to arrive at that feeling you have to deal with, and master, your apprehension. Hermione Lee, interview in ‘Hermione Lee, The Art of Biography No. 4’ for The Paris Review, available here . 

Lee goes on to describe how the biographer Richard Homes coped with this feeling. He said:

I get to my desk every morning and I hear these little voices saying, ‘He doesn’t know what he’s doing!’ and I raise my arm and I just sweep , I sweep them off the desk.’

Find your own way to silence any fear, be it changing key figures’ names or even fictionalizing your life entirely.

Personal Guidance on Your Journey

Writing your life story is a journey of discovery and reflection. Navigate it with an expert by your side. Our private coaching offers personalized feedback, encouragement, and the critical insights needed to transform your personal experiences into a captivating narrative. Let us help you tell your story with authenticity and emotional depth.

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4. Summarize significant events to cover

Any one person’s life is a massive archive or trove of significant experiences and memories. As Hermione Lee says, the immensity of this ‘source material’ can feel overwhelming.

As a preparatory step in deciding how to write your life story, summarize key events you want to include. Try to write just two lines for each incident or scene you’re thinking of including (you can create and organize scene summaries in our Scene Builder tool ). This will help you plot the key points of your life story, and may even help you with arranging the story thematically. If not already apparent, the narrative arc of your story will become apparent.

You’ll also see what life lessons you have experienced and can share that with readers. Remember you don’t have to write your entire life story from year dot.

Another important point is to remember to describe in detail. Sometimes when we are writing from memory or the ‘mind’s eye’, because the landscape in our recollections is familiar to us, we sometimes don’t describe things. We might say, ‘We lived in that house for ten years.’ We can see the house, because it’s so deep in our memory, but the reader can’t. Describe the house: ‘It had redbrick and a red tiled roof and small windows that let in hardly any light.’ That tells the reader a lot more than ‘that house’.

At the heart of great life writing (as with great fiction), there’s often a main internal conflict and/or an external conflict. A key tension or experience the autobiographer confronts. Tweet This

For example:

  • A moment of awakening or discovery of purpose
  • Family or personal trauma
  • Career or financial difficulties: retrenchment, having to sell your home 
  • Relationship troubles
  • A breakup or divorce 
  • Birth of a child
  • Death of someone significant

What core experience (or group of experiences) will your story frame?

5. Allow your authentic voice

As in fiction, in life writing the voice of the memoir author helps to create a distinct sense of character.

The acclaimed memoirist and poet Mary Karr gives excellent advice to aspiring life-writers on voice in her book The Art of Memoir (2015). Writes Karr:

Each great memoir lives or dies based 100 percent on voice. It’s the delivery system for the author’s experience—the big bandwidth cable that carries in lustrous clarity every pixel of someone’s inner and outer experiences. Mary Karr,  The Art of Memoir  (2015), p. 35.

Karr cautions against covering up aspects of your own voice to appear more palatable a person to readers. She says:

The voice should permit a range of emotional tones – too wise-ass, and it denies pathos; too pathetic, and it’s shrill. It sets and varies distance from both the material and the reader – from cool and diffident to high-strung and close. The writer doesn’t choose these styles so much as he’s born to them, based on who he is and how he experienced the past. Karr, p. 36.

Infographic on how to write your life story | Now Novel

6. Avoid telling the truth in oversimplified terms

In Karr’s chapter, ‘The Truth Contract Twixt Writer and Reader’, she discusses the value of telling the truth (rather than ‘pumping yourself up’ for your audience):

How does telling the truth help a reader’s experience, though? Let’s say you had an awful childhood – tortured and mocked and starved every day – hit hard with belts and hoses, etc. You could write a repetitive, duller-than-a-rubber-knife misery memoir. But would that be “true”? And true to how you keep it boxed up now, or to lived experience back then? Back then, those same abusers probably fed you something, or you’d have died. Karr, p. 2.

What Karr’s words strike at is that the ‘truth’ is often something more complex than what makes us look good (or others look bad).

One of the important lessons in learning how to write your life story is how to portray people not simply as heroes and villains. Indeed, to rather show the bits of life between people’s better and worse choices that flesh out more complex portraits, with more colours (and more shades of grey). As Karr says:

It’s the disparities in your childhood, your life between ass-whippings, that throws past pain into stark relief for a reader. Karr, p. 2.

Your Life, Your Story

Ready to write your life story but not sure where to start? Sign up for a Now Novel account. Brainstorm your story idea, create compelling character profiles, and share your work for community feedback. Begin crafting your life narrative today.

7. Get help pulling your life story into shape

Writing memoir or a fictionalized autobiography is challenging because you are dealing not only with the standard elements of story (conflict, narrative, voice and more) but also personal areas. Some of these may be more challenging to revisit (or capture in prose) than others.

Due to the many challenges involved (including the challenge of subjectivity), don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Karr writes about sending people she’s included in memoirs manuscript drafts to ensure embellishment does not disservice the person or the story. Beta readers may provide valuable input, more so if they were bystanders or active participants in the events you describe.

You can also get help from a writing coach who will help you begin weaving personal experience and anecdote into a better, fuller story.

Related Posts:

  • How to write a biography: 7 life-writing ideas
  • How to write memoir: 9 ideas for a vivid slice of life
  • How do you write a dystopian story? 5 tips
  • Tags how to start writing a memoir

write a short story called a lesson in life

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

62 replies on “How to write your life story: 7 tips to start”

am 15 yrs old I’m writing my own story.Thanks

Hi Desmond, good luck writing your story. Thank you for reading our articles!

Hello. I enjoyed reading your tips, in fact I am copying them off for reference if that is ok. I began the memoir/life story before and lost all my data with computer failure. Dumb me, lesson learned to back things up on a couple of flash drives so that doesn’t happen again. So, I am beginning again, after reading your notes here that may have been a blessing in disguise as I have learned so much reading your article. Thank you for publishing this, it will be invaluable as I begin again!! 🙂

Hi Jenny, thank you for reading! Please do feel free to copy anything for reference. I’m so sorry to hear about your data loss, that is frustrating. Glad you’re creating backups this time around, though. Have a creative, inspired 2021, from all of us at Now Novel.

Good day I don’t have a comment but I would love to write my life story as I know it could you help me on this matter thank you.

Hi Catherine, thank you for sharing that. Go for it! I would say start by creating a list of life events you feel would be important to include. Look within them for a good starting point, is there a specific, pivotal event out of which the rest of your life story could unfold in narrative?

If you share a little more about what aspect of your life is compelling you to write (you can email us at [email protected] ) I’m sure we can provide more detailed, specific help.

Hi Jordan, am happy that this morning i came across your article, the artcle mae a good start of writing my own life story. i have been thinking on how to start for a while but now i see my path. Thanks.

Hi Joyce, I’m happy to hear that this article was helpful and you can see the path ahead. I hope you make great progress and discover many moments of excitement and revelation as you proceed.

[…] https://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-write-your-life-story/ […]

Hand written my not finished book of 350 A4 Pages

Hi Freda, that sounds like an epic, impressive to have written it by hand. Good luck with what remains of the process.

Hi, my son gave me an empty book pages cover with my childhood pictures.I started some lines. Actually I was searching a writer about my Sisters life story which is very interesting. You’re Tips are good.

Hi Cloty, that sounds a lovely gesture on your son’s part. It’s interesting that you’d like to write your sister’s life story, is there a reason you’d prefer to write about her life rather than your own? Good luck with it, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed our articles.

Very good guide lines

Thank you, Cloty!

I’ve given a lot of thought to writing my story, and haven’t been sure how to get started. I’ve finally been doing some digging, and came across this article. My experience to date is blogging, so a book seems intimidating, but broken down like this it’s a little less scary. I think I’ll create an account here, see what else you have to offer!

Hi Tara, thank you for sharing that. Being a blogger you already have some good writing experience, I’m sure. That is the trick, breaking it down into manageable, less daunting tasks. Please do, and thanks for reading our blog!

Hello Jordan. I am writing a life story but specifically the love interests and most memorable experiences. Your tips have been so helpful. My main problem is that I don’t know whether to write separate chapters for each or separate short stories for each because the timelines overlap a lot. Please help.

Hi Lindo, I’m so glad to hear that you’ve found the Now Novel blog helpful. It depends whether you have a running narrative thread (if the individual love stories add up to a specific outcome or growth or other arc) or each is more fragmentary/discontinuous (despite the timeline overlap).

If the latter, I would suggest short stories as if there’s no narrative end-point (for example, a new learning or insight these love interests and experiences lead to), then each might be more self-contained. Sending the stories as a collection to an editor would likely help, as this would firstly polish the individual pieces but an evaluation could also give insights into how to connect them all together.

I hope this is helpful, keep going!

Hello and thank you. I enjoyed reading your article. I am considering writing my life story however I am not sure of whether I would like to write an actual tell all/novel/biography-book or if I would actually like to write a screenplay instead. A lot of your methods can be translated the same way when writing a screenplay. I would eventually like my story to become a movie. Should I write the book 1st or just go straight to the screenplay? Which is a better route?

Hi Tony, thank you for your interesting question. Many screenplays are based on novels or biographies and I think it helps to write in book-from first, since you then have the shape of the story down, the research (if needed) and other elements such as characterization in place. From there you could whittle and carve the best possible use of mise en scene , dialogue etc. out of what you have. It would be an interesting way to build a sound framework for a tauter screenplay in other words, I’d say.

I need to write my life stories but is confused. I know it can change someone’s life or journey . I have been saying this for 20 years or more ….why am I not doing it ? ….

Hi Dawn, thank you for sharing that. All I will say is: Start! 🙂 And thank you for reading our blog.

I want to write my life stories very interesting, but some negative idea comes to my mind. That is my story is not so much important, i am not knowen person any field of work,…etc. But now i get clues ,so i am initate to write my own autobiography.

Hi Zenenbe, I’m glad you’re writing regardless of those doubts. It’s natural to have doubts, but there are stories worth telling and sharing in every life – whether the teller is famous/well-known or not ?. Good luck!

Your tips are very helpful. I have started entering short stories competitions (written in first person)for practice! Now starting on Fictional/factual life story and find Tip 1 and 3 helpful to give my characters fictional names and feel comfortable also using 3rd person i.e.she. Also more confident about introducing fictional events into my story to make it more compelling for the reader while still being authentic.

Hi Lyn, I’m glad you found this helpful. It’s great you’re entering short story competitions, that’s great practice. Absolutely, many non-fiction authors embellish for the sake of story. Good luck with your contest entries!

Wonderful article. Just wanted to let you know of a new service that helps you in putting together your life story. https://www.huminz.com/ It makes writing your story fun. And then brings your story to life

Hi Etan, thank you and thanks for sharing your web app for memoir-writing, it looks interesting.

It’s been long overdue, I’m 54 yrs old now. I finally have come to terms in writing an autobiography of myself. Life experiences I have encountered from my 1st memory as a child. At the age of 4yrs old, the year was 1971 Christmas Eve. First memory to my life awaken by the Jaws of life. My mind has been a camera through every moment in my life. What would be read on the publisher end, would be so intrigued to see all the drama, hardships. Caught up in how I survived my dilemmas, with all to be said, physically be right their with me. So consumed from your start of my life to relive my nightmare. Totally lost on how I still have so much compassion & love till this day. Never a dull moment adventure ,trauma, abuse, raped, child molesters. I’m ready to bring it all to an end to start a life I was expected to do as child in middle school. Looking forward to replaying the camera that has consumed my eyes & life experiences. Not sure where I will have to submit my book when I have achieved my story.

Hi Kathleen, thank you for sharing that. It’s never too late to share one’s life story (and from the subject matter you mentioned, I’m sure your courage in telling your story could greatly help others who’ve been through similar life experiences). I’m glad you’re looking forward to the process – go for it. Once you have a first draft you could think about submission (for now I’d say focus on the task at hand which is getting the first version of your story down).

I find the article really useful.Thank you so much for the enlightenment. I have more than twice in my lifetime thought of sharing my life story through a book,but have often felt like it was a load of work to do so. But reading through your article and also reading through the comment section,I feel like its the right time.Thank you so much for being an inspiration especially with me as a beginner.

Hi Mere, it’s a pleasure, thank you for reading our blog and for sharing that. Writing is a lot of work, but it’s rewarding work I’d say. I hope you enjoy the process. Feel free to join our writing groups where you can chat to others at a similar stage of the journey.

That is nice,and thanks for that

Ok,I need your help more

Hi Mary, thank you for reading our blog and a Happy New Year to you. What would you like help with? Please feel free to mail us any questions at help at now novel dot com.

Hi , i wanted to write my life story, how to start?? Any help?

Hi Hana, thank you for sharing your question. I would start by brainstorming a list of key/significant events in your life you want to include, as these you can then plan scenes and scene structure around; once you know what experiences in your life you want to tell most. As a guiding principle, I’d suggest brainstorming incidents that are:

  • Emotionally impactful – wins, losses, trials, turning points
  • Illustrative – of where you’re from, who you are, what you value and have learned or overcome

This is a loose starting point but I would say is a good preparatory process for sifting through memories and ideas and finding topics and subtopics to organize your life story around. I hope this helps!

Thank you sir Jordan for sharing these tips. I am planning to write my life story. However, I’ll write a story because of the problems and negative things that happened to me in the past and I’m a little bit shame about my experiences but I want to make a story that can inspire many and motivate them. I also ask on how to start writing. Is there any chapter? and how to divide some events of your life into writing a story.

Hi Joash, it’s a pleasure, and thank you for sharing this. Life-writing can be hard because of this – that there are often traumas and painful experiences one wants to write about but there is often fear attached as sometimes society tells us these areas are taboo; that we aren’t allowed to talk about them.

A writing teacher gave a writing circle I belonged to great advice once – ‘turn the family portraits to the wall’ (in other words, banish silencing figures and, ‘What would uncle so-and-so say?’ from your writing space, if possible). You can edit for sensitivity/intensity in the passages that are uncomfortable later if necessary, but the first draft is for telling yourself the story, and nobody else’s potentially shaming perspectives matter at this stage.

There are many places to start. One of the classic autobiographical starting points is when you were born (what year, place, era, political moment). I would suggest reading a few biographies and taking notes on the opening to see the many possibilities. Ask whether the beginning is effective, what information the author focuses on, whether they start with a description, a statement, or something else. A great biographer to read is Hermione Lee – she has written many acclaimed biographies of famous writers and artists.


It’s a pleasure, Gladys! No need for honorary titles 😊 just ‘Jordan’ is fine. Thank you for reading our blog.

Hi Jordon it’s nice we can communicate with you and take ideas from you I want to start writing and I’m so pleased to know you !

Hi Randa, thank you for reaching out and for reading our blog – it’s good to meet you.

I have been mulling over writing my life story and being asked by many to do so, however, have no clue where to start. I could not write using my own name as the need for my protection for others is immense. What would you suggest?

