Story Elements of Short Fiction

Yesterday, I shared my article on long fiction story elements. This is going to be a condensed version of that made for works of shorter fiction that don’t need as many revelations or other beats as long works.

Short Fiction Story Elements


Something that has happened in the past before the story starts that drives either story or character.

Weakness + need of MC

The weakness should be something that holds the character back from getting what they want.


This is what drives your character above all else. Remember every MC and character should have a strong goal that readers can relate to.

Inciting incident

The thing that forces your character into the story. It should be something they can’t go back from, and if they can easily live their lives after the inciting incident, then it’s not good enough to drive the story.

Moral argument

This is where your theme comes into play. A great theme is complex and more than just good vs evil, powerful vs weak, etc. A lot of times it is framed in an if, then way.


A mystery in your story is something that can be either a part of your main plot or one of your subplots, but it’s there to keep the reader wondering and guessing and paying attention. If you are going to introduce a mystery or puzzle, give the reader the conclusion in that book or at least a piece of the puzzle.


These are the people who are usually a part of the B story world that are there to actively help your MC reach their goal.


This is your antagonist or the forces working against your MC.


Readers want to learn something from the plot and grow with the narrative, so authors work in major reveals that pull their plot along and give the reader big Aha! moments.

Set back

This is the thing that pushes against your character’s thoughts of an easy go through their problem.

MC’s counterattack

This is how your MC decides to react to the set back.


This is the element of your story that makes it clear why the MC is doing what they are doing and can’t go back to their normal life or pretend that everything is okay.


This is the big showdown moment where everything begins to clash and really rev up toward the climax.


During all the events leading up to the climax, the MC is going to realize something about themselves and the way they’ve been living life that is wrong and see how they can fix it and move on to achieve their goal.

Moral decision

This is the moment when the MC makes their grand decision that plays back into the overall theme and moral argument. It’s when their actions accurately showcase what the moral argument is.


The moment when everything finally comes to a head and the two opposing sides go toe-to-toe. This, like the battle, can be figurative and literal. This must be the element of your story that finally ends or solves the issue that was put into motion by the inciting incident.


This is the point in the story when things wind down and we see the world in the aftermath of the MC getting what they want.

New equilibrium

This is the point in the story when the reader gets to see the MC in the world after the climax and resolution.

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