Writing Mechanics

Class – How to Write a Short Story

It’s no secret that I love short stories. I like reading them and writing them. I like writing them because they are quick and relatively easy for me. I also lose interest in my story after about 5,000 words and am ready to move on to something else.

So when I saw this online class on Brandon Sanderson’s channel, I couldn’t resist posting it here for those that may be interested in writing short stories. I learned a lot from this class, I hope you do, too.

If you want to do the exercise in the comment section, feel free!

Class cliffnotes:

These elements help you determine where a story/stops and the kind of conflict your characters face.


Milieu begins when your character enters a new space and ends when your character exits the space. Conflict is the middle that stops your character from reaching his/her goal. The moment the goal has been reached is the moment the story ends.

Inquiry stories are driven by questions. It begins with the question a character has and ends when the question has been answered.

Character stories are driven by angst. Simplest form, story begins when they are unhappy with themselves and end when they are happy. But really these stories begin with an identity shift, a shift in how the character self-defines and they end when the character’s self-definition solidifies, when they have a new understanding of self – Example: coming-of-age stories, romances.

Event stories are driven by action. These begin when the status quo, or the sense of normal, is disrupted and they’re restored when there’s a new status quo. External threat.

Character event – internal conflict.
Event event – external conflict.

Milieu formula: <m> <i> </i> </m>
Start with milieu, incident, close incident, close milieu.

Wizard of Oz is a perfect example:

<c> character – Kansas girl
<e> event Tornado
<m>milieu Welcome to Oz
<i>inquiry Get back home
</i> close inquiry Go back home
</m> close milieu Dorothy leaves Oz
</e> close event Arrives back in Kansas
</c> close character Kansas girl didn’t need to look any further than my own backyard.

Honesty, this breakdown really helped me formulate the story structure in my head and I think it will prove really helpful in future stories.

Happy writing!