Why Are Short Stories So Hard To Write? Understanding The Challenges

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Do you ever find yourself struggling to write a short story? You’re not alone. Many writers find the short story form to be one of the most challenging to master.

But why is that? What makes writing a short story so difficult?

In this article, we’ll explore the unique demands of the short story form, from developing strong characters in a limited space to building a cohesive plot and editing for maximum impact.

By understanding these challenges, you’ll be better equipped to tackle your next short story with confidence and creativity.

Key Takeaways

  • Short stories demand a unique set of skills and challenges due to the balance of brevity and depth, and every word, sentence, and moment must count.
  • Crafting powerful endings, careful planning and editing for character development, and building a cohesive plot in limited space is essential for creating a satisfying yet not predictable or cliché story.
  • Pacing is crucial, and a strategic approach to character’s actions, dialogue, and backstory is necessary to keep readers engaged while conveying complex emotions and ideas.
  • Every detail must serve a purpose, and conflict should be relatable and authentic to leave a lasting impression on readers within the limited word count.

the Unique Demands of the Short Story Form

Short stories are tough to write because they demand a unique set of skills and challenges. You have to balance brevity with depth, crafting a complete narrative within a limited word count. This means every word counts and must serve a purpose, leaving no room for excess or unnecessary information.

Crafting powerful endings is also a challenge in short story writing. You have to leave an impact on the reader within a limited amount of space. Endings must be satisfying, yet not too predictable or cliché. A successful short story ending should leave the reader thinking and reflecting long after they’ve finished reading.

Balancing brevity and crafting powerful endings are just a few of the challenges that make short story writing so difficult. But with practice and perseverance, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling form of writing.

Developing Strong Characters in a Limited Space

Crafting vibrant characters within a confined space can feel like squeezing a watermelon into a shoebox. The character development challenges that come with writing a short story are immense, especially when you only have a limited word count to work with.

In a novel, you have the luxury of time to flesh out your characters, but in a short story, you have to work with what you have and make every word count. One of the biggest challenges of character development in a short story is creating a character that feels real and layered within a limited space.

trying to write a good character development in a short story
Trying to write a good character development in a short story

You have to be strategic with your character’s actions, dialogue, and backstory, and make sure that every detail you include serves a purpose in the story. This requires careful planning and editing to ensure that your characters are fully realized and add depth to the story, even if you only have a few pages to work with.

However, when done successfully, the result is a powerful and impactful story that resonates with readers long after they’ve finished reading it.

Building a Cohesive Plot

Although challenging, building a cohesive plot in a limited space can ultimately result in a more impactful and memorable story. As a writer, you have to be creative in telling a story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

This can be tricky in a short story, where there is limited space to develop your characters and their actions. You need to make every word count and ensure that your plot twists are effective and well-paced.

One way to achieve a cohesive plot in a short story is to focus on a single event or theme. This will help you to stay on track and avoid unnecessary subplots that could make your story feel disjointed.

You also need to pay close attention to pacing, ensuring that you don’t rush through important moments or drag out less significant ones. By building a cohesive plot, you can keep your readers engaged and leave them with a satisfying conclusion.

Editing and Revising for Maximum Impact

When it comes to editing and revising your short story, it’s crucial to streamline the narrative to ensure maximum impact.

This means cutting extraneous details and refining both dialogue and characterization to make every word count.

By doing so, you’ll create a cohesive plot that keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end, leaving a lasting impression long after they’ve finished reading.

Streamlining the Narrative

Streamlining the narrative can be tough, but it’s essential for a successful short story! You need to make sure that every word counts and moves the story forward. Here are three tips to help you streamline your narrative and create a more impactful story:

  1. Cut unnecessary details: When it comes to short stories, every detail should serve a purpose. Choose details that help create tension or move the plot forward. Eliminate any unnecessary information that doesn’t add to the story.
  2. Use active voice: Passive voice can slow down the narrative and make it less engaging. Use active voice to create a sense of urgency and keep the reader invested in the story.
  3. Keep it concise: Short stories have a limited word count, so every sentence needs to count. Avoid lengthy descriptions or unnecessary dialogue. Keep the story moving forward and focus on the most important events.

By streamlining your narrative and focusing on the most important details, you can create a more impactful and engaging short story.

Cutting Extraneous Details

You can make your narrative more impactful by cutting out unnecessary details. In short stories, every word counts, so you need to balance brevity with maintaining depth.

It can be tempting to include every detail, but doing so can bog down the story and make it less engaging for the reader. When editing your short story, go through each sentence and ask yourself if it’s necessary for the plot or character development. If it isn’t, consider cutting it out.

This doesn’t mean you can’t include descriptive language or details, but make sure they serve a purpose and add to the overall story. By cutting extraneous details, you can create a more impactful and engaging short story that will keep your readers hooked until the end.

deleting unnecessary details in the narrative
Deleting unnecessary details in the narrative

Refining Dialogue and Characterization

As a writer, it’s crucial to refine your dialogue and characterization. This is essential for creating dynamic and believable characters that will resonate with your readers. One way to achieve this goal is by improving pacing. You want to make sure your characters engage in meaningful and purposeful conversations that drive the plot forward.

Avoid lengthy and unnecessary dialogue that can slow down the story’s momentum. Instead, focus on creating snappy exchanges that reveal character traits, emotions, and motivations. Another way to refine your dialogue and characterization is by enhancing conflict. Conflict creates tension and keeps readers engaged.

Your characters should have opposing goals, beliefs, or desires that lead to clashes. Use dialogue to showcase these differences and highlight the stakes involved. Remember, conflict doesn’t have to be physical. It can also be emotional, mental, or psychological.

By making your characters’ conflicts relatable and authentic, you can create a story that readers will remember long after they’ve finished reading it.

Finding Inspiration and Overcoming Writer’s Block

Sometimes, when you’re feeling stuck, it’s helpful to know that many other writers experience writer’s block at some point in their career. Finding inspiration can be a daunting task, but it’s crucial to overcome doubt and push through writer’s block.

One way to find inspiration and get over your writer’s block is to seek feedback from others. Share your work with a trusted friend or writing group and ask for their thoughts and suggestions. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can help you see your work in a new light and spark new ideas.

Another way to find inspiration is to step away from your writing for a while. Take a break, go for a walk, or do something else you enjoy. Often, when you’re not actively thinking about your writing, ideas will come to you unexpectedly.

It’s important to remember that writer’s block is a natural part of the creative process, and it’s okay to take breaks and seek inspiration. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and trust that the ideas will come when you’re ready.


So, you’ve learned about the challenges that come with writing short stories. It’s no easy feat, but with the right mindset and skills, you can conquer it.

Developing characters, building a cohesive plot, and editing for maximum impact are just a few of the hurdles you’ll need to jump over. But don’t let that discourage you!

One objection you might have is that short stories don’t have the same impact as longer works. Sure, they may not have the same amount of pages, but that doesn’t mean they lack depth or significance. In fact, the limited space of a short story can actually make it more powerful.

Every word and action matters, and the reader is forced to focus on the most essential elements of the story. So, don’t underestimate the impact a well-crafted short story can have.

Keep pushing through those challenges, and who knows? You may just surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.

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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.