5 Steps To Analyze A Short Story Like A Pro

Published on:
Whenyouwrite is reader supported. When you purchase through referral links on our site, we may earn a commission... Learn more
An image of a person holding a magnifying glass, examining a small book with a pencil and notebook nearby

Are you tired of reading short stories without truly understanding their deeper meanings? Do you want to impress your English teacher or book club with your insightful analysis skills? Look no further, because in this article, we will guide you through the 5 steps to analyze a short story like a pro.

Firstly, we will teach you how to read a short story carefully, picking up on important details that may seem insignificant at first glance.

Then, we will show you how to analyze the characters, examining their motivations and personalities to understand their role in the story.

Next, we will delve into the setting of the story, understanding how it contributes to the overall message.

We will then identify themes and symbols, discovering the deeper meanings beyond the surface level plot.

Finally, we will evaluate the author’s craft, analyzing the writing techniques used to create a powerful narrative.

With these 5 steps, you will be able to impress anyone with your insightful analysis skills and gain a deeper appreciation for the art of short story writing.

Key Takeaways

  • Reading carefully is crucial to identifying important details and literary devices.
  • Analyzing characters’ motivations and relationships can provide insight into the plot and themes.
  • Examining the setting can provide historical context and symbolic significance.
  • Understanding the author’s craft, including techniques and style, is essential for gaining a deeper appreciation of the story’s message.

Read the Story Carefully

You’ve gotta slow down and really soak in every word of the story if you want to truly experience it. Don’t rush through it or you’ll miss out on all the emotions and details that make it amazing.

Pay attention to the characters, the setting, the plot, and the themes. Take notes if you need to, jotting down any questions or observations that come to mind.

Reading a short story carefully means not only paying attention to what happens, but also to how it happens. Look for the author’s use of literary devices like symbolism, metaphor, and foreshadowing.

Consider how the characters develop over the course of the story, and what their actions reveal about them. Take note of the setting and how it contributes to the overall mood and tone of the story.

By reading carefully and taking notes, you’ll be able to analyze the story like a pro and uncover its deeper meanings and messages.

Analyze the Characters

It’s important to take a closer look at the characters in the story and really get to know them. This is because character development is a crucial aspect of any good short story. As you read through the story, pay attention to the characters’ motivations and how they drive the plot forward.

Ask yourself what makes each character tick and what their ultimate goals are. To dive deeper into the characters, consider the following nested bullet point list:

  • Look for clues about their past experiences and how they shape their current actions
  • Analyze their relationships with other characters and the dynamics at play
  • Identify any conflicts or obstacles that arise and how each character responds to them
analyzing the characters in a short story
Analyzing the characters in a short story

By analyzing the characters in this way, you can gain a deeper understanding of the story as a whole. It also allows you to see how the characters’ actions, motivations, and relationships drive the plot forward.

So, take the time to really get to know the characters and you’ll be able to appreciate the story on a whole new level.

Examine the Setting

Exploring the setting of a short story can transport you to a different time and place, creating a more immersive reading experience. The setting of a story includes the physical location, time period, and social environment in which the characters exist. It can be a powerful tool for the author to convey the tone and mood of the story, as well as to provide symbolic significance and historical context.

The setting can have symbolic significance that adds depth and meaning to the story. For example, a story set in a dilapidated, run-down house may symbolize the decay of the characters’ relationships or their own personal struggles. Similarly, a story set in a pristine, idyllic landscape may represent the characters’ desire for a simpler, more perfect life.

Additionally, the historical context of the setting can provide insight into the characters’ motivations and actions. For example, a story set during the Great Depression may explore themes of poverty and survival, while a story set during the Civil Rights Movement may delve into issues of race and discrimination.

By examining the setting, you can gain a deeper understanding of the story and its themes.

Identify Themes and Symbols

As you dive deeper into the short story, you’ll begin to recognize symbols and themes that may represent deeper meanings and messages, drawing you into the allegory of the author’s imagination.

Symbolic representation is one of the key elements of a short story that portrays the author’s message in a subtle way. Symbols may represent a range of things like emotions, concepts, or objects, and can be used to develop a deeper and more meaningful connection between the reader and the story.

Thematic motifs, on the other hand, represent the central ideas or concepts that the author seeks to convey in the story. These themes can be explored through the characters, plot, and setting of the story, and can provide a deeper insight into the author’s perspective.

Identifying the themes and symbols in a short story can help you better understand the story’s meaning, and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the author’s message.

Evaluate the Author’s Craft

By delving into the intricacies of the author’s writing style, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the craft behind the story and the message it conveys.

To evaluate the author’s craft, one must analyze the techniques used and the writing style employed by the author. This will help readers understand how the author creates a compelling story and how they use their writing style to convey the message.

Techniques used by the author can include the use of foreshadowing, symbolism, and imagery. By analyzing these techniques, readers can understand how the author creates a sense of tension and drama in the story.

The writing style of the author can also be evaluated to understand how the author uses language and structure to convey the message. This can include analyzing the use of dialogue, the pacing of the story, and the use of literary devices such as metaphors and similes.

By evaluating the author’s craft, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the short story and appreciate the skill and artistry behind it.

Evaluating the author’s craft is an essential step in analyzing a short story. By understanding the techniques used and the writing style employed, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the story and the message it conveys. By analyzing the craft of the author, readers can gain insight into how the story was created and the skill and artistry behind it.

Here are some tips on how to analyze a short story


By following the five steps outlined in this article, you were able to delve deep into the characters, setting, themes, symbols, and author’s craft to gain a comprehensive understanding of the story.

As you close your book and reflect on your analysis, imagine yourself standing on a mountaintop, gazing out at a breathtaking landscape. You can see every detail, every nuance, every shade of color.

In the same way, by thoroughly analyzing a short story, you’ve gained a panoramic view of its complexities and hidden meanings.

With this newfound skill, you can approach any short story with confidence, knowing that you have the tools to unlock its secrets.

Photo of author


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.