Thank you for reading this article and for your question. I would suggest changing names if necessary and writing under your own name. You could also change a few fundamental details in the story arcs of the others you wish to protect (and make it so-called creative non-fiction) so as to further obscure their identity or the possibility of readers connecting the story back to the real people involved. If it is possible, you could also ask anyone who features whom you personally know for their permission to be included as a character in your memoir. If they wish to remain anonymous, then changing their name (and some details as suggested above) would help to protect their privacy.

I hope this helps.

Hi Jordan, have been difficulties on to start my life story,what is the best title for the story do i need to mention names.

Hi Gristone, it’s difficult to advise on a title not knowing anything about the scope or subject matter of your memoir. My suggestion would be to look at the memoir and autobiography titles currently selling well and study titles for ideas – where do the titles draw from? The person’s vocation or profession, a specific aspect of their personality, a specific life experience or struggle they overcame?

If you mean mentioning names in your title, not necessarily. It could be descriptive or it could be more straight-up, e.g. ‘[Name}: [Descriptive phrase]’. I hope this helps.

I been searching and collect some ideas how to start my life story which i think can give inspiration , for those who lost hope in life.

Thank you Jordan for this write-up. I plan to write the story of my life and I needed a guide as to how to start.

Hi Ogbu, it’s my pleasure. I hope it was helpful and wish you a good experience in writing your life story. Let me know if you have any further questions.

My book I have been working on for many years has been my life story of more trauma that seems unreal I started from birth of what I read from mom’s and grandma’s diaries in their words then what I remembered. From birth to 15 . Childhood secrets to motherhood at 16 domestic violence and drug abuse. Marriage 25 years of escaping after 9 attempts divorced never free. Stauked violated for years. Gas lighting still to this day and I am 59 years old soon. With the knowledge I know things I would have done differently and want to pass on that to anyone it may help. The name of my book is Broken -Post Vietnam untold stories of a military family what happened after the war. It’s a story of molestation, shame , guilt ,PTSD a lifetime of struggle . A mentally wounded father. And generational mentally wounded family. Most dysfunctional family hidden behind closed doors

Hi Patricia, I’m truly sorry to hear that you’ve been through such traumatic experiences and I commend you for wanting to help others through writing your life story. It’s important as a society we talk about these things and don’t just sweep them under the rug, but it is brave to confront them and bring them to light (and healing, I hope) too. Best of luck with your story. It sounds particularly interesting in that it touches on what it’s like being in a military family, as I know people who had similar experiences in military families. War is traumatizing on multiple levels and its deleterious impact is far-reaching.

hi Jordan, I have always been a bit of a story teller, all through my life in fact. I never really attended school but after my children I decided to go to college as part of an access course into nursing. one of the modules was English at A Level equivalent. I achieved a B in my written work But an A* in my Oral exam. I know this doesn’t make me a writer and I’m certainly not a reader but I can tell a good story, especially if its something factual happening in my life. I have got to an age in my life where I have lived so much love, loss, happiness and drama, not to mention how different things were back when I was a child to society today and I would like to reflect the stages of my life and how I feel emotionally and mentally. I would like to write my life story fictionally but based on true life events and experiences. This is to protect my identity and that of all the people involved due to the content. I don’t want to do it all in one book, 58 years of living my life couldn’t possibly be captured in one go. please can you advise me on where to start

Hi Lucy, Thanks for getting in touch. The article offers great tips for starting out, but one idea is to start by writing short stories inspired by the different stages in your life. You should reflect on any memories that stand out to you, the key points in your life story, then incorporate the details and the emotions that they evoke. If you need more advice, we can recommend our coach Hedi Lampert who has recently made more slots available in her schedule for new clients.

thank you Jordan for this article honestly it helps me so much and i have a lot to learn from it i am 16 and i am trying to write my life story cause i need to talk about a lot of things about like my trauma , absent father , strict mom that give me no freedom and always controlling , being pressure since 9th grade to get a scholarship and till now i am in 11th going to 12th still be pressure trying to be the perfect daughter , sacrifice happiness and mental health in order to get all A’s and whenever something happened to me i am the only that is always there for myself , whenever i cry i wipe my own tears and it has now get to the point i keep telling myself very soon i will old enough to live my life but every time i try to write the story i don’t know where to start from but reading this article just boost my knowledge and one things that bothered me is fear , i don’t know but every time i try to write something i always have fear or even before i started writing i will just start cry for no reason i think maybe cause i am not ready to write then i will give my self time but the same things will repeat it self so my fear and emotions is always holding me back and i don’t know why that happen but every time fear and emotions hold me back so i have now decided how will write it no matter what even though i will end up with red eyes from crying but i will not let my fear take over me , thank you so much for taking time to read this i will love to hear back

Dear Tee Tee, Thanks for writing in. I’m sorry to hear that it’s difficult for you to write your story. This can be something that stops you from starting. I think it’s useful to begin your story, as this is something you want to write about. If you’re not sure where to start, perhaps start by writing some ideas, an outline of what you’d like to write? Or, you could place ideas/themes that you would like to explore, eg: absent father as one theme, strict mother, another theme, and write some ideas of what you’d like to explore in relation to these themes. Hope these ideas resonate with you. Feel free to write in with any further questions.

I am 16 years old and I am starting to write a story about my life and this reading really helped me learn the steps on how to write it and the examples helped to! Thank you for making this reading. It has helped me so much!!

Hello Nevaeh,

That’s so wonderful to hear! Enjoy the writing process!

Great article, which I will share with my writers’ group. I am about two thirds of the way through the first volume of my memoir and conisdering submitting it to an agent with a proposal. I will get it read and edited by a mentor before I go ahead.

Thanks for your comment John! It’s wonderful that you’re writing a memoir. Good luck with it all!

Thanks so much John. Good luck with your memoir!

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Mentor texts

Telling Short, Memorable Stories From Your Life: ‘My Secret Pepsi Plot’

An invitation to students to tell a meaningful story in a limited number of words, with an example from The Times’s Lives column to help.

write a short story called a lesson in life

By Katherine Schulten

Our new Mentor Text series spotlights writing from The Times that students can learn from and emulate.

This entry, like several others we are publishing, focuses on an essay from The Times’s long-running Lives column to consider skills prized in narrative writing. We are starting with this genre to help support students participating in our 2020 Personal Narrative Essay Contest .

Our Personal Narrative Essay Contest is inspired by The New York Times’s Lives column, which ran from 1996 to 2017 and featured “short, powerful stories about meaningful life experiences .”

The editor of the column once posted some advice on “How to Write a Lives Essay” to guide those who submitted to the column annually. Much of that advice applies to our contest as well.

For example, several points boil down to reminders to keep it simple, including tips like:

Don’t try to fit your whole life into one “Lives.”

Don’t try to tell the whole story.

Tell a small story — an evocative, particular moment.

Better to start from something very simple that you think is interesting (an incident, a person) and expand upon it, rather than a large idea that you then have to fit into a short essay. For example, start with “the day the Santa Claus in the mall asked me on a date” rather than “the state of affairs that is dating in an older age bracket.”

This advice is similar to advice often given to high school seniors writing college essays : You have only 650 words to show admissions officers something important, interesting or memorable about who you are and what matters to you. A list of awards you’ve won won’t do it, but an engaging story about making brownies with your stepbrother just might.

As you’ll see when you read the texts below, none of them try to tell the whole story of a life, but, instead, illuminate an important aspect of it through focus on one event or moment. Yet that one focus ripples out, and says so much more.

Before You Read

Use the sentence starter below to write for a few minutes about whatever comes to mind. You will return to this writing in the “Now Try This” section.

A moment I’ll never forget from my childhood is …

Mentor Text: ‘ My Secret Pepsi Plot ,’ a 2014 Essay From the Lives Column, by Boris Fishman

This essay describes a memory from when the writer was 10 years old and his family had just immigrated from the Soviet Union to Brooklyn. “In the Soviet Union, we were secretly wealthy, but we arrived in Brooklyn as paupers,” he writes.

Somehow, his family ends up with 24 Pepsi-Colas in their refrigerator. The story of what happens next is Mr. Fishman’s short, powerful story:

Around this time I learned that American supermarkets gave back 5 cents for every returned empty. (Some states, like Michigan, its very name like a granite monument, gave you 10 cents.) I decided I would return those cans and give the money to my parents. My secret — a surprise.

Read the essay, focusing on how Mr. Fishman anchors the whole story in this one goal he had at age 10 — to return the Pepsi cans and get money for them.

As you read, you might trace the structure of the story. What does each paragraph do? What does each add to the telling of this small story?

Then, consider these questions:

How do the first two paragraphs set the stage for the story and give some necessary background?

How does telling this story allow the writer to show readers a particular time and place through the eyes of a new immigrant?

How does he pull you into the action, minute by minute, in the three paragraphs that begin “On Saturday afternoon …”?

How is money a theme throughout, in both stated and implied ways? What other ideas recur?

What is the role of the last paragraph?

Now Try This: Find Your Own Short, Powerful Stories

Look back at the writing you did before reading the mentor text. What is strongest about it? Could it become a short essay like the one you just read? If so, what would you need to do to shape it?

What other small stories — or “evocative, particular moments” — from your life might make wonderful short essays?

In a 2010 lesson plan, “ Going Beyond Cliché: How to Write a Great College Essay ,” we suggest students first make a timeline of their lives, or of one period in their lives, brainstorming at least 20 events, big and small, that were significant to them for any reason.

You might try that, or you can brainstorm answers to this list of prompts — or both:

-A time I took a risk: -A time I learned something about myself: -A memory from childhood I think about often: -Something that happened to me that still makes me laugh: -Something very few people know about me: -Something I regret: -A time when I felt rejected: -Something I am really proud of: -Something that changed the way I think or look at the world: -How I am different from most people I know: -Some of my fears: -A time I felt truly satisfied: -A time I failed at something: -An object I own that tells a lot about me:

Once you’ve chosen a topic, you might try to free-write for 10 minutes or so, asking yourself as you go: What was most interesting or memorable about this? What images come to mind when you think about this topic? Do you picture a person, a scene, a place? Do you hear a conversation or a bit of music? Do you smell, taste or feel something?

Finally, if you are still stuck, we have a list of prompts from our site that can inspire narrative writing . Take a look and see if any of them spark ideas for you.

More Mentor Texts for Telling Short, Memorable Stories

While the entire Lives column is devoted to “short, powerful stories,” the pieces we chose below are especially student-friendly in terms of both their subject matter and the way the writers focus on “an evocative, particular moment.” Below each title, an excerpt from the piece.

“ How Ramen Got Me Through Adolescence ,” a 2014 Lives essay, by Veronique Greenwood

When I was in fifth grade, I developed an intense dislike of eating around other people. The cafeteria was a place of foul odors, gelatinous spills, horrific mixtures of chocolate pudding, fruit cocktail and ketchup consumed on dares, and I found myself fasting from breakfast, at about 6 in the morning, until 3:35, when I walked home through the woods from the bus stop. Each step up our hill, a narrow ridge in rural California, I fantasized about the big bowl of ramen I would make myself when I reached the top.

“ Charmed ," a 2015 Lives essay, by Laila Lalami

‘‘Wait,’’ I said. From my pocket I pulled out a brown suede pouch bearing the name of a little jeweler in Rabat, the kind of place you send your friends to and say, tell him I sent you. In the pouch was a necklace with a silver khamsa — a charm in the shape of an open palm.

“ Montana Soccer-Mom Moment ,” a 2010 essay from the Lives column, by Laura Munson

I live in northwest Montana, and I have a teenager, and my teenager plays sports. That means a lot of driving — over-the-Rocky-Mountains-and-back-in-one-day kind of driving. I think about Meriwether Lewis every time I cross the Continental Divide, usually with sleeping soccer players wearing headphones in the back of my Suburban. I want to say, “Can you imagine everything depending on your horse and your ability to dream of an ocean past the mountains?” But it isn’t worth the eye-rolling.

“ All the Single Ladies ," a 2014 essay from the Lives column, by Jen Doll

“Single ladies to the dance floor!” came the cry, a masculine voice urging us forward. Wedding guests parted, creating a narrow path for the train of unmarried women to parade through in their finery. But we single ladies no longer looked so fine as we had that morning. We were worn and tired, sweat beading down our necks, sand crunching unpleasantly in our shoes, which were wearing raw the backs of our heels. We should have been lying down in cool rooms elsewhere, but the wedding was not over. We were 28. We knew what was next.

“ Working the Reunion ,” a 2008 essay from the Lives column, by ZZ Packer

My residential college always hosted the 45th reunion, one of the most well attended, I suppose because you just might not be around for the 50th. To my eyes, these guys were the picture of old money. Although they may have mastered physics or appraised the sharp beauty of “King Lear” in school, at reunions they reminisced about football glories and practical jokes. I sometimes felt less like a Yale co-ed who happened to be black than a black waitress who happened to be bringing them an extra fork. But after their dinner we reunion workers would drink up all the leftover bottles of wine while cleaning the dining hall.

Related Questions for Any Short, Narrative Essay

What is the one small moment or event this piece focuses on? Why do you think the writer might have chosen it?

What do you learn about the writer and his or her world through this moment or event? How? What lines do this well? What is implied rather than stated?

How is the piece structured? What does each paragraph do? How does each contribute to the story?

Look closely at how the writer tells a complete story in a limited number of words. Where, in terms of time and place, does the story begin? Where does it end? How does the writer weave in necessary background even while keeping the action of the story moving forward?

What else do you notice or admire about this essay? What lessons might it have for your own writing?

General Education Literature

  • Teaching Strategies
  • Texts and Resources

Strategies for Teaching Short Stories

Getting started.

Short stories are great teaching tools that can fill a variety of needs. You might teach stories in conjunction with major course texts, to introduce an important course theme in a more digestible way, and/or to fill small gaps in your syllabus. Because short stories are self-contained and can often be taught in a single class period, they can be especially useful for teaching close reading. Instructors might consider beginning the course with a short story to introduce close reading to students before they are asked to perform close readings in the (much larger) space of a novel.

Strategies & Tips

Introductory ideas/activities.

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Make a List : Listing out material objects in the text is a great way to get your students to pay attention to detail in the text.  Give them a category of material objects that are significant to the text and ask them to go through the story and list all of those objects.  (Think of the personal contents of the GI’s packs in O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” or the groceries in Updike’s “A & P.”)  Why are these objects described in detail?  How do the material items focus your attention on immaterial things, like character’s emotions?  How do they convey important information about character and setting by signaling personality, historical/geographical location, and class status*? * Sometimes this requires helping your students make contemporary comparisons to understand the significance of these items (Herring snacks=caviar).

Map it Out : Anything you can to do help your students visualize the story more vividly is good.  Asking them do visualize it literally, by making a map, is really good, because it helps them order things like plot events and identify the significance of settings in a really concrete way.  You can map settings or you can map out characters movements over the course of a scene/story.  If you story takes place in a real location, you might make use of Google Maps/Google Earth to show various locations relationships to one another.

