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How to Analyze Structure in Short Story Writing

It can be said that in order to write a good story you must be conscious of a good story's structure. If you are a writing student, make it a regular practice to take your favourite works and deconstruct structures, plot designs and perspective tools used in the short story. Writing is both parts talent and skill. Knowing the parameters and structure of the story will help you with your technical development.

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  1. Identify plot techniques. It is good practice to be able to recognise where plot changes occur. A typical story is structured inline from setting to set up and through a number of rising conflicts and scenes of action. The story will reach its climax and head toward resolution.

  2. Identify the points of view utilised. Does the author use a first-person perspective where the story is told to you by a person using the "I" point of view? When images are described, are they from the uninvolved writer's view? For example the sentence, "The wind was blowing fiercely," if not coming from a character's thoughts is therefore coming from the writer. Does the story shift inside the minds of several persons who tell their story within the story? Identifying the points of view will help you identify character construction.

  3. Observe how time is used in the story. For example, are flashbacks utilised? Does the central telling of the story revolve around a person looking back over a life and telling their experiences? Is the book written in the present and you, the reader, follow the characters as they experience moments and react at the same time? Utilising present time serves to take the reader along for the ride while past tense stories tend to make the reader an observer.

  4. Explain how the writer uses setting. The atmosphere and environment of a story can act as a living character. For example, In Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire," the dark and sensuous city of New Orleans and the bayou with its mystery accentuated the danger of the main characters. Also, consider setting as time and place. A story can be written in the present but that present day may be historical and in another century.

  5. Watch for perspectives. This is different than point of view. Perspective is more to how you are shown the characters and their experiences. Does the story have multiple perspectives? For instance, there may be a scene where a character is walking by a group of people and the writer describes them in nondescript detail as if you were viewing them from afar. Yet, in another scene, a character could be sitting at a bar surrounded by many but the descriptions of the people seated next to them are vivid and specific

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About the Author

Spencer Hope Davis has been covering topics such as work balance, travel and health since 2001. An alumna of Cleveland State University and Kent State University, Davis earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in justice studies.

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