Short Story’s Elements and Character Development Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 28th, 2020

This paper aims to analyze the important elements of a short story. Indeed, a short story is a short and brief narrative fiction. Actually, short stories are prose narratives of imagined characters and actions. A short story must have the following important features: conflict, theme, characters, plot, and settings. Among the stated elements, this paper evaluates that character development has a more crucial role in the formation of a short story, though other features are essentially and equally important.


Historically, a short story was either written or oral narratives. According to Holden (2000), “oral narrative comprised of traditional storytelling and telling of tales and fables” (Holden 34). At the beginning of the nineteenth century, short stories were initially identified as forms of the printed genre. For example, some famous American writers to engage in writing short stories included Irving Washington and Poe Edgar Allan (Holden 35).


Short stories are usually short and brief in nature. Such stories normally range from 500 to 6000 words. In case “a short story has more words (or maybe seven thousand words), it will be termed as a Novella or Novelette” (Holden 35). On the other hand, Holden said that short stories, which are less than five hundred words, are normally termed as Flash Fiction (36). In other cases, stories that consist of one hundred exactly are known as Drabbles.


According to Holden, short stories are normally written in any kind of genre narrative covering literary and science fiction, and romantic tales (36). Indeed, there are two types of short stories that consist of storytelling tradition and a slice of life types (Holden 36). Actually, Holden viewed that:

Slice of life story gives views during the life of a character, though such story does not have a lot of plot though with less conflict. On the other hand, storytelling tradition usually posses a plot but not much complex, which a longer text might have (37).


According to Holden, since short stories have less room for narrating stories, several short stories have little quantity of scene-setting and discourse exposition (38). Nearly all short stores commence in the middle stage of story events (Holden 38). In fact, Holden said that storytelling tradition usually possesses a plot and key conflict, although such a plot is not much complex, like the plot of a novel (38). Usually, key characters changes in the events of a narrative.


According to Holden, most people who engage in public reading usually assume that it is not difficult to draft short stories, unlike in writing novel stories (39). Indeed, this is not the case. Actually, certain renowned novelists have found it cumbersome to write short stories, and whenever they attempt to write, short stories become longer text (Holden 39). Such excellent novelists normally encounter difficulties in drafting short stories since narrative elements have to be incorporated in a compact way inside the short story (Holden 40). On the other hand, Holden explained that:

A novel has a broad space to set the discourse exposition, remove and introduce characters and to form background plot. Those who engaged in writing short stories have to incorporate such information but also have to build a plot and conflict incident while using not more than 6000 words (41).

The Role of Character Development in Creating Single Effect in a Short Story

According to Poe Edgar Allan, the single effect has a vital role in writing short stories in which any element of a story have to focus on such an effect (680). Indeed, Allan wrote “the Black Cat” tale in attempting to attain shocking insanity as a single effect (680). In the story, the narrator narrated how he deteriorated his sanity to be insane due to his persistent preoccupation with the two Black Cats (Poe 680). Indeed, such black beings influenced the narrator to murder his wife. However, the narrator failed to conceal the death incident of his wife (Poe 681).

Allan attained the single effect he intended for through plot building, setting description, character building, and effective word usage (Poe 681). According to Allan, the setting is normally impossible to erase in a story. However, Allan viewed that the tale “The Black Cat” rarely depended on this feature. This is because the tale can happen in any place, and any time, this weakens the setting of the tales.

Allan adopted symbolism in his tale. For instance, the symbolic feature in this tale is the name of the cat, which is Pluto. Actually, Allan explained that such a name meant a Roman god who symbolized Hell and Evil forces (Poe 682). Another symbolic reference is the title of the tale “The Black Cat,” which meant misfortune (Poe 682). However, there are other symbolisms that Allan knew for himself that other people might not have known.

Allan’s plot building contributed a lot of a single effect to the tale story. In fact, it was an intricate plot that comprised of punishments, alcoholism, fire, perseverance, murder, and revival. (Poe 683). “This tale has a horrible storytelling plot. For example, the narrator murdered his wife. The story was actually about shocking insane that created an unhealthy picture of the story” (Poe 684). Indeed, the narrator used desired words in building his story. For example, words like Fiendish maliciousness, vile ghost, and Apparition that symbolized an insane atmosphere (Poe 684). Allan also used synonym words for the Black Cat to mean Monster, Beast, Apparition, Playmate, and Brute (Poe 684).

Furthermore, Alan built a character development to contribute to the shocking insanity effect (Poe 685). Indeed Allan expressed that:

The insane narrator contributed a lot of single effects. In fact, without him, it was impossible to build the story. The narrator was an alcoholic while at the same time; he liked animals (the Black Cats). In most cases, he became angry due to the effects of alcohol. In fact, the narrator was so much obsessed with his cats. However, as the story continues, the character also changes. Indeed, the cat changed to acquire a different figure rather than its initial disposition. This made the narrator become angry, in fact, filled with unthinkable intention, and thus murdered his wife (Poe 686).


This analysis shows how plot, setting, word use, character, and symbolism development contribute important impacts to the formation of a short story (single effect). Without such vital elements, a story cannot be built. Actually, the least element in building a story is setting because it can be changed depending on time and place of action. On the other hand, the main contributor to building a story is character development. However, all elements are important in the formation of short stories.

Works Cited

Holden, Steve. “Short Story Anthologies and the Solid Body of Australian Fiction.” Australian Literary Studies 19 (2000): 34-41. Print.

Poe, Allan Edgar. The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

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