I am looking for verification on what is a plot for a short story.

For example:

A man wants to develop a new rose variety for his girlfriend as a way to propose, but he becomes obsessed with getting the perfect plant and neglects his girlfriend until he almost loses her to a rival.


A young spy comes home from a mission to find what he thinks is an intruder in the house. It turns out to be his housemate, who is older but he is in love with. Embarrassed by his reaction to seeing the man singing he tries to walk away but gets seen and welcomed home.

Do these have conflict and plot or have I missed the mark? I don't quite get the idea of what is plot and conflict so any suggestions with examples would've gratefully received!

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    Welcome to Writing.SE Ponddy. Your question is asking for us to critique the plots of your short stories. This is off topic for Writing so your question is likely to get closed. Short stories don't have to have full-on plots like novels do. You can write about almost anything. There may be a valid question within your question which is more general about evaluating plot and conflict, but that can also be too broad, and has probably been asked here. Take some time, poke around the site. And come back with a new question (or edit this one) if you have a focused question of value to all readers. – Cyn says make Monica whole Mar 29 '19 at 14:10
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    I can't see anyway this isn't opinion based, not to mention being off topic, as Cyn mentioned – DJ Spicy Deluxe Mar 29 '19 at 15:58
  • Apologies. The only reason I put in the suggested plots was as an example so that I could see if I had the right idea as to what is or isn't plot. I wasn't asking for critique just clarification. – Ponddy Mar 30 '19 at 18:02
  • To the vote-closers the OP is asking for clarification about what constitutes plot. Examples are given to confirm his or her thinking on plot. I am voting to reopen the question. – a4android Aug 6 '19 at 6:48

Do these have conflict and plot or have I missed the mark? I don't quite get the idea of what is plot and conflict so any suggestions with examples would've gratefully received!

Yes, they do. You don't need conflict to have a plot. You only need something to change in the short story you're writing, whether that is the change in outside environment/ situation, change in (emotional) state of characters, change in relationship between characters...

The example of the simplest plot ever:

Frederic Brown — 'The shortest horror story:The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.'

What we have here is almost deceptively simple: A protagonist. A location. A description of the situation. There is a change of that situation.

That is enough for a short story. For any story of any length, you can add more characters, more descriptions, more situations...

A good example would be Hero's journey or this writing advice.

The best advice ever given writers of farce is in these words: “In the first act get your principal character up a tree; in the second act, throw stones at him; in the third, get him down gracefully.”

This question might be too broad and will probably be closed, but I hope this helps you starting your writing career. Good luck.

If you liked this answer, mark it as correct. Thank you.

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  • Actually, it is custom to wait some time before accepting an answer. – PoorYorick Mar 29 '19 at 15:19
  • Thanks for your help. You have clarified things for me. Much appreciated. – Ponddy Mar 30 '19 at 18:03

There is an implicit question of what is the minimum plot required for a short story versus a novel.

Due to their brevity, a short story does not require a full plot. A man goes to work, is certain he will get that raise he asked for yesterday - he is fired.

Your first plot reminds me of Dumas’ Black Tulip (wonderful novel).

A short story can be and often is a slice of life. A person does something and the end. Gogol’s Overcoat is about a man who needs a new coat before winter. O Henry liked to add a twist, so in Gift of the Magi, a poor couple give each other gifts. He buys her pearl handle brushes and a comb for her beautiful hair, which she sold so she could buy him a chain for his beloved pocket watch - which he sold.

The plots you describe could fuel a novel or novella.

Waiting for Godot is a famous play where nothing happens. Two characters talk and wait for someone who never comes.

In Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann has very little happen to people you don’t really like or care for, yet the whole piece is an enchanting masterwork.

You could take a character you find interesting, have him or her go onto the porch and drink coffee, observing the neighbors or watching the grass grow.

Your second plot is more likely to fit within the confines of a short story. Man coming home from work (can’t tell anyone what he really does - they all think he is in accounting) and is discovered. Might not be the most highly skilled spy, but maybe his spouse is a natural at it, though doesn’t realize it.

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