Model Paragraph Assignment : Have students produce a substantial paragraph interpreting an element of a short story. The purpose of this paragraph is to highlight an implicit critique in the story and to use evidence to show how the text makes this critique clear. Can be assigned as freewrite at the start of class.

Repeated Readings : Have students read a story four times at home and chart their understanding and enjoyment of the text with each reading. Then, during class time, ask them meet in four small groups and give short presentations about their experiences with each reading and then to summarize their discussions to the larger group.

Repetition, Repetition :  Another way to reinforce authorial choice and to teach students to be aware of how an author might be focusing their attention in very specific ways, is to attend to repetitions in a short story.  Ask you students to track repeated words, phrases, or images in a story.  Why are they there?  What are they supposed to communicate to you?  Students are occasionally resistant to this idea, but a good way to affirm that these repetitions are not simply an accident made by an inattentive author is to have your students remove them from the text and replace them with variations.  What is lost in the communication and content of the story if you remove the repetition(s)?

Round Table Reading : For short stories, you might have students read the story aloud and ask them to comment on the variations. They have never failed to make excellent observations, which, of course, gives me an opportunity to applaud their ability to read and encourage them that they can do this with everything they read. This is also a nice way of getting students to discuss what they like in a good story—not just plot, but how the story is told. (Adapted from LeDon Sweeney)

Significant Quotes :  Ask students to bring in passages or quotes that deserve attention in discussion.  They should have reasons why the quote is important and what it might signify.  Often several students bring in the same quote and this is a great opportunity for discussing notions of individual reader responses vs. inherently poignant moments in the text.  This is a great activity to do since it 1) requires very little time of the students, but also guides their reading of the text; 2) provides you with 20 launches for discussion if you need them; 3) can be used as proof that your students are doing your homework (you can collect them, or randomly call on people to present them, or have them share in groups); and 4) close reading is one of the best tools they can cultivate as they improve their interpretative reading skills and prepare to write persuasive essays.  This activity can also be easily adapted: consider asking them to bring in single words they find significant or quotations they believe to be controversial.

Tone :  As with poetry, tone is a particularly tricky element of literature for our students to understand.  To help students arrive at a definitions of a story’s tone more organically that just asking what mood the story creates or what emotions it draws out, as them to come up with a list of things they might associate with a short story, however vaguely.  These things could be songs, other stories they’ve read, characters from TV or movies, people they know, etc.  (I find this activity works particularly well if you narrow their associations to songs.)  For each item they list, they should identify what motivates the association in their minds and what feeling or quality each represents.  Through these comparisons, students should become better at assessing tone more directly.

Discussion Ideas/Activities

Class Consciousness : Have students find examples of a character’s class as compared to the other characters. Then discuss how these details affect your reading of the story. (Adapted from LeDon Sweeney)

Highlighting Character : Short stories use different techniques to set up character than novels or drama (which have the advantage of development over a longer stretch of time).  Short stories have to establish character quickly, often in just a few words or sentences.  Ask students to choose a character from the story and describe him or her in detail.  Then ask them to identify passages from the text that support/flesh out their descriptions.  What are the author’s physical descriptions of the character?  What do we know about their demographic factors (age, gender, race, class, etc.)?  You can divide your students into different groups for multiple characters and have them compare and contrast their descriptions.  You might even want to put a focus on secondary characters: what is their purpose, especially in relation to the central characters?

Highlighting Plot : Plot is also condensed in short stories and, because of its small scope, it is often easier for students to see and understand how plot is working in a short story than in a longer work.  One way to help them focus on plot specifically is to have them list characters’ actions and reactions.  Which actions/reactions are the most important?  What about reactions that aren’t fully explored in the text but may occur as a result of actions in the text?  (This is also a useful way to demonstrate the unity of plot and character.)  Another way to focus on plot is to ask your students to write a timeline of the events in the story.  This is especially useful for stories that have nonlinear plots, or when there are significant flashbacks (as with Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”)  It’s also a useful way to discuss the unity of plot and point of view: Is the author recounting the story while it is happening or after the fact?  Writing a narrative timeline allows students to explore the author’s purpose in telling the story as well as confirm actions of the plot.

How Would This Be Different If…? :  Students struggle to remember that every word in a story is a choice; they often talk about literature as if it were fact or if it emerged complete, Athena-like, from the author’s head.  A great way to counteract this impulse is to ask them to consider how the story would be transformed by changing small things (specific words of descriptions, minor details) and large things (point of view, important facts about the characters, etc.).  If the ending of the story is unsatisfactory to your students or surprising to them in some way, asking them to rewrite the ending is a particularly effective way to make them think about authorial decisions.  (Students also tend to think that short stories are always depressing.  Giving them the opportunity to give a sad story a happy ending can be really cathartic—and educational.)

Liking a Character : In something of a reader-response method, you can ask your students if the author wants them to like or dislike a particular character. Then encourage students to provide textual evidence for what makes the character likable or unlikable. (Adapted from LeDon Sweeney)

The Nuts and Bolts of Literature : For all that students use them every day, they are often unaccustomed to thinking about the formal elements of literature when they read.  Instruct them to read a story while paying particular attention to sentence and paragraph length.  Why are some sentences/paragraphs longer than others, or even run-on sentences?  Why are some short and choppy?  Often it’s the case that descriptive sentences are really long, sustained by endless commas, while dialogue is fragmentary.  Students will tell you that this is because that’s how people really talk.  Encourage them to think about whether or not that’s actually true, and also what the difference tells us about descriptive writing.  What would it be like if you reversed this?  Getting them to pay attention to literature’s most basic elements (punctuation, sentences) not only gives them something concrete to begin with in their analysis, but gets them to start paying attention to grammar more generally—which, hopefully, will bleed into their own writing.

Surprise!  Epiphany :  Short stories often contain some kind of revelation or significant turning point in a character’s thought and/or action.  This moment of realization is a major, defining attribute of the short story genre.  Although students will be familiar with the idea, they may be unfamiliar with the term, so take some time to define what an epiphany is and how it works in literature.  Then ask them to look for the epiphanic moment in a particular text.  When and why does it occur?  What changes because of it?  It’s often useful to ask students to select the specific sentence where they believe the epiphany occurs. Make the students support their choice with argument: How does their sentence show change?  Is it internal, external, or both?  What kind of change is it?  Ultimately, the most important question is not “Which sentence is the exact epiphany?” (although that does trick them into close reading), but rather why does it occur and what is its result?  This is a nice lead-in for discussing the conclusion of a story.

Writing/Creative Activities

Adaptations :  A useful way to get students to think about genre specifics is to ask them to adapt a short story into a short play.  Divide them into groups and assign them either a short section of the work or the entire thing itself (if you think they’re up to it).  Once they’ve written a short script, ask them to act out their scene for the class.  How does the loss of descriptions change their interpretation of the dialogue?  What editorial decisions (omission of dialogue, addition of action, etc.) did they have to make and why where they necessary?  This activity can be time consuming, but it’s also a good way to draw out quiet students and visually engage the students’ interest in an active way.  It’s also easy to expand this adaptation exercise by asking them to consider what a film adaptation of the short story would be like: Who would you cast in the roles?  Would we see the characters in close-up, medium, or long shots?  What colors would you want to present on camera?  How long would the scene be?  Bringing in real theater terms (like “blocking” and “beats”) for either version of the activity can give students some ideas of how to proceed with the task in a thoughtful way.

Alternative Ending : Have students write an alternate ending to the story and explain the critical difference between their endings and the author’s.

Back to the Future :  Many short stories may seem “old” to the students, and they will often preface their interpretative comments with the phrase “back then”—or, worse, “back in the olden days.”  While it is obviously important to address the historical issues and contexts (and clarify which “olden days” we’re talking about), an interesting challenge for the students is to ask them to modernize the story to make it seem relevant to them today.  Their changes can include updating the setting or the use of language, increasing the severity of the transgression or crisis so the impact is consistent with what they think it would have been at the story’s original publication.  Their changes can be quite innovative, and even radical, but theymust maintain the overall theme and effect of the story as it is written.  For this reason, it is important to lay very specific boundaries for your students when doing this activity: requiring that they not only update the story but set it in the neighborhood they grew up in can be useful.

Perform the Story : For stories that rely almost entirely on the dialogue and actions of the characters to convey meaning, rather than exposition, you might have your students perform the literature. It is an effective way for them to figure out what is going on and to pick up on things like sarcasm because it forces them to contemplate how each character delivers the lines, the mood, and what lies beneath seemingly mundane phrases. You might break up the class into groups of four and assign a director, an assistant director, and lead actors. Each group performs a section of the story. They spend some time rehearsing, and the director and assistant director help with directing the actors, which is where the real learning takes place, as they puzzle it out.

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 .

Short stories are a place to experiment with your creative process, to play with character development techniques, to dabble in different kinds of writing styles. 

And you're learning what a finished story feels like. So many aspiring novelists have only half-done drafts in drawers. A short is training yourself to finish.

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 begin the editing process. 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 Pro Practice Workshop. And after you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

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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.

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Bob Ranck

! ! ! JACKPOT ! ! !

I mean it! Finally, after months and months of reading literally hundreds of blog posts and comments, I find that you have addressed the writing of short stories in a manner that is direct, practical, and clear.

It is not my intention to write TGAN. It never was.

I hope, rather, to entertain with short stories drawn from the experiences of my living. This post has illuminated a clear path through the (often valuable, genuinely valid, but – for me, anyway – not-directly-relevant) facts, experiences and anecdotes of other writers and would-be practitioners of the art that all seem focused on novel-length work.

I would encourage you to entertain the possibility of more posts on the art form and production of short stories.

Joe Bunting

Wow, Bob. That’s so good to hear.

Speaking of short story articles, have you read my book Let’s Write a Short Story? You might enjoy it! Check out letswriteashortstory.com.

Susan Barker

The picture on how to write a short story is pretty much how I wrote my first one and have started my second. I had my first one critiqued, then revised it to the critters suggestions (they made perfect sense) and my story has improved considerably. I thought I was being lame on how I came to write them, but I see now, I accidentally stumbled on the formula for writing. Thanks Joe. I’m writing easier now.

Love that, Susan. Like Neil said, there is no formula. You have to write the story the way it wants to be written. But I find that I need structure to keep myself motivated and moving, so this process usually helps me stay focused. Glad you’re finding the writing process easier!

Dana Schwartz

This is such a great post, Joe! I used to be primarily a short story writer but have been working on a novel for so long I feel as though I can’t remember how short stories work – but this brought it all back, and in a much better more clear cut manner than my old ways! I used to meander through a short story like a blind woman in the dark until I bumped into the ending – but I had a lot more time on my hands to do such meandering than I do now, so I’ll definitely give this technique a try!

I’ve done the same, Dana. However haltingly and messy my process has been, though, it usually follows this rough pattern I listed above. Has that been true for you as well?

I was always a “pantser” for stories, and would start with a concept or opening scene, and then feel my way through. It could take weeks to get a first draft. Then I’d edit. The first step of yours blew me away, the idea of writing a “story” without any pressure to make it great, to just get to the gist of it, is pretty brilliant. I often put so much pressure on myself to get it right on the page that it slows me down. I’m already at work (in my head) on part 1 of a story I’ve been meaning to rewrite, and I feel very confident about it thanks to your advice 🙂

Cynthia Franks

There is nothing wrong with pantsing it! I would be labeled a “pantser” but as I tell every one, it only looks that way. Outlines form around character so quickly in my head, it seems to be unplanned, but that is not true. I always have an outline, I just don’t spend a lot of time on it. The important thing is to write to end before doing any re-writing!

Carrie Lynn Lewis

I’ve never been a big fan of writing short stories. They’ve always seemed like “a good start on a novel-length story”.

But your outline for writing a short story has me rethinking that philosophy. I may just give it a try.

Thanks for a new idea on a Saturday morning!

DO IT! And let me know how it goes, Carrie. 🙂

Heidi Staseson

Agreed! ….on a Saturday afternoon! Fabulous tips to try. Thanks, Joe.

Short stories are an important marketing tool for all writers. And so is flash fiction. Lee Goldberg, creator/head writer for Monk and several other TV mystery series, writes short stories and novels using the Monk character. I hate the TV show Monk, but loved the short story Mr. Monk and The Seventeen Steps in the Dec 2010 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I plan to read some of novels. Lee Goldberg is an excellent writer. The stories and novels support the TV series and the TV series supports the short stories and novel.

If you plan to traditionally publish, published short stories can get you a better agent and open door that may otherwise stay shut.

If you plan to self-publish, free short stories using your characters can be a good way to turn non-fans in customers for your wears. Think on them as test for readers–but don’t think it while you are writing the story.

I play to use this strategy to publish my Old West book series.

Wow, this is a very creepy story, Tom! You should work on it!

Patrick WH Lee

Reading this post made me reflect on my own writing routine. I tend to do steps 1-5 in one sitting, pumping out ~2,500-3,500 words in an hour, which is usually all I have for a short story. It’s the editing that definitely takes up the most time. I give it a day before going back and seeing how I can optimize the plot and the finer details.

The number one motivating factor for me to finish writing is my initial interest and excitement of the original idea for the story itself. A wasted story is such a shame, after all.

Impressive Patrick. I could do Steps 1-3 in one sitting, but breaking it into scenes, and especially the research, take me a lot of time.

Scrivener is a great tool for breaking it into workable chances. My second most favorite thing about it!

Agreed Cynthia! Have you seen my review of it? https://thewritepractice.com/scrivener

I had the exact same experience! I need to learn about the word count goals. My favorite feature is the ability to move scenes around and then read it as one long document without actually moving anything.

I am new at it, but look forward to learning more! Great review!


How to write short story? For me he only way is to order it on custom essay writing services reviews pa . To write something you need to be creative person, and it’s not about me 🙁

Love this post! Your first point, write the entire story, is great piece of advice. I say this all this time, “Write the story from beginning to end before doing any re-writing!”

Research being the #5 is great! I don’t find many other writer’s agreeing with on this. They will insist on doing the research upfront. I will see them a year later and ask how the project is going and the answer will be, “I’m still doing research.” I call it The Blackhole of Research and many writers get sucked it. I fell into it once myself when working on a play based on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I got caught up it wanting to know if Shakespeare wrote the sonnets or not. I never wrote the play. The research thoroughly obscured what I believe would have been an interesting musical. For my series of novel set in the old west, I’m using a time line of events with scant details. I found I need this for the storytelling. But that is it.

I agree with you 100% about Scrivener. It has a bit of learning curve, but is worth it. I started to using it on my last story and now am using it to edit my novel. You can rearrange your scenes any way you want and then read is if it was a continuous document, but without changing the original order of scenes. Valuable in the editing process. It made me happy!

