How To Make A Short Story Longer: Techniques For Expanding Your Fictional Universe

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You’ve crafted a short story that’s bursting with potential, but it falls short of the word count you need. Luckily, there are techniques you can use to expand your universe and elevate your story to new heights.

By adding subplots, exploring new settings, introducing new characters, developing character arcs, and using symbolism and imagery, you can take your short story from a mere snippet to a fully fleshed-out masterpiece.

As a quick example, adding a subplot can add depth to your story and provide extra content for your readers to sink their teeth into. Maybe there’s a secondary character who has their own journey that intersects with the main plot, or perhaps there’s a hidden conflict that needs to be resolved alongside the main conflict. Whatever it may be, a subplot can give your story more layers and make it feel more complete.

So, let’s dive into some techniques in much more detail for expanding your universe and making your short story longer.

Key Takeaways

  • Adding subplots can provide extra content for readers and deepen relationships between characters.
  • Exploring new settings can transport readers to a world they’ve never explored before and enhance the plot of the short story.
  • Introducing new characters adds depth and complexity to the narrative, bringing fresh perspectives and conflicts to the storyline.
  • Developing character arcs adds emotional resonance and captivates readers, enhancing character growth through backstory, relationships, and personal development.

Add Subplots

Don’t be afraid to throw in some extra storylines to keep things interesting and make your readers feel more invested in the world you’ve created. One way to do this is by adding subplots.

These can be smaller storylines that run parallel to the main plot, or they can be completely separate storylines that intersect with the main plot at key moments. Adding conflict is a great way to create subplots. By introducing new problems for your characters to solve, you can create more tension and keep your readers engaged.

This can also help deepen relationships between characters, as they work together to overcome these new obstacles. For example, you could introduce a love triangle or a rivalry between two characters. These conflicts can create new storylines that add depth and complexity to your narrative, and keep your readers on the edge of their seats.

So don’t be afraid to add subplots to your story – they can make all the difference in taking your short story from good to great.

adding extra storylines to keep the short story more interesting
Adding extra storylines to keep the short story more interesting

Explore New Settings

Immerse yourself in uncharted territories, transporting your readers to a world they’ve never explored before. World building strategies are crucial in expanding your fictional universe.

You can create descriptive environments that’ll capture your reader’s imagination. Think of different locations that’ll add depth and complexity to your story.

Creating new settings can also enhance the plot of your short story. You can introduce new characters and conflicts that’ll add more excitement to the narrative.

For instance, if your story is set in a small town, you can explore the surrounding areas like the countryside or the nearby city. By doing so, you can create a richer and more diverse universe that your readers will love.

Remember, variety is the spice of life, and your short story can benefit from exploring new settings.

Introduce New Characters

Introducing new characters can add depth and complexity to the narrative, bringing fresh perspectives and conflicts to the storyline. This technique can also help develop character dynamics and create plot twists that keep your audience engaged.

Here are some ways to effectively introduce new characters into your short story:

  • Introduce a foil character who contrasts with the main character, highlighting their flaws and strengths.
  • Bring in a mentor character who can guide the main character through their struggles and help them grow.
  • Introduce a love interest who can bring romance and tension to the storyline.
  • Bring in a villain character who creates conflict and challenges for the main character to overcome.

By introducing new characters, you can expand the fictional universe of your short story and add more layers to the plot. Using these techniques creates character dynamics that can lead to unforeseen plot twists, keeping your audience engaged and invested in the story.

Develop Character Arcs

As characters undergo changes and growth throughout the story, their character arcs can add a layer of depth and emotional resonance that captivates readers and keeps them invested until the very end.

To develop character arcs, it’s important to create a backstory that explains their motivations, fears, and desires. This can be done through flashbacks, memories, or dialogue that reveals their past experiences. By understanding a character’s backstory, readers can empathize with them and root for their success.

In addition to backstory, building relationships can also enhance character arcs. By introducing new characters or expanding on existing relationships, characters can be pushed out of their comfort zones and forced to confront their flaws. This can lead to emotional growth and development, as well as new plot twists and conflicts.

By putting characters through the wringer and forcing them to change, readers will be hooked until the very end.

developing backstory for the characters of the short story
Developing backstory for the characters of the short story

Use Symbolism and Imagery

You can deepen the emotional impact of your story by using symbolism and imagery to convey deeper meaning and connect with readers on a subconscious level. Metaphors and allegories can be used to communicate abstract concepts and emotions, making them more relatable to readers.

For example, a character’s journey can be compared to a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs, twists and turns. This not only helps readers visualize the character’s experience but also adds a layer of depth to the story.

Sensory descriptions and emotions are also important when using symbolism and imagery. By describing the setting, characters, and events in vivid detail, you can create a more immersive experience for readers.

For instance, the sound of rain tapping against the window can evoke feelings of melancholy, while the scent of freshly baked cookies can elicit a sense of comfort and nostalgia. These sensory details, when used in conjunction with symbolism and imagery, can create a more profound emotional impact on readers, making your story more memorable and engaging.


Adding subplots, exploring new settings, introducing new characters, developing character arcs, and using symbolism and imagery are all powerful ways to expand your story and captivate your audience.

By doing so, you not only increase the length of your story, but you also create a more engaging and memorable experience for your readers.

And remember, the more engaging your story is, the higher your chances of getting published, if that is your goal.

So, go ahead and put these techniques to use. Take your short story to the next level by expanding your fictional universe and creating a world that your readers won’t ever want to leave.

With a little creativity and perseverance, you too can join the ranks of the published authors. Keep writing and never give up on your dreams!

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.