Plot: The Structure of a Great Short Story

Plot is the structure you need to build your short story!

In 1929 the first Academy Awards occurred, Motorola made the first car radio, and Agnes Reeves wrote Twelve Cardinal Elements of Short Story Writing. In an effort to clean out my book collection I discovered said book… collecting dust on my shelf. What surprised me as I skimmed the pages of Twelve Cardinal Elements of Short Story Writing was how relevant the advice remains 90 years later.

Agnes pours out her knowledge, like hot apple cider on a bitter winter day. Thanks grandma! She teaches that plot supports all the other elements of your writing: setting, atmosphere, dialogue, and character development. All the nice things you want in your building can’t be supported unless there is a sturdy under-girding…that’s the plot.

3 Advantages of Premeditated Plot

You’ll Tell a Better Story

When you plan your plot before writing you’ll be able to find flaws in your storytelling and fix them. You may be wondering, “How do I know if my plot needs fixing?” One test is to remove a scene from your plot and see if the story still makes sense. If the scene isn’t necessary for the plot, cut the scene. Every incident should be building towards the climax of the story.

If this tactic seems ruthless ask your self if you are writing an action/adventure story or if you are writing about characters. If your story is action driven a tight plot is more important than a story focused on character development. If you are writing action/adventure delete the unnecessary scene.

If you want to develop characters leave the superfluous scene, but only if character growth is achieved.

You Won’t Waste Time

Some writers sit down and start writing without any plot in mind. They peck away at the typewriter without any goal in mind. It may work for some people, but this method could waste a lot of your time.

The downside to this approach is getting stuck in the story and not having a valid way to continue the story. If you plot out your story you can find the dead end before you invest your time developing characters, setting, and dialogue that has nowhere to land.

Peace of Mind

When you’ve mastered the plot of your story you can write with clarity and assurance. Now you know where the story resolves and can focus on adding wonderful details, dialogue, and characters that will make your story great.

Have Fun Writing Friends!

Take some time and work on a great plot, then you can get busy writing a wonderful short story.


9 thoughts on “Plot: The Structure of a Great Short Story

  1. One thing I’ve always done is start with the ending of the story, and then figure out how to get there in my head before I ever even start writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I think for the new writer planning the plot would be necessary. If you’ve written a dozen novels, sure, wing it and see what happens. The structure is probably hardwired in your DNA by then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always used to think that if I just started that story, just started it, the plot will flow! AS IF! It’s so true that once you have the plot clearly outlined in your mind, it gives you a clear mild with which to form your characters and scenes. Without that, the writer sort of just drifts aimlessly. Nothing makes sense no matter how many pages you have written. Having a clear mind about where you want the story to go, EVEN IF you don’t yet know what the ending would be is a great idea to avoid wasting time, as you said. GREAT POST! And I am definitely going to check that book out, if I can find it. 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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