Teen Short Story Writing Circle 2014-04-14

Class Overview

We spent a few minutes today discussing what each class will look like. Every Monday we will:

  • Share the stories we begin in class and finish at home during the week, receiving constructive feedback from our circle of writers
  • Learn additional element(s) of fiction writing (character development, plot structure, dialogue, etc.) and practice writing them
  • Start a new short story in the last five minutes of class

At our fifth class, I will ask the students to choose three of their stories and I will work with everyone individually to polish their writing. This will be done partly in class and partly via email. 

For the stories we began today, please transfer what you have written thus far to a word processing document. 

For this class, all short stories should utilize the following formatting requirements: 

  • Double spaced 
  • 12 point Times New Roman font
  • 1 inch margins (top, bottom and both sides)
  • Put your name at the top of the first page
  • If more than one page, number all pages except for the first
  • Don’t forget a title!

We also talked about how long our stories should be. This will depend on each individual’s experience and comfort with writing. I do expect them to challenge themselves, but I encouraged them to focus on quality over quantity, especially in the beginning.  At this level, all stories should be a minimum of one – two typed pages, but again, this will vary depending on the student — any questions, just ask!

Creating Great Characters

Without further ado, we jumped into our first lesson: Creating Well-Developed Characters. To illustrate how interesting characters can be developed (in some cases very quickly), each student drew a random name out of a bag. You can have some fun with this by going to a web-site like behindthename.com and generate your own random character names! We drew some really great ones like Finnbar Fromm and Dand Hobbes. We took turns describing our characters — what they looked like, their age, and occupation. We ended up with a fantastic cast of characters, and I hope that some of the students will consider incorporating these folks into their short stories this week! They also received questionnaires which they should try to use when developing all of their characters. They can finish filling them out at home, or create a new list for each new character. We discussed that while all this information might not be used in our stories, getting to know our characters more deeply will assist in shaping the story and helping our readers get to know the characters gradually as the story develops.

Show, Don’t Tell!

Next, we talked about showing the reader what we want them to know, instead of telling them. Sometimes it’s perfectly ok to tell the reader something — maybe it’s not that important, it’s boring, or just background information you need to communicate. In short story writing we’re going to be getting to the point more quickly, so it will be more interesting to read if we “show” instead of “tell.” To practice this, everyone wrote at least two sentences that “showed” me it was a hot day, without using the word “hot.” We had some great, descriptive sentences — nice job!


At the end of class, I handed out a list of writing prompts. Some prompts address character development and some tackle showing vs. telling. Students chose one of the prompts and began a story. They should continue to develop this story at home this week, finishing it before Monday. Please don’t forget to bring your typed short story to class each week! Alternatively, they can scrap the story they began in class and start a new one. For more ideas you can go to: http://www.creative-writing-now.com/short-story-ideas.html

See you next week!