The Only Story They’ll Ever Read. This is excellent advice. It is where many talented writer’s fail.

How I Write Short Stories It takes me about 30 hours to do a draft of a story and then three times that to edit. If I have a real deadline (Not the self imposed kind) I can write it in 8 hours or less and edit it in 12.

I have learned that all I have to do is start writing and a story will emerge. Every time I do a writing prompt, I end up with a story. Every time I write for practice or to take a break from another project, I end up with a story. They are not always good.

Something unusual about me. I hate writing first drafts and love, love, love re-writing them.


How is that “unusual?” I know lots of people who enjoy rewriting over first drafts…? (There’s always someone who believes their “strange” in their habits. You must be from a small town or something lol

Collis Harris

Once again, Joe, you cut through all the garbage that’s usually out there about writing to make the process simple. I especially like the idea of doing research after fleshing out the story. I was doing research before starting and I drove myself into a sticky mess. Thank you for pointing out the obvious – even though it wasn’t obvious to me.

eric miller

I was alone, sitting next to a window on a commercial flight paid for by another who I was convinced cared little for my well being while offering an all expense paid year in a foreign land, no strings attached accept the one holding the sword of Damocles.


One thing I would add, and it’s the best practice I’ve picked up over the years, is to start with the ending. So for number #3, I would suggest come up with both the open and close and fill in the rest.

Jill Upshaw

Thank you so much for this post. It finally got me started on a short story I have been wanting to write for more than a year. Writing down the basic story helped me see the story first.

Kakeu Flora

Thank You… the guide is helpful. Our Lecturer gave an assignment she obliged that we must write a short story in our Journal but i think with your guide i’m going to make it great in the procedure of writing my short story…Thank Alot.

Rachel Myers

Thank you for this guide! My son is in eighth grade and assigned to write a short story in his honors English class. He’s very analytical and excelling in science and math. He does well in English but this short story has him flummoxed. He keeps saying he doesn’t know how to write a story, which is perplexing because throughout elementary school he wrote long, imaginative stories well above his grade level.

He desperately wants to write this short story but It’s as if his analytical mind has blocked access to his imagination and creativity. What served him well as a child has been squashed by puberty and the inevitable march to maturity. Oh, the sadness.

I just have a feeling though your guide will provide the structure he’s seeking and reopen the pathway to his creativity. It’s still there. We see it all the time. Your guide is organized around the process with time frames to boot! What more could an analytical mind want.


Thank you so much for this post. Sometimes the story gets lost while spending time researching. I always believed the story benefited from a little brewing time before taking on a life outside of my mind. I see now that I’ve been missing out on the valuable steps that can take place once the story is down and the transformation that can take place to form a short story. Your advice is elegant in it’s simplicity.

Szymon K. Paczkowski

Great post, but I have one question though to the numer 5.

What am I supposed to research? Research for what? I just don’t understand this.


To me you research for different things. Location and setting of the storiy, maybe it in La Havana, Cuba you should know they speak Spanish, they were in a economy regression so the building are not painted. Maybe one character has some type of illness (PTSD, Lupus, etc.) You would have to know how would that influence how they act, are perceive or look in a story. If he has PTSD he may have flashback’s, or deprecion, ect.

Maybe is a historical fiction you need to know how people acted in that time, what they wore, what was happening, etc.

It give you a better understanding of what is happening. So what you write is believed or make senses.

Jacqueline Kwan

Thanks for breaking this process down into simple steps! I naturally tend to sit down and spill out the whole story but often don’t know where to go from there. Your post gives me guidelines on how to approach the editing process that I know my work needs.

The best part is your distinction between “the story” and “the short story”. Knowing that makes it so much easier to write that first draft – without agonizing over a sloppy beginning or the overly vague details that require more research.

What a great way to get into your writing with the confidence that you’ll know how to make it better later!

Mwai Gichimu

Wow! You make it sound soo easy. Got a load of stories at different stages and feel I should try your steps.

Thanks, Mwai Gichimu http://www.creativeheritage.org

pat m

I didn’t realize until fairly recently that short stories were . . . well, so short. I typically write fanfiction that would be consider more of a novella at least 40,000 words. I actually don’t like reading short stories less than 7 chapters and/or 10,000 words. I don’t know I just like more meat on my books than the typical 7 chapter deal.

The Cyan-sinity

A Day in the Life of the Samurai.

It was an ordinary day — in the life of the samurai, that is. Samurai and heir to the Hagi residential, Kento Kadesheke, was engaged in a duel with his well recognized, self esteemed master.

“Dodge,” commanded his brain as he curled into a ball and escaped a fatal blow by what marked his people, the sword. Then he leapt up and swished his sword here and there, in defence. Next, he went all-out in a sword batting contest with his master. This gave his time to regain his breath. Now, as many know, the more experienced mostly comes on top, so was the case here. Tired and impatient, Kento tried to disarm his master and opponent. His master expected it and dodged it, not so long before launching a barrage of sword hits, disarming Kento.

Per the rules, disarms end battles, so Kento bowed and fetched his sword. He asked “What did I do wrong, milord,” His master smiled and gently said ” Nothing but thou were a bit impatient,” he added “I can see quick and great improvement,” Now all of this was said in Japanese, but I daren’t mention in imagined sesquipedalophobia

Jolyon Sykes

The importance of step six cannot be overstated. I think a second pair of eyes is essential for editing. For example, this non-sentence is from Joe’s promo for his book: http://letswriteashortstory.com/why-short-stories/ “Even more importantly, to practice deliberately have to put your writing skills to the test.” See what I mean?


“Run Isola!”

Isola’s mother yelled over the wind. Isola’s heart was pounding, and she felt as if she might faint. Her brown hair whipped fast, stinging her face. Her mother was rushing her into the safe house. They prepared it a month before when they heard about the Vortex Storm. The name was fitting because there was a big whirl of dark, ravenous clouds. They seemed to eat the whole sky.

“Where is Will and Dad?” Isola asked. “I thought they were coming with us!”

“I am going to get them,” Isola’s mother answered. “Just go and get there before you get hurt!”

She turned and went back to the house while Gloria went toward the safe house.

The wind was so strong, Isola felt as if it would lift her and pick her off her feet. Debris flew everywhere. Other people in her neighborhood were gathering belongings, children, pets, and driving away to the community safe house. Isola was tempted to follow them.

Isola finally made it to the safe house. Its interior was located underground and the door were made of steel. Underground Isola knew there were also steel bars to support the roof the steel ceiling. The lock on the door was located inside. Her father was a construction worker so getting the materials to build it was easy. Isola’s mind flashed back to the time her father stayed up for weeks at a time making sure everything was secure. When she asked if she could help or see what he was working on, he simply told her that it wasn’t time yet. Whatever that meant.

Isola began to open the door, when she heard familiar voices behind her.

“Isola! Watch out!”

Relief comforted her heart for a moment. It was Will’s voice, and he was okay. He’s head popped out around the corner. His brown curly hair waving on his face in the harsh wind. But, that relief was replaced with panic when she saw a big massive tree branch about to fall. On her.

Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to build a safe house by a tree Isola thought. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to build a safe house, period.

That was all Isola had time to think about before the tree branch fell, and she was forced back by some invisible force. It felt like a hand grabbing her. She stumbled backwards and bumped into something.

Or someone.

“Isola, what are you crazy? You just stand there watching it fall on you, and do absolutely nothing while the branch almost crushes you!”

She turned around to the look to who was speaking to her. And a concerned, upset, face was peering down back at her. Her father. Despite her father scolding at her, she was relieved to see he was okay. Her mother came running in after them.

“Are you okay? What happened?” She turned to Isola’s father. “Mark.”

Mark put a hand on his wife’s arm. “Anna, she’s fine” He started toward the safe house again. “Let’s just hurry and all go inside-” Mark stopped.

“What? What is it?”

Isola followed to where he was staring. The tree branch was on top of the safe house. Blocking the only entrance inside.

Mark shook his head. Swore a few latin words. Anna shot daggers at him covering Will’s ears.

Will looked to me with eyes of confusion. I shrugged.

“Why are we going in here? Why don’t we go in with the other kids and adults?” Will asked.

Will spoke with an accent that his mom said came from his father. When he said ‘adults’ he pronounced it adoolts He pulled his mother’s hands off his ears.

“Will-” His father said will a warning tone in his voice.

“There is a branch on blocking the door. Besides, everybody else is going!” Will argued.

“They don’t want to go to the Community safe house, Will.” Isola told him.

“But, all my friends are there! I wanna go too!” Will whined.

“We have a safe house right here.” Anna said ignoring Will.

Isola made a motion to the safe house which was still stable, but had an impossible entrance. She opened her mouth to say something sarcastic but her mother must of saw the expression on her face because she held up her hand.

“That is enough Isola.” Her mother yelled over the wind. “You have been complaining about this the whole time, and show no appreciation for what your father is doing for you-”

“Dad what are you doing?” Will interrupted.

Gloria and her mom turned around to see what Will was talking about. Mark was pushing the branch-or at least trying to-off the entrance. Anna looked to Will and Isola.

“Come on, don’t just stand there, go help out your father!”

They didn’t need to be asked twice. They all went over and helped Mark push the branch. They pushed, pulled, lifted, but the branch didn’t move more than a couple of inches. But, even by then they were all tired and each second they stayed outside was each second to their death.

Mark reached through one of the openings of the branch and opened the door. “Will or Gloria, one of you can fit in here. Try to go through.”

Will crosses his arms. “No way! I want to go to the Community safe house. Besides you guys could lock us in there and go without us so you can go have fun.” Will stared at his mom and dad with accusing eyes. He had his jaw set in way that showed he wasn’t going to budge.

“Will” His father said angrily.

Isola started toward the entrance. “I’ll go, if you won’t go. Let’s just get in before we get hit by one of those meteorites.” She pointed to the sky. It was darker now blocking out so much sun, the light detectors triggered on the street lights for night time.

Isola started in, going feet first, having a little of a hard time getting in. When she felt her feet touch the ground she called up.

“Okay I’m in!”

There was no response. She looked up to see if anyone was looking in but she saw no one there.

“Mom? Dad?”

She heard something up there that sound like arguing, then panic, and then a moment of silence.

“Isola, are okay down there?” Her mom asked.

“Yeah, what are you guys waiting for?”

“We are going to the Community shelter.”

Isola didn’t know whether to laugh or scream.

“Isola, don’t worry you can wait down there-”

“Wait here? No!” Isola said shaking her head. “Bring me up with you guys.”

“The branch is stuck here, and plus we are running out of time, we are going to see if we can make it-”

Isola heard her father’s voice in the background. She only caught a few words and sentences like: ‘he said’ and ‘not good idea’ and ‘listen’

“I don’t care about what Jem thinks, we are leaving.” Isola heard her mom say.

And the door shut.

Isola heard screams outside. She heard some of Will’s screams, mixed with her mother’s, and other screams of children, frightened animals, and other people. She didn’t want to think about going out there. She knew she couldn’t. So, when the door shut Isola locked the door and went to the furthest corner of the room.

There were blankets, food, water, first aid items, and a radio there. The food and water was packed into four different black book bags. Looking at them made her feel anxious and worried. They’ll be okay. Everything is fine. She thought. When she still didn’t feel any better, she said out loud, “It’s okay. Everything is fine.” Even she knew the words sounded empty and unconvincing.

She wasn’t hungry at the moment. Fatigue washed over Isola so suddenly, that she felt dizzy. Grabbing her blanket from the corner she moved the rest of the items by the door. After, she walked to the corner, sat putting her knees up to her chin, and wrapped the blanket around herself, over her head and ears. She tried to huddle as far as she could into the corner. She wanted to be as far away from the screams as possible. Isola shivered. Though it wasn’t against the cold.

( For more or the rest of the story email me at [email protected] ) 🙂 Tell what you think.

B. Cole

This has been incrediably helpful! Making myself put off researching wasn’t something I would have thought would make a big difference but it really has.


I might be a bit late to the party…my 15 mins.

———- Hugh set the knife against his knee and started sawing through the skin.

As the pain coursed through his nerves, he lost his grip. “Damn bugs,” he hissed as his fingers failed to listen to his brain.

Laying his head against the cold metal of the bathtub, Hugh swore he could feel the lowjack implant in his spinal cord thrumming. A few moments later, the door opened on rusty hinges, allowing the light from the rest of the apartment in.

A falsetto voice spoke from the doorway. “Human, you have sustained an injury to your right knee. Medical personnel have been summoned.”

Hugh turned suddenly, knocking the knife to the floor. “Don’t you dare let those butchers in here!” Sitting up, he started to sob. “I’ve got nothing left for them to take.”

A six foot tall mechanical figure strode calmly into the room. “Human, I’m going to freeze you until the medical personnel arrive.” A green light started blinking in its eye socket. “Do not be alarmed, it is for your own safety.”

Hugh was half way out of the bathtub before the lowjack cut off any control he had over his body.

The android moved to the tub, and gingerly picked Hugh up, moving him through the spacious apartment to a chair by the front door.

“I will be in stasis until they arrive,” the android stated.

Hugh couldn’t detect any difference from a few moments ago. The android stood stone still, the only difference an irregular pattern to the blinking green light.

Waiting a full minute to ensure the thing wasn’t aware, Hugh tried moving his hand. The fingers twitched.

Kav M

i have a short story , would it be too late to post here , i need some opinion

Pamela Gregson

I opened my eyes to see a dark shadow in my bedroom, it looked like a figure of a man. I had been thinking a lot about my uncle Herbert who had died in the first world war ,l was stunned! Could he be the person on my bed? To stunned to talk to him l recalled speaking to a medium early on in the day about Herbert he came through and said he wondered what his life would have been like if he had lived he died aged 26 . I looked more closely at this figure on my bed then he said come on Pam get up!! We’re on holiday now!!! Pew!!!


Thanks for the great advice Joe Bunting. What I read, helps me know what’s ahead of me to be a writer. I love how you explained about it being hard to finish a story, when you are in the middle of the story. As to rowing a boat to an island. I’ve started stories, got to the middle and didn’t know where to go. Now I know that’s common to happen. I’ll close at this point and get started writing something that I wrote in High School that others loved. Thanks again for inspiring me with what you wrote.

Rick Olmsted


Nice blog here. I think this would be more helpful in my writing career. But if you really need a professional to write a children short story for you, I would recommend a gig I use on Fiverr https://www.fiverr.com/sophiebrown/write-kindle-children-bestseller-book-for-publishing


This is a great intro in short story writing! Usually the only writing I do is assignments and essays. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a story for a while and this post provided great motivation. So here it is.. my first 15 minute attempt at putting ideas down in words.

