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ENG 125 - Creative Writing: Short Fiction

This course is designed to provide students with the opportunity to practice the art of creative writing.

John Barth: Art of the Short Story

A Short Fiction Defined

Definition:  An invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot.

Length:  There is no set length for a short story, and the word count can vary greatly, ranging anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 words. In flash fiction, stories are even shorter, ranging from as few as 100 words up to 2,000 words.


  • Structure - Short stories don't allow for a a great deal of back story, and the conflict or problem should be evident very early in the story.
  • Character -- There shouldn't be more than 2-3 main characters to avoid confusing the reader, and at least one of the characters should undergo a change by the end of the story.
  • Dialogue -- Should sound like real speech and should always move the action forward.
  • Setting -- Should help highlight the characters and the conflict.
  • Point of View -- Point of view is who is telling the story, and there are four main types: first-person, second-person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these types.
  • Tone & Style -- Tone is the mood or atmosphere of the story, and style is the way the author writes.

The main difference between longer fiction and the short story is every word has to count and move the story forward. There simply isn't room for "fluff" or filler.

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