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Exploring the short story

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Exploring the short story. Why do people tell stories? Hint: The words below may help…. Why we tell stories. Ernest Hemingway’s greatest story…. Ernest Hemingway is thought to be one of the greatest American writers of all time. His clear, plain writing style has been hugely influential.

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Why do people tell stories?

Hint: The words below may help…

Why we tell stories


Ernest Hemingway’s greatest story…

Ernest Hemingway is thought to be one of the greatest American writers of all time. His clear, plain writing style has been hugely influential.

In his lifetime, Hemingway published seven novels, six short story collections and two non-fiction works but claimed his best story consisted of just six words…


1. Is this a story? Why? Why not?

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

2. Does this ‘story’ have a beginning, middle and end? Identify and describe these parts.

3. How does punctuation work in this piece of writing? Think about the kind of impact and effect it has.


Your turn…

For sale:




Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories

The writer Kurt Vonnegut was fascinated by the shapes of stories. He liked to look for patterns and similarities within the structures of stories. For instance, he noticed that the New Testament of the Bible was similar, in terms of structure, to Cinderella.


Do you recognise these story shapes? Can you think of any other stories that fit these patterns?


Good fortune




Bad fortune


How to write a short story: Kurt Vonnegut’s eight tips

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.

Start as close to the end as possible.

Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


Time to plan!

  • Bullet points
  • Can help you
  • Plan your main points

Story Boards

Story boards are often used when planning a film.

They can be really useful when planning a story because they can help you visualise the characters and what is happening to them, which in turn can help you create vivid and exciting descriptions.


Bullet points?

  • Bullet points can be really useful.
  • They make you be concise with you ideas
  • They help you see what is the best order for your ideas
  • It is a really clear way to plan, which will definitely make sense to you when you come back to look at it next time!

Your turn…

Look at the shape of the structure of a story you know – the one you’ve just plotted.

Using this structure or shape, devise the basic plotline of a story of your own choosing. If you’re stuck for a hero or heroine, use yourself!

Present your plot summary in bullet points, or as a plot shape, or as a storyboard.