The time had come to meet face to face with her biggest rival. She had never met her before but the stories were enough for her to realise the threat that she posed. The environment wasn’t one which forged the women together, to bond. It promoted rivalry. Only the fittest would survive the night and walk away with cash in the hand. Tonight was the same as every other night. It started out with the usual routine. She would meticulously apply her make up to accentuate her pale blue eyes. Her greatest asset, or at least that’s what they told her. The blackness of the eyeliner was unforgiving; no amount of it could cover up the turbulent storm brewing in her blue eyes. Her reflection showed no hint of the emotions she was trying to deny. Her hair was down around her shoulders, glistening from the heat in the room. The air was muggy despite it being a cool night. She looked around the room wondering how her life had brought her to be here in this moment. The walls were as red as bitten lips, that’s what they reminded her of. The other girls were getting impatient that she had taken so much time in the one mirror, which covered the wall above the alcove. There was barely enough room for all four of them to get ready in there. Bags of make up, shoes and dresses, if you could call them that, were scattered at their feet. The buzz of the dryer in the adjoining room reminded her that there was work to be done. Fresh sheets and towels needed to be put out in the rooms before the men arrived. This job gave her a reprieve from being in that suffocating red room. She left the girls to decide on the dresses they would wear tonight.


I was fine, good in fact, realizing that I was stuck in a rut of step 1, Telling my stories. I can do step two, even three. Now I’m lost at step four: I’m writing a short story, not a novel. I’m stopping here; lost my interest, for the moment.

Christina Thompson

Tara is unhappy with her life. She always has been. No one ever understood why. Tara comes from a great home, with a great family; yet she always seemed to be downtrodden and meloncholic. At 21 Tara isn’t even doing things that her peers enjoy. This should be the time in her life where fun, adventure and discovery are a must. Tara doesn’t follow crowds, has no real friends to speak of and is always quiet; except if called on in a class setting. John and lydia French, tara’s parents have sought help for her from many professionals, and none have been able to point out a diagnoses to fit tara’s personality flaws. There was a time once when tara was younger perhaps four or five when she was at summer camp. She showed light in her eye and a possibility of hope glimmered that maybe she had found her niche. The latter part of that camping trip showed the worst side of tara yet. It seemed she regressed even more than when she arrived. Fisher is a guy who grew up with tara and has know her and her family for many years. He has concocted this plan to attempt to court tara with these simple steps that he has been putting together to turn who he sees as the love of his life into a more loving and joyful human being. The first step was to be seen accidently by tara at more than one occation during her day. Of course it’s not accidental, he’s planned the whole thing, but in fisher’s mind maybe tara never got the attention she needed. On Saturdays tara frequents the same internet cafe near her University, then she goes running at a nearby park, following this she heads back to campus. Fisher was sure to be seen by tara in all but the last place her home, so as not to seem to creepy. He pb believes he may have saw tara grin or smirk once or maybe, he just wants to make her happy so badly that he imagined it. He did this for three saturdays, then finally askds tara to the movies. To his surprise tara says yes. Fisher is ecstatic. They schedule their date for the following week. Fisher picked tara up on time from her dorm and they stap for a street car meal before heading to the movies. He excorts her home and when he reaches in for a kiss tara scream can be heard throughout the city. Campus security arrives and tara is take


Sarah was shaking over the little table staring at her coffee. Her eyes looked as black s the liquid in the cup. She couldn’t speak, it was too much for her at the moment. Besides apart of maybe weak squick nothing else would come out from her mouth. She was so scared to go back home but she couldn’t stay in this coffee shop forever. Sarah didn’t have any idea what to do. She quit her job without finding the new one, all of her savings were gone already so she couldn’t really afford to move right now. But she also couldn’t face her landlord from hell and his crazy family. It was like the worst nightmare.

Sarah moved in to this house thinking it’s going to be a lovely place to live. She would share it with two friends and probably rent the third bedroom to another familiar face. At least that was the plan. The landlord was white with black hair and spoke good English. She assumed he was an English man. After seeing the place with her two mates they made the decision instantly. Paid cash for deposit to black haired man and received the keys. When asked for receipt he said he will provide it next time as he had no receipt book on him. Fair enough.

A few days later Sarah, Daniel and Becky lived together in the lovely semi-detached house with good sized garden. The trio opened some beers and decided to celebrate their new nest completely unaware of what is yet to come…


love your book! Keep on the good job

“Do you think Petraeus will like the red hood, or the blue hood?” Charlene aksed her brother, “or is the yellow one better? Hmm… the orange one is also very appealing. What do you think, Eustace?”

“I think you should just take one and go see him before it gets late, sister.” He sighed, annoyed.

The tall brunnette, turned around to face her brother. Why was she even asking him that kind of stuff anyway? He’s a boy, he wouldn’t care one bit. “If you are going to be such a ogre, why should I even ask?”

“I wish I could understand that too, you know.” he said, preparing himself for the trip. Lifting his simple dark brown hood from the floor, he sat down to fix his boots. “But I personally think I am not the best person to help you change the color of a piece of cloth, Charlene. It’s just a piece of cloth, you do not have to make such a big deal about it.”

She groaned angrily, while taking the red one.”I do not understand what is your probllem, really.”

“Guess what? Me neither.” he laughed as he ran through the door. Eustace could hear the angry blabbing of her sister, but decided to ignore.


Natalie Jenkins

Wanted Child (FULL VERSION)

The siren’s screaming to the neighbors, waking them from their peaceful slumber. The red and blue lights blinding everyone who looks in its way. A little girl, not later of the age of 9, being carried out of a home in the arms of a police officer. Her crying silencing everything else to the man’s ears. The child clutching onto his navy-blue shirt, begging for the awful image out of her head. He looks at the girl in pain, wishing for a miracle to break through. He sighs and looks forward, his face a mask of pain. He looks around and spots a woman with her back turned to her, talking to one of the girl’s neighbors. He approaches her and acknowledges her. “Corrine,” he started. The woman turns around and lightly nods. “Chief Jacob Ray.” She states, concern written in her strained voice. She is a lawyer working on a case where she is defending a man who was framed for the murder of his brother. She might have been yelling at a court trial. She spoke, “What do you need? Poor child. She didn’t deserve to witness that.” She is right. She never deserved to witness such a horrible thing. “I need a blanket for her. And, also, give her water.” He looks down at her to see her asleep. He sighs and looks back at the woman. “She will stay with me until we find her a home.” She slightly widened her eyes, looking at Jacob confusedly. She replied, “Are you sure you can take care of a child? Jacob, you don’t have anyone else to help take care of this girl.”

She stopped when she heard the girl sighing. She looked at her with both pain and hope for her. Jacob also had hope. Hope that her life was going to change for the better and not for the worse. “I’ll go get the blanket and water.” He heard Corrine say. He didn’t acknowledge her, to let her know that he heard her. She sighed in content and walked away, yelling for a blanket and water. He looked down at her. Her blue eyes fluttered open, looking around. She looked up at him and smiled. She let go of her shirt and hugged him. His eyes widened slightly as she hugged him. His eyes slowly went back down as she started crying. He started shushing her, whispering that it is all over. That she doesn’t have to worry anymore. He was going to make sure of it. He was going to be on a hiatus to take care of her. A few moments later he hears a distant voice saying, “Here we go dear.” Corrine’s voice makes the girl look up. She sniffs and wipes her eyes, muttering a quick thank you while doing so. Corrine looks at the poor girl in despair and calmly says, “Drink. You must be thirsty.” Corrine holds a glass up, showing her that she has something for her to drink. The little girl nods, agreeing with the woman. Corrine gives the glass to her, holding it to her lips. The little girl drinks happily, sighing in content with the refreshing feeling, soothing her parched throat. Jacob asks, “So, what’s your name?” The girl stops drinking and looks at the man. She replies, “Elly, but my real name is Elizabeth. My parents used to call me “Elly”, but after their.” She stops, closing her eyes

This is all I have and I am writing 2 different versions. One is for a short story contest and one is for publishing (which is this one)

George McNeese

I love writing short stories. I believe what turns me on to the format is the fact that it makes for quick reading. At the same time, you can get so much out of it like you would a novel.

I do think I’ve been writing short stories the wrong way. It takes me a couple of weeks to get a story down. Most of it is due to time constraints. But I have tools to lessen that time. And I’m so worried about getting it right the first time that I miss the point of the process. It takes diligence and patience to write a great story.

I will take these tips to heart and work as hard as I can to write the best stories possible.

Shauna Bolton

This story is about Rafa, a five-year-old boy born during the final years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. His father, Duriel, is a Levite who serves the tabernacle. His mother, Ronit, has just died. His older sister, Miriam, is ten years old.

Duriel is a bitter, heartbroken man. His wife is dead. His firstborn is a girl, and his only son will never be a man, have a family, or serve the tabernacle. There will be no one to continue his lineage. He feels that God has ruined his life, and it angers him. He is often critical, unkind, and angry at home, especially with his young daughter, who is desperately and imperfectly performing her dead mother’s duties: cooking food, caring for the household, and tending Rafa.

Rafa has Down’s Syndrome. He doesn’t understand death and believes his mother has abandoned him. He thinks she’s hiding somewhere in the camp. He keeps running off to find her, which causes stress and anger for his family and his Levite relatives.

Miriam cooks the meals, cares for the household, and tends Rafa while her father is at the tabernacle. Miriam is also learning to spin and weave. Her grandmother, a former slave in Egypt, is a master weaver. She is going blind and feels a desperate urgency to teach her granddaughter everything she can before she can no longer see. Miriam is caught between her grandmother’s insistence that she spend her time weaving and keeping track of Rafa. Her friends complain that she’s always working and never has time for fun.

One night, after Duriel has lost his temper and spanked Rafa, Miriam comforts him in bed. She tells him that their mother lives with Adonai. Rafa’s father has impressed both his children that Adonai lives in the tabernacle, the place where Moses speaks with Adonai. Miriam falls asleep, but Rafa doesn’t. He now knows where his mother is, and he leaves the house to find her.

Rafa wanders through the camp, unsure of where to go. When he sees torchlight, he follows it to the tabernacle. The guards are not at the door. Rafa parts the curtains and looks inside. A man’s voice tells him to come in. When he enters the Holy of Holies, he sees a shining man, Adonai, sitting on the ark. The man holds out his arms, and Rafa comes running to him. The man puts Rafa on his lap and asks what he wants. Rafa says he wants his mother.

The man calls Ronit. She appears in a pillar of light. Laughing and crying for joy, she gathers Rafa into her arms, carries back into the light, and they both disappear.

Adonai summons Moses and Duriel. They both come to the tabernacle. Moses enters; Duriel stands outside the door. Adonai tells Moses how to handle the situation. Duriel is not to be punished because Rafa entered the tabernacle. Instead, Duriel is to be relieved of his work for one year to spend the time mourning for his wife and son, caring for his mother, and comforting his daughter, Miriam. If he humbles himself sufficiently, Adonai will receive his service again, give him a woman to love, and more children, including sons to carry on his family line.

When Moses comes out of the tabernacle, he carries Rafa’s body wrapped in a new woolen blanket. Duriel recognizes the blanket as something his wife was making when she died. It had lain unfinished in their tent since her death. He examines it. The blanket is now completely finished. Taking his son’s body in his arms, Duriel falls to his knees sobbing. Moses lays his hands on Duriel’s head and begins blessing him.

Pippy Longstocking

Suddenly, there was a strange noise outside. Clare tiptoed across the creaky floor. She looked from behind the curtains. Strange shadows lurked from the misty town. They were unlike anything she’s ever seen before. As tall as a telephone booth but the limbs were strange… the legs were lean while the arms were strong. Clare lit a torch and went downstairs to investigate. The door slowly creaked open and into the ghostly streets she went.

There was suddenly a crack of lightning, and behind her, were the shadows. She ran as fast as her little legs could carry her but they were fast. She jumped into a nearby bush and waited. She saw the go into a tree. She decided to follow along. Pure curiosity powered her.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!….” She whispered screamed as she fell down a big hole.

She saw some vines in front of her. Her heart was racing. What was she going to see, a mystical land, an evil lair or the centre of the earth? She pushed aside the vines and thoughts and gaped at what she saw. Everything was unspeakable, she had to get out of this nightmare. Left was right, up was down, good was bad. She couldn’t breathe. Where was the exit? What is this place? Why did the men go here? Why? Why? Why?! She was trapped in her own thoughts and in the world.

She woke up. “It was too real..” She muttered.

Clare opened the curtains and screamed. Her heart was thumping hard and her brain was numb. Her eyes were frozen. Little did she know that this was just the beginning of mass terror and horror. Would she live or would she die? That is the question that remains unanswered…

Pippy Longstocking

Ignore this


The first time I noticed her was a rainy day. She was sitting in a chair and talked to herself. I was so curious about her who behaved strangely. I thought she was a weird person, but I wanna know her stories. I was sure she had a story, at least one. I said” Hi, you are beautiful.” She answered” My mom always says that, but she is gone.” “Where is she?” She said with a sweet smile” She is there. ” She pointed to her heart with small and thin hands.”In my heart and my dream.”

In a moment, I remembered that I was so jealous when I saw my friends and their mom hold hands. I understood this girl who missed her mom. But I thought her mom had a good reason to leave. We all have a reason when we make a choice. Sometimes we think only for ourselves. Sometimes we choose to sacrifice for love. Sometimes we are selfish. But no matter what decisions we have made, we still have hope and belief, and we have to.

I told the girl” Your mom lives happily. Your mom loves you.” She said” I always know that, but when will she be bak to see me ? I only wanna see her.” I said” She is already on her way to look for. She needs time.” The girl smiled like an angel.

But I lied to her, I have to.

Lusapho Nyangule

She sought refuge in all except what she knew she could possibly thrive at. The fears, the shaky voice, the anger in her eyes and the misery in her soul. Nothing could begin to explain to the world how tortured and jaded her spirit had become. She never asked for this and loathed those who felt she could learn to live life differently.

How does one learn to live life? Is it in the way we were raised? Is it the choices we make? Is it how we perceive things? She was not raised like this. No one would make choices to feel like this and perception is reality, no? If her scars were on the outside instead of on the inside, she would be immediately raced to a hospital. The room would fill with doctors and nurses scurrying to make her lively. But the scars remained on the inside so the world did not see the wounds. The pain remained unseen and the rush for help was nowhere to be found.

Dying was the answer. Of course! She’d read the bubbly bullshit quotes about death being a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Who is to say it’s temporary? Cancer may be temporary. A patient may go into remission but no one judges them for feeling like death may be a better way. Why would she be judged? Demons are revolting things to handle and some, like the girl, simply cannot handle them alone. Would one allow their child to be tormented by another person, or would they help them? Why didn’t they help her? Why were her bullies not confronted?


This was a short short story I wrote that was submitted for a contest. It had to be 150 or less….

She could not explain the feeling she got when she saw him, and he touched her. Every time she tried, the words would just fall out in random order.

