How to Outline a Short Story?

A map is needed when you have to reach your destination in real life. In the same way, an outline is the first and the most crucial part of writing any sort of short story. An outline of a story is like a map for a writer which will help him/her throughout her journey of writing a short story and will guide her to reach to the final point or ending of the story.

1.     Is an outline really needed to write a short story?

I have a few writer friends who are against this idea of making an outline before writing a short story. They have an opinion that this will trap their creativity. I will not agree with them. According to my own experience, I will suggest you people to make sure to make an outline before writing any short story. I think a story without an outline is like a tea without sugar in it.

2.     How an outline can help a writer whiling writing a short story?


First of all brainstorm your ideas and finalize your topic of a short story. After this comes the step of creating an outline. It will help you in the following ways: 


·         It will help you to properly organize all your main points.
·         It will assist you to think upon your protagonist and other characters.
·         It will aid you to ponder upon the theme of your story.
·         It will enable you to think about the importance of your idea and story.
·         It will facilitate you to manage your paragraphs in a proper sequence according to the setting.
·         It will prevent you from getting trapped into your own story.
·         It will make it possible for you to manage your time.

3.      Is there any specific method for making an outline?

There are no hard and fast rules which you need to follow while making an outline. I am going to describe my method of writing an outline for your convenience and will highly recommend it to you people if you are willing to write a short story.

§  5 Steps to follow for making a promising outline of a short story:

1)    Summarizing the main idea of the story:
This is the very first step to follow when you are creating an outline. Sit in a comfortable place with your laptop or copy pencil. Try to talk to yourself and think about your surroundings in order to come up with an idea for your short story. Start to write on a paper whatever you find interesting or inspiring without caring about your grammatical mistakes or any spellings. Just feel free to write down your ideas or what so ever is coming to your mind on a paper. When you are writing on a paper, ponder upon few questions such as,

§  What will be my reader’s expectations?

§  What will be the things which my readers might find boring or annoying?
After deeply thinking, provide answer to these questions. Divide your page into columns with the headings as, “reader’s expectations” and “reader’s fears”.


This will for sure help you in summarizing your idea of a story. Once you have summarized it, you will begin to write your outline.

2)    Prescribe your Protagonist’s theme:

Once you are done with summarizing your story in the first step, this is the next step you have to follow. In this you will be thinking about the main character of your story. You will have such questions in your mind:
§  Who is actually the main character of your story?
§  What will be the name of your main character?
§  Which theme will be presented through his character?
§  Why your character is important for this story?
For example: In the short story, The Necklace”, written by a French writer Guy de Maupassant, the main character is Mathidle Loisel and the themes which are presented through his character are beauty, happiness, marriage and social class.

3)      Goals in the life of Protagonist:

This is the third step in writing your outline. Here you will deeply analyze that what are the main objectives in the life of your hero in the story which he wants to accomplish. As a writer, you will mention the starting condition of your main character. How will it be changed afterwards and under which circumstances? You have to mention the main goals of your main character and all the choices which he will be making in order to achieve his goals.
For example: In the story, The Necklace”, the main goal in the life of Mathilde Loisel was to become a wealthy woman by any means. She was fond of glamour and materialistic things. For her loyalty of her husband and hard work meant nothing. She only wanted to attain high class. These were her goals in life.


4)    Conflict in the life of Protagonist:

This is the fourth important step in which your main character will be facing disasters in his life. This is the phase where different hindrances will be created in order to stop him from achieving his goals. This is very interesting part of a story and will catch the reader’s attention. The reader is deeply concerned and tensed when his favorite character is any problem. He is curious to know how the character will face this turning point.
For example: In the short story, The Necklace”, the major conflict is that Madame Loisel wants to go to a party and for that she wants an expensive necklace. Unfortunately, she has lost her friend’s necklace. Now she and her husband needs to work hard to pay the price of that necklace.

5)    Reaction of Protagonist to the Conflict:

This is the final step in which you will think about the ways your character will try to resolve his conflict. You will mention all his struggles in order to remove all the obstacles in his life. Here you can add as much suspense as you want to leave your audience with an unexpected ending and I think that if you will leave your readers with an amazing ending, your purpose of writing a story is fulfilled.
In the story, The Necklace”, you will see how Mathilde Loisel worked for ten years in order to pay for the necklace of her friend which in the end turned out to be fake one. So, she realized that these superficial things are nothing but only an illusion.

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