I am writing a short story that has very little action that focuses mainly on the main character's development. I have tried outlining some of the major interactions with characters, the important moments in the beginning and end, and some other details I want in the story. I have a few of these scenes written up but am having trouble with the plot and making an outline.

How do you make an outline for a short story that is very introspective and has very little action (especially when you already have some ideas fleshed out)?

  • 2
    How short is the short story? If I were in your shoes, especially knowing the beginning and ending scenes, I'd simply start writing and then see where it would get me. But that's my style, at least where it comes to heavily introspective pieces. Feb 14, 2017 at 20:59
  • the story was originally intended to be in the 5-10 pages range and is already at about 5 pages yet I feel like there's still a lot more to say....so perhaps the story will end up being more than 10 pages.
    – Vicky Mae
    Feb 16, 2017 at 4:00

4 Answers 4


I believe some things that can help are:

Focus On Scenes

Stories are really scenes played out in front of the reader. This is really the show, don't tell axiom.

What Is Your Point?

I'm sure you have a point (theme) so go ahead and summarize that point. Maybe something like:

  • crime doesn't pay
  • people who own cats are the best people
  • shoes are an example of society's cruel overbearing pressure on people: go barefoot for freedom!

Okay, suppose you are going with the last theme. Now, show me a scene where the main character who is trying to free people from their shoes in action. What does he do? What does he say?

I hope he doesn't just sit around in an empty apartment barefoot, thinking about the oppressed people of the world all day.

What Do Scenes Do?

Scenes should:

  • show a point in action
  • move the story forward
  • place character farther behind his goals - this builds tension and keeps readers reading

Scene 1 Okay, so show your Anti-Shoe Hero and show him going to city hall and fighting for no-shoe laws to be placed in effect. - Show main character get irate and get arrested (he's further behind)

Scene 2

  • He meets an ally in jail and they start a movement
  • he thinks he has a friend, but then learns the friend is a bit mentally off -- or is he?

You get the picture? Now move the story forward. You can outline the entire story like this if you keep the requirements for scenes in mind.

This is a way forward, instead of sitting and staring and thinking about what you might write. Good luck.


In its purest form, a short story is a single idea narrative.

The whole idea of a short story is to focus on the essential aspects of one single topic. There is always more that might be said in relation to any story, but that is not the point of a short story (which is, as its name implies, brevity and conciseness).

The best practice, to my experience and observation, is to simply write the story, as Sara has suggested in her comment, and then delete everything that distracts from the point you wish to make and waters down the story's impact.


As What and Other's have stated, A short story drives home a point. It doesn't have many subplots or other angles. It's like a children's book in a way. They are usually short and only a couple pages but they build to a goal of teaching a moral or lesson or virtue or what ever it is the goal of the story is. So it start's out with an angry lonely monster who just wanted to make friends. by the end of the short story the angry lonely monster has friends and is happy because someone gave him a chance and that is all he needed. Lesson of the story, give people a chance. So if you think about the goals and the lesson you want to teach, as other's stated, you can just start writing it, redraft if you don't like it and look over it to make sure it really hits the point you want to make :)


You will need two documents open at the same time, one on the left, one on the right. Let's say the manuscript in its current form is on the left.

Now, on the right, jot down some notes about the first paragraph -- what's going on in this paragraph?

Do that for each paragraph.

Now close the manuscript and put your paragraph-by-paragraph analysis on the left, with a new blank document on the right. This time, look at several lines at a time and describe what's going on in that group.

Through this successive reduction process, you will end up with an outline of what you have already written.

I think that after you have done this a few times, you will be motivated to:

next time make the outline before you begin writing the story.

It is soo much easier that way.

  • To be honest, I hate outlining. Always have. I write much better through discovery than a planned outline. But that is just me and my style.
    – ggiaquin16
    Feb 16, 2017 at 20:07
  • @ggiaquin - If the thing you're writing works without any kind of outline, or if it works with a simple mental outline, great! But when one starts without any kind of outline and things get out of hand, it is a whole lot more work to restructure the writing by making an after-the-fact outline. Feb 17, 2017 at 3:06
  • Yes definitely true. I usually have a mental outline of a few key plot points and then let the mind do it's work to make it happen while writing
    – ggiaquin16
    Feb 17, 2017 at 6:36

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