One day as they were laying on a blanket watching the drifting clouds, she looked at him and whispered, “I love you.” As he smiled he said, “I know you do,” his hand gripping hers tighter. “No, I mean I really love you. Do you remember when you were a kid and you would swing? The feeling you got in your tummy the higher you went,if there were a million pterodactyl-sized butterflies in there?” He rolled to his side and said, “Yes, that was the best feeling as a kid.” She smiled and said, “That’s the way I feel about you.” He reached over and sighed as he placed his lips to her forehead and whispered, “I love you.”


Short stories, to me, are the perfect literary form. The most amazing way to get across complex and critical concepts without bogging stories down with unnecessary melodrama. I’m actually looking at putting together an anthology-type short story periodical in the next few months. Anyone who’d be interested in being printed, maybe, shoot me a message nmoo651 (at) aucklanduni (dot) ac (dot) nz


It’s a dark night, unknown figure runs across the cold wet streets, flooded by intense rain. There’s a curfew, and this character is breaking it. Running across the stone alleyways and switching corners so swiftly is easy to mistake them for a shadow. Look. An officer. The figure expertly knocks them out by hitting when they are not looking, then hides the body Faster now, the hooded figure is speeding in the darkness, remember why they’re here. They have to escort a parcel across the country in a relay manner, and the figure is an amateur, and want to succeed they’re first true test. Everything’s going fine currently Until they slip. Makes a clanky noise as they fall and attracts numerous guards to their location, but before they can reach, hides in a crate. That was close. But his leg is hurt after the fall, and he is know limping, still needing to deliver his package to the other side of this county. Behind them by a couple 100 meters, a man of somewhat authority walks past. in his hand, a revolver. He enters the area where the figure knocked out an officer and hid him, and easily finds where the figure hid him, as he has dealt with his kind before. The figure creeps into an empty restaurant, where the server greets him happily. The figure asks for a map of this county, something they should have probably had earlier, but hey! They’re an amateur. The server in exchange asks for the figure’s name, to which they respond ‘Max’ after glancing at a Maximum Voltage sign. Max escapes by climbing onto the roof via ladder inside. authority guy returns, and hears Max above, and shoots server (NOO), and climbs up. He shoots max, and max almost falls off the tall building, saved by grabbing onto a gutter flowing with water. AG (authority guy) points gun “give me the parcel” Max puts it slowly into the gutter he’s holding on, and it drifts off. AG makes a break for it, trying to get the parcel before it falls, while max jumps off, landing on another ladder outside an adjacent building. When Ag opens the Parcel, he finds nothing (Ha ha!). Max continues to Victory! –Just a draft, and I apologize for any grammar mistakes.–

Notion Press

I found your “How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish”, very useful. I represent a self-publishing company, Notion press and this information means a lot to our network of writers, to whom we will be sharing it. We also have similar useful content on our academy page. Please feel free to check out and get in touch with us. https://notionpress.com/academy/definitive-guide-on-how-to-write-a-novel/


A fish fought so hard not to know me. I fought harder to know him. We spent hours at our contest. When exhaustion had taken us both, we acquiesced. As he boarded the boat it was apparent his bravery and powerful fight was over and all I had to do was claim victory.

It was a victory that was sour to me. Something inside of my old self changed with meeting this fish. I loved that fish and our fight, it was just what I wanted. What was unexpected was the emotion of caring that poured out afterwards. I lack the skill of caring, not having any experience in how to care or being cared for will do that to a man. Hard life living without those things.

I held him gently in the water for what seemed like eternity, he got his strength back, thrashed and swam away.

goodby and hello, I said.


You have a great idea here, I think you can extend this idea into a short story. I like your style of writing, easy to understand.

Alexandria Kellogg

This is rough idea I’ve been playing around with. Let me know what you think I can do to make it better. Thanks.

Ariala was led into the throne room of her own castle to face the man who had just taken over. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man in heavy metal armor. His long blonde hair was left to hang loosely around his body and his eyes were so dark that they seemed black to her.

“Hello Princess, we meet again.”

“I’d say it’s a pleasure to see you again Prince Demitri, but I was taught not to lie.”

“Charming as ever I see. Not to worry…I’ll change that little attitude of yours soon enough. For now…there’s something I want you to watch.”

Ariala watched as her father, the true King, was dragged into the room. He looked so battered and it broke her heart to see her father’s strength reduced to this. He had bruises covering his face and she was fairly certain one of his arms was broken.

“Why are you doing this? We have never done anything against your family or your kingdom…”

“You have not…true…but your father here has angered me greatly by denying me the one thing I wanted from him.”

“What might that be?”

“You, dear Ariala. I requested your hand in marriage…he refused.”

“So you decide that taking over my home is somehow going to make me want to marry you?”

“It doesn’t matter if you want it or not…I will marry you and you will do as you are told or suffer the consequences.”

“I will most certainly not be marrying you and nothing you can do to me will change my mind.”

“I was afraid you might be this way. Men…”

The soldiers holding her father up dropped him to the floor and pulled their swords, and she watched in horror as they ran their swords through her father’s body. As they pulled back she tried to go to his side but Demitri grabbed her by the waist and pulled her against his body causing her to lash out at him, kicking and hitting any part of him she could reach. He raised a hand to cradle the back of her neck and began squeezing gently, applying more and more pressure until she lost enough air to blackout. He handed her limp body to one of the castle’s royal guards.

“Take her to her chambers for now. Perhaps when she wakes she will be less unpleasent.”

The guard carried her to her bed and was soon joined by his Captain. “We need to get her out of here before it’s too late, Sir.”

“I know, and I have a plan for that. Do you remember John?”

“He’s the one that was always by her side when they were kids right?”

“Aye, that’s him.”

“What about him?”

“He’s the leader of a small band of mercenaries now…and they happen to be in the city below us right now.”

“You’re going to hire them to get her out of here?”

“No…I’m going to tell him that she’s in danger and I need him to help me get her away from this place as soon as possible. In the meantime…guard her door and let no one enter this room.”

“I will protect her, Sir…with my life is I must.”

“I’d rather it not come to that. I will be back as quickly as I can…hopefully with a plan.”

The Captain had faithfully served the Sky Kingdom’s royal family since he was a boy. His father had been the Captain of the Royal Guard at that time and he frequently followed the man to learn all he could from him…now his King was dead and his Princess was in danger. He kept the hood of his cloak up over his face as he slipped into the Queen’s Garden to meet with a man he never actually thought he’d see again.

“Why would the Captain of the Royal Guard want to meet with me in the middle of the night?”

He froze in mid-step as a soft baritone voice sounded out of the darkness, carefully lowering his hood to reveal his heavily greying hair. “Hello again, John. You seem to have done quite well for yourself, being the leader of a mercenary band now.”

“No thanks to you, of course…convincing the King to ship me off to be a squire to some low-level knight…that wasn’t very nice of you.” The man slid out of the shadows like he was a part of them. His jet black hair fell in a soft curtain to his shoulders while his bright blue eyes seemed to pierce the Captain like a spear.

“You were gettig too close to her. We couldn’t risk having her fall in love with someone of such low birth.”

“You mean because I was born a bastard right? What exactly do you want from me?”

“The Princess is in grave danger…and I am hoping you still care enough to help her.”

The man’s gaze sharpens at those words and his voice takes on a darker edge. “What kid of danger?”

“Sky Castle has been overtaken and the King has been killed…in front of her. The man responsible wants to force her to marry him to cement his new role here but she is defiant and I fear he will hurt herto get what he wants. I can get her out of the castle through one of the secret passages…but I cannot get her off the plateau without being caught. I am too well-known here.”

“If you can get her to the Royal Stable at midnight…my men and I can take care of her from that point.”

“Take her to Obsidian Castle in the North. Our allies there will help her.”

“I will take care of her, you have my word…whatever that’s worth to you.”

“When it comes to her…I know I can trust you to keep her safe. I will have her in the stable at midnight, her personal gryphon doesn’t have wings but it will follow her wherever she goes.”

“Wait…she still has that little guy? The blue panther with the bright little tail?”

“He’s not so little anymore…he’s quite large actually, and that tail is a thing of beauty. He’s one of the rare type that have no wings but he’s as loyal as they come…at least to her.”

“Good, she’ll need all the protection she can get. I will see you at midnight…stay safe Captain.”

“You as well, John.”

Later that night four men in dark cloaks were lurking in the shadows behind the Royal Stables, though one of them was clearly unable to remain still for long as the curly blonde begand shifting restlessly from one foot to the other. “Why are we hanging around here at this time of night anyway? This is boring.”

“I told you already. We’re here to help my childhood best friend escape from danger.”

“Right…but who is he?”

“You’ll see soon enough now stay still.”

“Gentlemen, good to see you made it here safely.”

“Same to you, Captain.”

“Wait…the Captain of the Royal Guard? HE’s your friend?”

“Of course not…don’t be ridiculous. The two of us can barely tolerate each other.”

“Wait…then who…?”


“Hello again, Princess. Miss me?”

“John!” Ariala ran into the waiting arms of her friend, wrapping her arms around him and crying softly. “Why did you leave me?”

The dark haired man glared at the Captain before responding to her. “I was sent away little one…they wouldn’t let me go say goodbye to you. I thought they would tell you but it seems I was mistaken.”

“Captain? Is that true?”

“Yes, Princess…I’m afraid so.”


“You were getting too close…you father worried that you two would fall in love.”

Ariala took in a deep breath as she turned to face the Captain, planning to give him a piece of her mind, but the darker man placed a hand over her mouth with an amused smirk. “As much as I’d love to watch you verbally berate the man…I’m afraid we haven’t got the time right now. We have to get you out of here before they realize you’re gone.”

“I assume you have a plan already?”

“Of course…but first…” He snapped his fingers and her bright blue gryphon came out of his hiding spot, his tail fanning out in his happiness at seeing his favorite human. The princess wrapped her arms around the it’s neck and then laughed happily as John lifted her up onto it’s back. “You do realize I can do that on my own right?”

“I know…but it gave me an excuse to hold you for a moment.”

“You’ve never needed an excuse for that before, John.”

“Uh…John, perhaps we should get moving now?”

“Right you are my friend. Everyone mount up so we can get down the side of this plateau and down into the forest.”

The four men mounted their own gryphons. John had a hawk and panther gryphon, the curly blonde had a cheetah based gryphon, the auburn haired man ahd a lion and eagle gryphon, while the last man had a massive tiger based gryphon to bear his muscular body. Once they were all mounted they urged their gryphons over the stone wall around the castle grounds and began searching for the least treacherous path down the side of the plateau without going near the main road that led away from the castle. They ended up by the edge of the upper part of Queen’s Lake near the top of the waterfall that fell into the lower lake. “We’ll have to make our way down from here.”

“Can’t we just fly down?” The antsy blonde was, well, still antsy. The princess watched the man fidget every few minutes and constantly shift position. He reminded her of some of the village children withhow they had too much energyu to remain still for very long…most adult grew out of that but this one clearly hadn’t done so.

“We could…if we want to risk our gryphons breaking a wing trying to maneuver the dense branches with us on their backs.”

“Which we don’t…so we have to let them climb down this way.”

“Correct. You alright little one?”

“I’m fine…not the first time we’ve come down this way…remember?”

“How could I forget? You shoved me over the edge of the falls.”

“You were being a jerk…you deserved it.”

“I did…but it was still cold that day.”

“You lived.”

The other men all seemed to be amused at hearing about their leader’s childhood with her so she decided that she would share more stories once they were out of the danger zone. “I’ll tell you boys some more embarassing stories later.”

“You will not.”

“I will too…and you can’t stop me…you never could.”

“I’m a lot stronger now little one.”

“I can see that.”

The way her eyes roamed his figure left him feeling like she could see right through him and he heard more than one of his men snort softly in amusement as his face turned red. The princess gave them all a saucy little grin before mounting her gryphon.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten on it so far. Let me know what you think.

Mari Hill

I have written short stories that I’ve worked on or kept in my keep file for up to 2 years. I didn’t know how to write a short story, but kept trying now I don’t think I could write another 300 page novel again if my life depended on it. However, I find my new love (Short Stories) thriller, horror difficult to sell to magazines or enter in competitions…I’m obsessed and won’t stop writing them!!!! Anyone know more about this Kindle Short Story Section?


I’ve been challenged (by a writing instructor) to write a short story of about 500 words or one full page. This seems a bit constraining to me, but I’d welcome any tips.

Morgan’s Fiasco

Our dinky rented room on the edge of Ohio U’s campus was really the basement level of an old frame house built into the side of a hill. Gabe, the rather eccentric old lady who owned the place lived above us in the rest of the house. We had our own entrance, so whatever went on in there was pretty much up to my roommate, Morgan, and me. One evening in the semi darkness of our room, I was trying to study by the dim light of a gooseneck lamp over our ancient second hand desk. George Shearing was issuing forth some soothing sounds on our 45 record player. Suddenly, Morgan, lying across the bottom bed of our double bunks, suddenly broke the silence by blurting out of nowhere, “We can fix that!” My muttered and obviously disinterested response was, “Hunh?” His convoluted answer increased in volume and conviction as he addressed the fact that our ceiling was made up of old, gray, tongue and grove wood slats. It was similar to many old porches built in the 1930’s, and was, indeed, rather ugly for a bedroom. His brilliant inspiration was that we could make up a huge batch of paper mache from strips of torn newspaper soaked in a mix of water and flour, and coat the ceiling it it. When it dried, we could roll on some of that fancy new Kem-Tone paint. “It’d lighten the place up – we’d have a great looking room at almost no cost,” he enthused. Dumb me. I went along with it, little guessing the horrific outcome of our folly. After a day’s hard work, and not getting too much paint or flour mix dripped around the room, it did look pretty good. At least it was brighter. The next night as I lay in my upper bunk trying to get to sleep, I could still smell the freshness of our beautiful new ceiling just a foot or so above my head. Suddenly I heard a funny noise close at hand. “Skritch, scratch, skritch . . .” My eyes popped wide open with the sudden realization of what I was hearing. Rats! There were rats attracted to the flour in our paper mache mix and they were between our ceiling and the floor above trying their best to get at it. I was off that bunk in a bound, pummeling and yelling incoherently at my hapless roommate who had no idea what it was all about. Needless to say, I spent a wakeful night trying to sleep on the floor, keeping one eye open in case of a “break through.” Some rat baits were set out next morning, and no further gnawing was heard for a couple days. But the worst was yet to come. Try to imagine the putrid aroma of one or more dead rats who met their demise in the confined space between the floors of our rooming house. It took weeks for the smell to dissipate, and just about that long for me to forgive Morgan’s creative genius.

Jackie Houchin

I just got an idea – a spin off from my Fall Contest Short Story. But I’m afraid to write it here. I might expel all the “juice” and then not write it all out.

Oh, gosh! You had me quaking and looking over my shoulder. What visuals! What imagination! What suspense and…. horror! Good job. Did you do that all in just 15 minutes??? If so, I have no hope.

Larry McCormack

I can’t seriously take writing advice from a man that hasn’t yet grasped the situational spelling of your.

