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preliminary short story

Your first assignment is to write your own short story.

Huh? What do you mean “write a short story?” I’m taking this class to learn how to write a short story. How can you expect me to write a short story before you tell me how?

It’s a fair question. Frankly, we want to see what you already know. We also want to be able to show you how much you’ve learned by comparing this first effort with the writing you’ll be doing at the end of the course. Give it a try. Everyone’s read stories. You’ve probably told a thousand stories in your life. Put one on paper. Consider it a “rough draft.” No pressure. Let’s see what you can do without much help.

Here’s the basics—stuff we’ll be talking about for the next few weeks:

  • Opening: As we made clear in this week’s lesson, pay attention to your opening lines. Draw your reader in by creating interesting story questions.

  • Characters: You need people in your story. And your reader ought to care about at least one of them. Make them real.

  • Conflict: A story needs a problem. Give your central character a problem that needs solving.

  • Plot: The plot is the series of events that take place in a story. Introduce your character, introduce the problem, take steps to solve the problem. The point where the problem is solved is called the climax. Be sure to wrap things up at the end.

There’s plenty more, but we’ll get to it eventually. Let's see what you can do without much help.

Length: We’re not sticklers for length. Some stories take longer than others to tell. You can decide how long this story needs to be, within reason. If you’re the kind of person who must have guidelines, shoot for 3-5 pages. If you’re the prolific type, please keep your story under 10 pages.

Be sure to follow the formatting guidelines.

Note: Unlike other WriteAtHome classes, assignments in the Short Story Workshop do not receive formal assessment scores. Due to the emphasis on creative expression, we do not believe these scores are applicable. All submitted work, however, will receive thorough writing coach feedback.