Writing short stories

Writing a story is one of the most interesting ways to develop not only writing skills but also to extend vocabulary knowledge and improve grammar. So, how and what can you write about?

This is a small example:

It was the worst possible moment for my mobile to start ringing

There was a burglar in the building and I was hiding behind the photocopier. I'd been working late and I was the last person in the office. When I heard the breaking glass, I knew immediately what was happening. I quickly found a dark corner and hid.

Then my phone rang and I heard the bugler stop. He was listening. Then he started walking towards the photocopier! I looked around me for a weapon, but I could only find a ball-point pen. It was blue, I think.

Then he called my name. 'Is it you, Jo?” he asked. It was Tom, my boss. He'd left his keys on his desk and he couldn't get into his house.

The End

The story may be presented in the other way:

Tom left his keys in the office and went back to get them. Jo was working late and thought Tom was a burglar...

Certainly, this way the story wouldn't be as interesting as the former one. Why?

  • There is a clear lack of intrigue.
  • Everything is pretty much predictable and clear.
  • You don't really relate to the character much.

So, what is the strategy to make an interesting story?

  1. Try starting your narration in the middle of your story. In such a way you will be able to get your readers' attention fast.
  2. Return to some key events that happened earlier to shed the light onto the background of the story.
  3. Lead readers to the culmination of you story with interest and anticipation.
  4. In the end explain what actually happened.

This is my example:

I was lying my face down and I felt every single strike on my skin. It seemed that the wooden boards I was put on were burning under me and the nails' heads in them were transfixing my flesh. By that time in the evening I wasn't capable of speaking or even thinking what so ever. I was sweating and trying to cope with the heat around. Then I was told to turn around. And all that procedure when over my other side of the body. My face, chest, abdomen, legs and feet. My father wasn't particularly merciful or considered. He was working real hard on me. Then he asked me if I wanted to have more heat on. I said, 'Yes'. After a couple of minutes I stood up and slowly moved downstairs towards the door to get a nice chilly shower. I haven't been to Russian banya since I left home at the age of nineteen. I have to admit that I miss it sometimes, especially a truly fresh and relaxing feeling you got after it.


M. Hancock & A. McDonald, English Result: Student's Book, Intermediate (Oxford: OUP, 2009), p. 54.

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