‘You don’t have to follow your scene list exactly, but they definitely help you work through your story, especially if your writing over multiple sittings.’

Alice Sudlow

Those pesky grammar slip-ups happen to the best of us. It’s fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out!

Colbat Comet

“So they lived happily ever after,” finished Ms. Taslahm. Heather Giron yawned. The one thing that was worse than cleaning the poop of the old brown mare the school owned, a scrawny one that was called Marigold, was listening to Ms. Taslahm’s long, boring tales of this and that that were supposedly supposed to help them during life, like they had for A+ student from more than 100 years ago, Briar Rose, who later became Sleeping Beauty, or wishful Ella, who later became well-known Cinderella. Heather, really, didn’t see anything in her future that may lead her to a wonderful fortune and a story of her own. But that was okay. She didn’t exactly mind. It wasn’t as if she was expecting a wonderful fortune such as someone… Heather cast a side-glance at Savannah Rivers. Savannah Rivers was an annoying, pesky know-it-all of a girl. She had curly black hair and perfectly glossed lips. She had tanner, richer skin than most people in the village, and always wore beautiful, colorful gowns, a obvious contrast to Heather’s dull ones. Today, Savannah’s gown was a pale pink, and it matched her lip gloss and eyeshadow on her heavy lidded gray eyes. Noticing Heather watching her, Savannah smacked her lips and smiled the beautiful princess smile that all the boys fell for. She flashed it at Heather, who returned it with a big, exaggerated motion of someone flipping her hair, a.k.a. Savannah. Sincere Roque leaned over and laughed. Sincere Roque was one of Heather’s’ friends. He had a unique combination of eyes, 1 amber and 1 green. He loved acting. He had honey-colored hair and exactly 14 freckles…not that Heather noticed. Savannah shot them a frown then turned again, listening to Ms. Taslahm as she described the next task they were going to take. “After all, you never know when you’ll get your fortune, or your clue, that with the right knowledge can lead you write to your prince or your damsel in distress.” Kaden Kidd, Sincere’s best friend and ‘Prank Master in Training’ (as Sincere called it), raised his hand. Kaden’s family all had the same dark eyes and black, straight hair. Most of Kaden’s family, though, had pale, white skin, but Kaden had the opposite. He had bronze skin, which he was quite proud of. “Yes, Kaden.” Ms. Taslahm said with a hint of exhaustion in her voice. “Did you ever have a prince, or were you ever ad damsel in distress?” Ms. Taslahm narrowed her eyes. “Yes once…with another girl. The prince swooped in to save us, but he could only take one. He took the other girl, and Wizard Foaly’s henchman, Todd Fincher, had to save me. It was the worst day of my life.” Ms. Taslahm buried her face in her hands. Kaden snickered. “Isn’t that Old Todd from the Village Block. I thought he was Ms. Taslahm’s brother, not husband.” Now Heather had a question. Do you really have to be a damsel in distress to get a prince or a fortune? And do you hafta get a fortune? Can’t we just live like this? While she debated if she should ask the question or not, she stretched on her tree stump. Yes, tree stump. The villages’ school was so small and poor, that they couldn’t afford desks or chairs for everyone, proper lunch, or actual books so the students could read along with the teacher. All this was because of the School Overseer. He was a greedy old man, and whenever the payings came for the teachers and school, he often just took it himself. His office was a dream, and the only reason the teachers stayed teaching was because the loved and felt sorry for the kids. Heather just couldn’t see why. She felt sorry for herself now, and just thinking about it made the boring, fidgety ache come back. And a bit sorry for Ms. Taslahm. But she still tortured Heather everyday and night, and no matter what Ms. Taslahm did or feel was going to change that. Finally, Heather raised her hand, ignoring the snickers coming from Savannah’s side, and the fact that her ripped, tattered sleeve of one of her 5 dresses was growing short. “Yes?” Ms. Taslahm looked more than a bit annoyed. “Do you have to be a damsel in distress to get a prince and a fortune? And what’s so important about a fortune?” Silence settled around the class. Now Ms. Taslahm looked like she was going to go bonkers. “YES! YOU HAVE TO GET A PRINCE TO BE A PRINCESS AND TO GET A FORTUNE, AND YOU HAVE TO BE A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS TO BE A PRINCESS! WHERE HAS YOUR HEAD BEEN THESE LAST TWO YEARS HEATHER GIRON! AND YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T GET A FORTUNE, GIRON! YOU END UP A SLAVE OR A TIRELESS WORKER, GETTING NO MONEY, WITH A LUNATIC OF A HUSBAND. YOU FALL OF THE TREE OF LIFE. YOU BECOME GOD’S LAUGHINGSTOCK! AND THEN YOU DIE!” Ms. Taslahm’s face became red and splotchy. Then, her voice softened. “I really hope you guys learn and listen to everything that I teach…it’ll help, a lot. Now, excuse me for a sec…” After Ms. Taslahm got out of hearing range, Sincere whooped and Kaden patted my back. “Congrats, Heather, you won. You made her blow big-time!” Dimly, Heather remembered the contest the boys and Heather had made. Whoever made their teacher ‘blow’, won. But that was by far the last thing on her mind. Is life really like that. You get a prince, you win, if not, you lose and perish…wow. Heather rubbed her temples as the full force of life slammed into her, and as she did, her strawberry blond hair swooped around her, covering her in what seemed like a safe, copper, veil, away and away from reality and, well, life. Away and away. (Comments, Suggestions?)

Mary M

Life could be hard most of the times and it could be horrible. The worst thing about it though, is that people come and go. Living in the moment, we are all blissfully ignorant to the fact that maybe one day, the person in front of us could be a thousand miles away. We don’t usually think about it. What we usually think about is the future we could have with that one person together. We are hopeful that no matter what happens, we’ll always stay the same. We start building that perfect image of the future and how it would be with that one person beside us, but we always seem to forget that, in fact, people do come and go.

To me, it was great shock when that one person left me. I was very close to her: we were practically sisters. I had known her since we were kids. We grew up together; in fact, I can’t remember what my life was like before her. Both our parents believed that we are inseparable, and they made me believe it. What I didn’t know was the fact that they knew. They knew that one day she could leave me. They knew that in all honesty we weren’t inseparable. Most importantly, they knew that people come and go.

We were in the same middle school. We would go to school together and laugh along the way. She would pull me from my arm and drag to the school ground. Life was merrily moving on and we were mere kids living our lives. The last day of middle school – I remember it clearly- the sun was shining brightly in the sky. It was one of those hot, burning days. We were heading back from school, racing through the tree shades and laughing. Obviously, the excitement of the vacation hyped us up. If only I had paid attention at that time, I would’ve seen that my friend’s steps lacked their usual bounce and her smile lacked the usual sparkle. Thinking back to it again, I realized that her dreadlocks fell dead on her shoulders and gently swayed with the heat-filled wind. Her shoulders were slightly hunched with the weight of the news she had carried.

I was too excited to notice any of those little details, and I should’ve. We pranced all the way to our houses (we lived beside each other). As we were used to, we both ran through my front door as soon as it was opened. On the inside wasn’t what I expected. Mrs. and Mr. Sullivan were in the living room. It wasn’t something out of the ordinary though; they were always over at our house. Their faces, I will never forget the solemn look they had on their faces. Mom ushered me and Nancy into the house hurriedly. We both threw our bags next to the couch. There was tension in the air and I could feel it.

“What’s wrong?” I asked as I sat on an armchair. The adults present all looked at one another sharing worried glances. Nancy walked slowly to her parent’s side and clasped her hands together. She sat at the edge of the couch with her head hung low and feet bouncing fast. She was nervous, I could tell.

“There’s something we need to discuss…” Mom moved her gaze towards Mrs. Sullivan motioning for her to start.

Mrs. Sullivan swallowed nervously and cleared her throat. “We know you and Nancy are such great, close friends,”

“And we know we’ve always dreamt of you two growing together,” Mr. Sullivan continued.

“But there are some times when things don’t always go the way we wanted them to,” my father laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. I looked at him confused then turned to everyone.

“I don’t get where this is going.” My voice was shaky fearing what they could say.

“Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan have gotten a new job opportunity in France-”

“Well, that’s great! They’ve always wanted that!” I interrupted my mother and beamed at the Sullivans.

“Yeah, it is, honey, ” my mom smiled sadly, “but…”

“But what?”

“We’re going to France, Lee.” Nancy spoke for the first time. I was very proud of the Sullivan couple for finally reaching their goals. However, it took me a few seconds to actually comprehend what she had just said. Slowly, the smile was erased from my face.

“No…” One word. Only one word, but it was packed with emotions. Tears burned my eyes. I covered my mouth in shock as my gaze raced from person to another, searching for a sign that this isn’t true. This isn’t happening! But they all watched me with sad faces and guilt.

“No, this can’t be happening. This can’t be happening!” I got up to my feet with thoughts racing through my head. “What about our high school years together? We’ve always wanted to go to high school together! It is an experience that cannot be relived any time! What about the parties and sleepovers we were gonna have? Huh? How are we gonna do that now when we’re thousands of miles apart?”

“It wouldn’t be that bad, you know we can chat over the internet.” She tried saying weakly as the tears ran don her face.

“Chat over the internet? You and me both know that isn’t going to happen! Or have you forgotten about Cassandra?” She took in a sharp breath at Cassey’s mention. “You promised you won’t leave me the same way she has!”

“I don’t have a choice!” She was on her feet by now.

“Sure you do! You can stay here!”

“And leave my parents? Lee, you know I can’t live without them!”

“So that’s it? You’re actually going to leave me?” Both our eyes were bloodshot. The adults just sat there, barely holding their tears.

“I guess that’s it.” A second’s pause passed before we embraced each other. Our sobs were loud as we held onto each other. We slowly slid onto the ground; the adults soon joined us.

That moment I would never forget. The moment my best friend left me behind. It was the moment I realized how hard life could be. You truly never know someone’s value until they’re taken away from you. Even through the heartbreaks and break-ups I’ve went through in high school and college, nothing was worse or more painful than that one moment.

People come and go, that’s the way life is. They always leave an imprint of themselves behind, but their memories last long.

People will always come and will always go, but their memories will last long and strong.

Chase S.

The river was our life, yet it was our death. If it wasn’t for the current, and the water of the river, our crop fields would be nothing more than dry, dusty, useless plains. But the river was a deathtrap, after we would get a great harvest, the river would flood our small town, destroying houses, building, and lots of the crops. Livestock would die, and our villagers would be killed. As the main farmer, I tried to make a wall or a levee on the branch of the river that flows next to my lush crop field, but every time, the river would wash over, breaking the wall and destroying everything, I was determined not to let that happen. On July 2, just three months away from harvest, I got up at 5:00 AM, tired, and sleepy, being up 30 minutes earlier than usual. I’ve thought of moving to Italy or Israel, but even if I sold the crop field I wouldn’t make it, and the citizens here would die without me. I sighed, it was a hard life, but at least my wife and family was with me, well most of them. Last year My son moved to Greece, and my daughter, was killed by the flood. The grief follows me everywhere, my other kid is too young to remember them. I also fought with the guilt of my daughter’s death, if I just tried a little bit harder, got up a little bit earlier, I could have saved her, but I didn’t and now it’s too late. I sat there for a second and wiped a tear from my cheek, for her, I will stop the flood and make sure nobody else must suffer the pain and grief I have, NOBODY. I got up and got dressed. I looked in the mirror, and could barely recognize the man in it. I had calices, and wrinkles, and grey hair. My hair was messed up, my boots dirty, and my clothes ripped and torn, I don’t care how I look anymore, after her death, I quit caring about my looks, I just got up and left. Hygiene wasn’t a number one priority either, I barely brushed my teeth, and took a shower every one or two weeks. I didn’t care much for food either. Every morning I would get up, drink a cup of coffee, eat a slice of bread, and an egg. Then in the afternoon, I would retire to the house, my wife would cook something, then I’d drown my sorrows and burdens in whiskey. But to the current task, I was as determined as ever, and wasn’t going to waste any time. My servant would be tending to the farm all day, while I worked on the river. I grabbed a stale piece of bread, and shoved it in my mouth, barely noticing its terrible taste and its staleness. I skipped having a coffee or anything else. I went outside, the sun wasn’t up yet, but there was a faint red line the west, signaling that it was coming soon. I mounted my horse, and rode to the supply store. Once in town, I stopped at the store and bought tons of bricks, I paid for it, and left, determined to waste no time. By the time, I got back to the farm, the sun was up, and it was around 6:30. I had already wasted too much time. I went to the river and started putting the bricks together. I left a hole in the bottom, so the farm could still get water. I grew tired and tired, when eventually, after lugging a heavy brick, I fell, and I heard a crack. The pain was fierce, like I was getting stabbed with a million needles at once, and it kept going, the pain was sharp and searing, and it was in my back. I couldn’t move, I tried calling for help, but my mouth wouldn’t cooperate, I started seeing stars, and eventually, everything went black, and my head fell down hard, hurting more.


I asked the servant if he’d seen him, and he said, “I reckon I haven’t, seems a bit suspicious to me. Tell me if you have, he still owes me some money.” He started chuckling, but when he saw my solemn face, he quieted and got a somber look, “I hope you find him, good day ma’am.” He tipped his hat and kept milking a cow. I don’t know what to think, but eventually, I saw some bricks, then I saw a huge rock laying by it. When I realized, it wasn’t a rock, it was my husband! I nearly fainted, and choked back a sob, the pain of my daughter’s death became all too real again. I looked at him, he was breathing, but he wasn’t moving at all, his eyes were closed, he looked as if he was in another dimension and he looked like he was falling away, I gagged, and chocked back another sob. I ran up the hill and called for the servant to get the medic, and told him the situation, he complied, and I rushed back to my husband.

Everything was black, I was completely numb, and all feeling and heat went right out of my body, everything was cold, and I began to shiver inside my skin, then the memories came… I just exited the barn when I heard the screaming, it was oddly familiar, and I felt like I should know, the voice was tugging at me, when I remembered with a sickening nature, it was my daughter! I tried to run to her, at least my brain did, but my body wouldn’t comply. I was stuck there, helpless and my daughter screaming. What’s happening? I began to move when I heard the familiar gushing, the sound of the waves, and the river, it was flood season! Oh, no, my daughter, she must be there! I started sprinting, when I was stopped short. The gushing got louder, and louder, then BAM! The river exploded with an ear-cracking sound, like it did every year, except this year was different, the river noises were mixed with the screaming of my daughter, and I tried to run, but I was engulfed in water. I swam with all my might against the strong current to get to my daughter, but I couldn’t, I tried for a little bit, then, became tired, and couldn’t do anything, I had to use all my strength just to stay above water so I wouldn’t drown. I hoped that maybe the current would push my daughter to me, but I abandoned it when my daughter was pulled deep into the gushing, overflowing, imploding river, I then realized that this would be the end if I didn’t do something, so I swam as hard as I could, but after I moved a few feet, my arms burned, my legs roared with pain, and my body screamed for me to stop, but my brain told me to move forward, but I couldn’t, not one bit, my body shut down, and I couldn’t move, I sank to the bottom, and abdicated all hope of being able to rescue my daughter, Don’t worry, they’re going to find her, I just know it! The optimistic part of my brain said. But the rational part of my brain knew it wasn’t possible, and soon the rest of my mind agreed, and I felt defeated, like someone had come and took a huge chunk right out of my body and left it there. And I began to hope they wouldn’t save me either, so I could be with my daughter and live in eternal peace, then I could apologize that I wasn’t man enough to save her. I was at the bottom of the water, and I felt like paper, with no soul in me, and the water moved me, until I passed out.

