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While you should still follow a story arc, it doesn’t mean your scenes are fast-paced.It just means there are fewer scenes that get you to the destination, and that gives you the chance to really hone your skills when it comes to dialogue, description, setting, and pace.So if your story is about a traffic accident that involves two couples in two cars and a police officer, your protagonist will be the single person who moves the narrative along.
One thing I’ve noticed in my writing is that when I write long-form fiction, I get focused on reaching the destination and making sure each scene is going to take me there.
But when doing that, it’s easy to forget about the scene itself.
Writing a successful short story – which I’ll define as executing a captivating, engaging narrative arc in roughly 3,000 to 5,000 words – is a great way to hone your skills in narrative structure, character development, and setting, all rendered in elegant prose. So sit down and, in one sitting, write out the story.
Don’t worry if it sounds terrible or meandering – this is only your first draft. One rule of short stories is that there’s generally only space for a single protagonist within the piece.
Taking the time to chart your course before diving into the short story allows every word to be written with purpose. Learning and commanding the craft is absolutely critical. The question is, will you chart your course and tell your story?
Doing so doesn't mean that you lock yourself into a certain structure or format that will dictate your stories until the end of time, but instead grants you a compass, sextant, and map that will help you find your way to where you and your story need to be. It's important work that needs to continue, and I hope this advice is helpful.
Alicia Rades is a professional blogger and USA Today bestselling fiction author who holds a bachelor's degree in communications.
Learn more about her writing services at aliciarades.com, or explore her books at
Sometimes, in the midst of a scene or character interaction, we're struck by inspiration.
If you found your theme in the process of writing, or realized that your narrative needs to hit certain beats to reach its complete arc, begin editing and revising the piece down from what might be a cumbersome starting point to a complete, powerful and (most importantly) intentional story. Your first and best resource is a writing community that is comprised of fellow writers that you trust to offer honest yet encouraging feedback.