How to Write a Gripping Short Story

It’s all about focus

Caleb Rogers
4 min readJun 24


Photo by Jan Meeus on Unsplash

Writing a short story — be it flash fiction or of a more traditional length — is all about tight focus. It doesn’t matter if you write thrillers, horror, spicy fae smut, friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance, mystery, or even experimental fiction.

What really matters is that your storytelling, descriptions, dialogue, and even your sentences are tight and to the point. I’ve learned a few things by writing short stories over the years, and now I’m sharing them with you.

It’s called a short story for a reason.

When you sit down to write a short story, know about how long it’s going to be. I don’t mean 500 words vs. 1500 words. I mean that you should know the parameters of your story. Box it in nice and tight. Keep it limited to an incident, a scene, or a sequence.

In case you’re unfamiliar, a sequence is a term borrowed from screenwriting and filmmaking. It’s a string of scenes that fit together as one storytelling unit. Examples could be: Heist, Escape the Dungeon, Interview Witnesses. The sequence may be multiple scenes, but they all take place in a confined space or carry the same motive and purpose.

If you end up with the bones of a short story longer than a sequence, you’re brushing up against novella territory. And that’s fine if you want to write one, but then you’re going to have to think about plot, structure, character arcs, and everything else that goes into a medium length (or longer) story.

Short stories are short. Don’t get too caught up in the word count (unless you’re trying to get into a publication with strict word count guidelines) because that’s not what we’re trying to do here. A short is more than a word count, but less than a novella.

Bring on the pain.

Focus on the hurt. The conflict. If you think you’re being too easy on your characters, you are. Don’t worry about how much you hurt them… you can even kill them if you want!

Conflict makes a story go, so bring in as much as you can within the confines of your planned structure. And conflict in this sense is loosely defined. It doesn’t have to be physical fighting or arguing between romantic…



Caleb Rogers

Technology professional in Hollywood. Former top writer in Politics. Cheap coffee enthusiast. Join us: