Hobbies Writing

How To Plan a Short Story In Four Easy Steps


Four Simple Steps – Condensed down to make the whole process a lot less stressful easier.

So you want to write a short story…

I am not an expert, and i haven’t got a number one bestseller (YET), but here is my post about how to easily plan a short story.

You might be writing stories to self-publish like i am at the moment, or just for fun (or a school project or something like that.)

Most of my research comes from Pinterest. People make some amazing easy to follow info-graphics that do the job. On my Pinterest account i have a board dedicated to all things writing. Take a look if you need some more research!

If you have the urge and the creative flair to write, this post will help you do so! Stay tuned.

What is a short story?

A short story is a piece of writing  that is around 1,500 words to 30,000 words. I know that seems a lot, but when you’re in the flow of your story, it’s not too hard to write nearly 30,000 words without you even knowing it.

My short stories range from 5,000 to 10,000 words. I have written some shorter, some longer, but i like to give myself a 10,000 word target (then usually go over).

Novellas can be from 30,000 to 50,000 ish.

A whole novel can be anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 words…

That being said, there is no rule really. Just write and see what happens!

I have written a post already about the first short story i self published, and what i have learnt.

Four Steps For Writing A Short Story

These four steps have been simplified for beginners, or for those who like to rush/get too excited about starting.

I give myself the time frame of a month to write the first draft of a short story, because i work full time.
If you have more time you may be able to do it quicker.

Choose when you want it to be finished, that way you will stay motivated, and feel accomplished when its done.

If you dont decide when you want your short story to be finished by, then you could go on forever and ever writing it, editing it, tweaking it.

Just plan it, write it, edit it, upload it (or hide it).

Step One – Brainstorm

I like this to be the first step because it gets a whole lot confusing when you decide to brainstorm after any other step. I also think it’s just common sense to get your ideas all out first.

If you have too many floating around in your head, jot them all down, choose the ones that match and would go in a short story nicely, and go back to the others for the next story.

Think about how you want the short story to be for the reader (emotional/funny/happy/sad/bad ending/good ending…)

Then think about the number of characters, for short stories, stick with a maximum of three characters, you can do more but sometimes it gets confusing.

Remember the think about the length of the story too.

Then write a little summary.

You can brainstorm all of your ideas to help;

  • You can do it the bubble method you probably learnt in school.
  • Or just scribble on the page.
  • You can write down the places you have been.
  • People who have noticed.
  • Endings you want.
  • Names of characters or places.
  • A scenario you have been in/or someone you know has been in.

I tend to sit for a moment, think, then write an idea down.

For example;

‘Main character lives on top of a hill surrounded by nature, she goes through the seasons expressing the different emotions for each one. Summer – Happy. Winter – Sad. 
She needs to character develop in the sense of expressing herself through better means, painting/dancing/writing… MC stars a class and finally meets friends, likewise to her, but push her to exit her lonely shell on top of the hill. In the end, she turns out to sell hundreds of paintings of the seasons/ writes poems/a novel/ choreographs a play…’

So that is a real quick summary of a tiny thought in my head. Now that it’s written down, the idea can be extended.

Basically, step one = Write down all the jumbled mini stories in your head, mix them up, ponder on them, tweak them.

Step Two – The Character


If you’re writing a short story, stick to only a couple of characters otherwise it can get confusing for yourself, and the reader. If there are lots of characters to ‘bond’ with and the story is only fifty pages long, its just not going to happen.

So choose a main character, the protagonist (good guy).
The protagonist doesn’t have the be a ‘human’ it can be anything. I just like to do this.
Your protagonist can be an animal, an alien, anything!

Likewise the antagonist (bad guy) can be anything too. It could even be the main character themselves, by this i mean inside their own mind. The MC can be holding themselves back, or letting themselves be dragged down. (Depending on what story you are writing.)
Other examples of antagonists could be; the weather, time, a place…


I create my character simply too.

I first like to think about what they are going to look like; hair colour, height, weight, clothing…
Then what type of person they are; shy, confident, anxious, over the top, overpowering, strong, timid…
Once i have sort of outlined those, i like to name them! The best bit, and the hardest. Its like naming a child. I search Pinterest, or use a random name generator until i have a name that fits the person i have created inside my head.

I ‘sometimes’ use sites like the one below to help with names…


Then i just write a little about them, like you wrote about yourself when you wrote ‘about me’ pages in school.

Step Three – The Setting


If you have travelled to lots of places,and seen many things, you can use this to help with your ideas and to get the inspo flowing.

First, think of where you want the character to live; in a house, caravan, flat, tent???

Then decide what location this will be in, for example; what i wrote previously was just a little house on the top of a hill. A totally made up destination. I have never seen or been to a house on a hill.

But this is a fictional short story, it’s all made up!

To help me keep on track with the theme and setting of the story, i like to create a mood board on my phone. Download an app like Over or Canva and just create a collage of images you find on Pinterest and Tumblr.

When setting the scene, there’s a few things to ponder on;
This is a short story, so keep it short and simple!

  • Where the character lives and its surroundings aka; does it have a shop nearby? A park? Or just any place your character might visit.
  • The weather during the time of the story, this helps to create what the outside will look like. Of course if it’s winter there might be snow, spring there might be flowers etc.

Step Four – The Outline 


This seems like a really broad subject, BUT ITS NOT.
Think about extending what you have written in step one, remember that super short summary?

I usually write around a page for this.
Like a super short and really rubbish version of the real thing you’re about to write.

Add in more detail about the characters personality now you have had time to think about it, write how they integrate in their setting and the location.

Writers around the world will disagree with this BUT, when planning and creating the outline, write a beginning, middle, and end…
(Of course, when you actually write stories it’s not as simple as that.)
This just allows you to see how the story will pan out, simply.

  • Beginning – Either start half way through what’s going to happen and go backwards, then end it again…
    If that makes sense… (Middle, beginning, end.)
    I usually either enter with the character in their own setting, i don’t describe them all in one go either.
    By the end of the first part the reader should have an understanding and be able to create an image in their head.
  • Middle – If you’re writing in order, then this is the part where its supposed to get juicy.
    The climax is about to happen…
    Set the character up for the ‘battle’ meaning whatever the antagonist is going to throw at them.
    By the end of the middle part, the character should be half way through overcoming it.
  • End – The character is showing their development here.
    Whatever it was they are overcoming or ‘battling’ is fading away, either completely, or just for now (to come back in another series of the books perhaps.)
    It’s hard to plan the ending because when you write, it kind of just happens…
    I like to have an idea of if the ending is going to be a happy or sad one, then roll with it.

All in all, i plan it to death and end up winging the whole thing.

That’s it, literally.

If you then want to go in and plan it more until you reach the nitty gritty details then i probably suggest doing that too.

You can always go back through step four and think about the chapters or parts, and what will happen at the start and end of each one.

Thank you for reading this post, if you would like to read my own little self publishing’s, i have two short stories available on Amazon, and one on the way! Don’t worry if you dont have kindle, it’s easy to download the app so you can read them on there.


  • Reply
    What Lexie Loves
    14/07/2019 at 8:23 AM

    Loved reading this! And it’s definitely inspired me to do some more writing. Love the pics you used for this post… I love those highlighters – they’re my faves.


    • Reply
      Charlotte Dawson
      14/07/2019 at 3:16 PM

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      I am so glad this post has helped you and inspired you, that’s what i intended!

      Yes, i love the mildliners they are my fave. Good luck with your writing.

      Charlotte x

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