The memories kept coming, one of my daughters funeral, one when my son left, one when me and my wife got married, and I let them come, until the second part of the daughter catastrophe came, then I began to fight, I didn’t want to see another atrocity, I wouldn’t let it happen, but the memory flood in anyways and I gave up.

I woke up, the water was gone, and the river was flowing like normal, I was accompanied by many medics, when one of them yelled, “He’s awake!” and they cheered, I would be cheering too, if I wasn’t the one about to die, almost nobody survived the flood, even if we recovered them, we could not get them to live, and some people would wake up, but die in the hospital. “We need to get him to the hospital immediately!” A medic with a white jacket and a red cross yelled, whom I assumed was the head medic. “No!” I yelled, and coughed up seawater, “My, daughter,” I got out and then the pain attacked me again. The doctor got a solemn look, and it looked like my wife choked back a sob, “I’m sorry to inform you of this, but we recovered your daughter and brought her back to life, but she was paralyzed, and soon died from a stroke.” I tried to be tough, but it wouldn’t happen, and began to sob, the doctor patted me on my back, and said, “I’m terribly sorry, but we are going to take you to the hospital, and our flood prevention donors are going to pay for her wedding and your medical bills.” I wanted to resist, I wanted to stop them from taking me to the hospital, I wanted to do something, anything, but it wouldn’t happen, and I let them take me, with the pain attacking me, fiercely, and I felt like I was imploding, I sighed, and fell asleep.

I woke up, finally away from the terrible memories, I attempted to sit up, but pain seared through me, and the pain engulfed me. I choked back a sob, the memories making the pain all too real again. I attempted to sit up again, when I realized I wasn’t where I was when I fell. I was in a hospital, the same one I was in when my daughter died, my first thought was that this was another memory, but I thought better of it when more pain seared through me. Then, I couldn’t move my right arm, or my left leg, and most of my body wasn’t responding, and it and the pain were threatening to engulf me. I tried to sit up, but all that happened was another searing pain, I cried out in agony. Then, the doctors came rushing to me. “I can’t move.” I managed to get out through gritted teeth, just with that little amount of talking, I felt tired, and more pain came. The doctor looked though some papers, then examined, me, and looked at a device, “Oh, dear.” He said, which made me feel a big scared. “What happened?” I managed again, the doctor looked at me, sighed, then talked, “When you were lugging that brick you fell, assuming because you were tired, and you landed on your arm wrong, which broke it, but when you fell, the brick fell on your back, breaking it, and,” he took a deep breath, then said, “making you paralyzed.” He left with a solemn look as I let that sink in, he had to be wrong, I tried to move, but couldn’t and tried to remain calm, but screamed inside my brain, fear, and pain attacked me, and me not being able to take it. I laid there, not knowing what to do or think, I was paralyzed, I’ll never be able to prevent the floods. I felt defeated, I surrendered, abdicating my chances of stopping the flood, and inside my mind, I was dying, I couldn’t take it, and pain seared through my body. Then, with a start, I awoke, and got ready to get to work.

Kathie Berry

Hi Everyone, Just getting started here and it looks like a wonderful spot to become a better writer. I like the forum setting also to exchange ideas and get input from others. Speaking of input, I have had a certain novel that I have wanted to write for a long time. I have a site and am starting to make a home for it and other works but it’s a sweeping storyline spanning years.I see my first lesson is to write a short story instead. I am not sure that I can pare this one down to a story in that amout of words and time.

So I would love some advice. Should I choose a subject from the list that was given to me or do a “partial ” story choosing a specific time frame, happening, or incident that could have a beginning and end derived from the book I want to write later? Thank you for any ideas and/or advice! Kathie

Elmer Homero Reyes Castillo

Gabriel García Marquez has a short story, “monologue of Isabel watching rain in Macondo”, which was originally part of a novel (like a chapter or something) but he decided he wasnt gonna use it, even tho he had already written it. So I’m guessing he wrote each chapter like a new short story, almost. His style is kinda difficult to copy, so maybe thats not a good example. Perhaps it doesnt really matter what you write, as long as you write it. Looking forward to reading some of your stuff, short or long 😀

Hannah Foust

This is my 15 minute writing practice. Usually, I do a lot more detail and something along the lines of romance, but for some reason I had a small idea of it having to do with a robotic girl and I just expanded onto it as I went along. I hope you like it! I’d like to know your thoughts on it too, what I did good and what I need to work on. If you have any interest in contacting me, just let me know. Thanks!

“When she was little, she never touched a Barbie doll like the other girls. She never thought about makeup. She was different. She read constantly. She learned to write stories at the age of 7. She could calculate the answers to basic Algebraic equations when she was 9. She didn’t just want to learn, it was as if she needed to learn. So that’s why I wasn’t surprised when the doctors told me she did.

Whenever I’d go over to her house and visit her, she’d be listening to music with her earbuds in while she did something like a puzzle on the floor. She’d never hear me walk in. But as soon as I asked her, say, maybe a mathematical question, all focus was on me and she’d be determined on getting the correct answer. She was strange. I never understood her ways or why she was the way she was, but I accepted it. I accepted her. I didn’t realize I’d be accepting an it.

I got the call on Wednesday morning around 3 A.M.. It was an officer from the police department. I was confused and scared. What could possibly be wrong? A million things. A million things could be wrong. I asked every question I could think of or manage to get out of my mouth, but all I could get for an answer from whoever it was on the other line was: “Come down here and see for yourself.” So I went down there to the police station. When I arrived I was wondering why we weren’t somewhere such as a hospital already. As I walked in, I knew why. For Lilith, we don’t need a hospital, we need a mechanic.

Lilith was sitting in a chair while uncertain medics, police officers, mechanics, and many others were surrounding her. At a distance her father was holding her mother in her arms as she cried, I’d expect him to, but he wasn’t. He was just staring at his daughter, a blank expression across his face. I ran over to them, only a few of the million questions I had, spilling out of my mouth. I couldn’t get a response from either.

I turned and barged into the crowd of people surrounding Lilith. “Lilith!” I screamed. No response from her, no movement, no words spoken, nothing. It’s as if there was a switch on her and it was turned off. I pushed through the crowds and they obliged, allowing me near her until I was on my knees crying as the wires that were strewn out of her knees lay twisted and coiled on the floor around me. What happened to her? What happened to my best friend?

To answer that question for you, the government persuaded her father that it was the right thing to do. That it’d be alright. That’d it’d be safe, for them to experiment on his daughter. They had a theory that if they somehow rearranged body parts and substituted wires and motors and such for things like organs and tissues, later in life the average human would be invincible. They’d be capable of learning anything. They’d be capable of learning everything. But Lilith, she learned everything already by the age of 19. What else was there for her to do? Her life goal was to do such and she’d done it. Her body was shutting down. She needed to know more, her robotic body needed it. Her mechanical mind needed stimulated by something.

Although she was mostly robotic, she was also partially human. She had one of the most humane things, emotion. And she was suffering as she grew weaker everyday. Literally dying to know more. As the robotic part of her began to give up, so did the human part. She gave up. She didn’t want to be just an experiment, and she definitely didn’t want to give any result to the scientists who thought this would be alright, that it was successful. So she let them know that it failed as she slashed through the wires and circuits inside her, turning off all parts of her, both motorized and mortal.”

Gordon Jeffery

I am currently working on a collection of short stories. It is in the beginning stages but the process is by far the most enjoyable part. I have about two thousand words completed so far. I roughly have spent about 5 hrs. The tips in this site have given me a clear path to creating a great story.I just want it to be able to relate to the reader grammatically. That’s my main concern but doing research is part of the journey.


Amazing tips. I have written a mystery novella with twist in the end. When I started it I intended it to be a short story but it got stretched to 46 pages of length. It’s available on my blog. You may check it and feedback will be highly appreciated http://neuriverse.blogspot.in/

Larry Bone

Sarah, The most challenging part of writing a short story is having an idea from personal experience. Having a general idea of it as a slice of life. But what is the theme? You get a sort of theme in what you want the story to communicate. You write bits and pieces but the biggest challenge is making all fit together. Particularly you want a series of actions and you want the reader to think of the theme naturally occurring out of accumulated flow of the story. Larry B.


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  1. How To Write A Short Story For Kids

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    write a short story called a lesson in life

  3. How to write a short story: free tutorial the write practice

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    write a short story called a lesson in life


  1. Short Stories


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  1. 7 Engaging Short Stories for Teaching Life Lessons

    5. "Thank You, Ma'am" by Langston Hughes. "Thank You, Ma'am" is a widely accessible short story with a powerful life lesson about compassion, second chances, and believing the best in others. If that's not a lesson anyone could benefit from, I don't know what is!

  2. A Short Story That Teaches A Lesson: The Power Of ...

    Shirley Jackson's chilling short story explores the dark side of human nature and the dangers of mindlessly adhering to societal norms. Set in a small, seemingly idyllic village, 'The Lottery' centers around an annual ritual where one person is selected to be stoned to death by the other villagers.

  3. 8 Standout Short Stories With Moral Lessons

    2. "The Cactus" by O. Henry. One of my favorite things about this short story by O. Henry is its clever twist ending! Many short stories with moral lessons have similar twist endings, which could be why they make such great additions to thematic units!. O. Henry's "The Cactus" tells the story of a budding romance. A young man tries to charm a young woman, but his boastful nature ...

  4. 24 Moral Stories: Short Narratives That Teach Life Lessons ...

    13 Short Stories With Lessons for Adults Many of the following stories are also good for children, but the writing level and content make them suitable for adults. 1.

  5. Didactic Stories: Short Stories that Teach a Lesson or Have a Moral

    Short Stories that Teach a Lesson. "The Treasure of Lemon Brown" by Walter Dean Myers. Greg Ridley is a fourteen-year-old student in danger of failing math. His father tells him he can't play basketball anymore. While out walking one night, Greg takes refuge in an abandoned tenement building. He finds a local homeless man there, Lemon Brown.

  6. Unveiling Life's Lessons: 10 Captivating Short Story Examples

    A renowned example of a short story is Anton Chekhov's "Gooseberries" from 1898. Other notable examples include Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants.". These bite-sized tales allow authors to explore various themes, characters, and settings in a compact and impactful manner.

  7. 7 Short Moral Stories that Changed My Life

    The young man replied, "Air.". Socrates said, " That is the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you wanted the air while you were in the water, then you will get it. There ...

  8. Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers

    Create a Dramatic Question. The first thing a student needs to do when writing a short story is to create a dramatic question. Without a dramatic question, readers will have no motivation to read on as there will be no story.. This dramatic question can take many forms, but as it will be the driver of the plot, it will be the single most important element of the story.

  9. 6 Awesome Zen Stories That Will Teach You Important Life Lessons

    It's not about letting go, it's really about not grasping in the first place. If we can learn to live in this way, we can find peace in everyday life. 2. Empty your cup. Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea.

  10. 13 Surprising Life Lessons You'll Learn From Writing 31 [Short] Stories

    Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash *Bonus Story #14: "The To-Do List" Hide CD player, radio, and all of Emmy's sobby romantic CDs before she wakes up; Feed Herbert; Go shopping: a) restock on frozen mice for Herbert b) gallon tub of strawberry-chip ice cream c) dark chocolate brownie mix d) M&Ms e) laxatives f) canned tuna g) random formal dress from discount racks h) rent Emmy's favorite ...

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    Read interesting short stories on life lessons that'll inspire you to make positive changes in your journey of life. Explore encouraging life stories that'll open up your mind and help you overcome life's obstacles. ... Another is stored in google.com and is called ANID. SEARCH_SAMESITE: Google ads: This cookie is used to prevent the ...

  12. Top 100 Short Story Ideas

    The Lure of A New Story - Comma Grounds - […] But before you go, check out this list of Top 100 Short Story Ideas! […] How to Develop Story Ideas Into Amazing Stories - Books, Literature & Writing - […] love hearing the different ways writers develop story ideas into full length projects.

  13. Short Stories about Life: 21 Inspirational Short Stories about Life

    1. The Secret to Success. Once a young man asked the wise man, Socrates, the secret to success. Socrates patiently listened to the man's question and told him to meet him near the river the following day for the answer. So the next day, Socrates asked the young man to walk with him towards the river. As they went in the river, the water got ...

  14. Short Story Lesson Plans

    Short stories can provide diverse and fun lessons. With those lessons, you can pack in mentor sentences, student choice, writing lessons, and more. Read how two teachers balance it all. Melissa's Approach. Use short stories to meet standards and teach literary devices. As an instructional coach, Melissa models reading skills for her students ...

  15. Short Story

    A short story is a work of fiction that is between 1,000 and 10,000 words. There is generally an introduction, a thickening of the plot (or the build-up), the climax, and the resolution. This is ...

  16. How to Write your Life Story: 7 Tips to Start

    1. Decide whether you'll write non-fiction or fictionalize. There are many ways to approach life writing. You could follow a non-fiction approach and set down dates, facts and memories as close to events as they occurred as possible. Another option is to fictionalize and blur the line between fact and fiction.

  17. Telling Short, Memorable Stories From Your Life: 'My Secret Pepsi Plot

    Somehow, his family ends up with 24 Pepsi-Colas in their refrigerator. The story of what happens next is Mr. Fishman's short, powerful story: Around this time I learned that American ...

  18. Strategies for Teaching Short Stories

    Writing/Creative Activities. Adaptations : A useful way to get students to think about genre specifics is to ask them to adapt a short story into a short play. Divide them into groups and assign them either a short section of the work or the entire thing itself (if you think they're up to it).

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

    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.

  20. How to Write a Short Story: 6 Steps & Examples

    The objective of this step is to jot down ideas, not to build a complete story. 5. Take a break and revise with a fresh eye. After developing the first draft of your short story, it's time to rejoice, relax, and celebrate. It is essential to keep your work aside for a bit before getting back to it.

  21. Creative Writing Lessons from 5 Short Stories

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  22. Lesson Plan on Writing Short Stories (High School)

    Making a short story lesson plan doesn't have to be a tedious task. Find two ready-made lesson plans for analyzing or writing a short story here!