Writing Short Stories

By Ailsa Cox

© 2006 – Routledge

208 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415303873
pub: 2005-07-28
US Dollars$26.95
Hardback: 9780415303866
pub: 2005-07-29
US Dollars$110.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Ideal for those new to the genre or for anyone who wishes to improve their technique, Ailsa Cox’s guide will help readers achieve their full potential as a short story writer. The book encourages you to be inventive, to break writing habits and to try something new, by showing the diversity of the short story genre, from cyberpunk to social observation. Each chapter of the book:

  • introduces key aspects of the craft of short story writing, including structure, dialogue, characterization, viewpoint, narrative voice and more
  • shows how a wide variety of published writers have approached the short story genre, in order to deepen the insights you gain from your own work
  • gets you writing, with a series of original, sometimes challenging but always rewarding exercises, which can be tackled alone or adapted for use in a group
  • includes activities at the end of each chapter.

Ailsa Cox draws on her experience as a writer to provide essential information on drafting and editing, as well as a rich Resources section, which lists print and online journals that accept the work of new writers. Whether you’re writing as part of a course, in a workshop group or at home alone, this book will equip and inspire you to write better short stories, and make you a more skilled, enthusiastic and motivated writer of short stories.


"I am impressed by the coverage of this book. But it is also braver than most texts of this type in that it goes beyond purely literary fiction and teaches popular short fiction. It is an essential text which is the next exciting chapter of this wonderful programme from Routledge." David Morley, Director of Warwick Writing Programme, University of Warwick, UK

"This is a strong subject textbook which is full of original and rigorous exercises. There is a useful, workbook element to the examples, and a thorough and innovative approach to the technical issues of plot, character, voice etc." Julia Bell, Lecturer in Creative Writing, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Spinning a Yarn What makes a story Finding a voice Where to begin Building suspense and narrative drive First thoughts on structure: Crime fiction and the supernatural Linear narrative Plot resolution Telling Tales Creating Suspense: ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ Tall Tales Games and puzzles: ‘The Red-Headed League’ Structure Writing in the Dark Activities 2. Capturing the Moment Imagery and symbolism Using the senses The epiphany Internal monologue Stream of Consciousness Non-linear narrative Open endings The Mind’s Eye Using the Senses: ‘Bliss’ Epiphany: ‘The Dead’ Playing Around With Time Stream of consciousness: ‘Not not while the giro’ Activities 3. Humour Sketches, anecdotes and parody Comic tension Character and dialogue Irony First person narratives Unreliable narrators Laughing Out Loud Irony Character Observation The Anecdote: ‘News’ Parody and Satire: ‘The Hands of Dingo Deery’ Activities 4. The Fantastic Fantasy, reality and the imagination Fables, fairy tales and magic realism Myths and symbols Intertextuality Viewpoint: focalization Multiple narration and the ‘story within a story.’ Inventing other worlds Voluntary Dreams Altering Reality: ‘Metamorphosis’ Myth: ‘The Company of Wolves’ Parallel Worlds: ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ Activities 5. What If? Visions of the future: science fiction, speculation, cyberpunk Researching short stories Getting ideas ‘Journey’ structures Openings The Unknown: ‘In The Abyss’ Utopias and dystopias Cyberpunk: ‘Burning Chrome’ Activities 6. Reality Social observation Reportage, life writing and autobiography Fictionalising reality Condensing time: ellipsis Linked stories and story cycles The Heat of the Moment The short story and journalism Social observation: ‘Country Living’ Memories: ‘Family Furnishings’ Activities 7. Love, Sex and Shaping a Story Erotic writing Writing with passion Revenge narratives Past and present tense Last thoughts on structure Controlling pace Final edits Sex, Love and Romance Desire: ‘Death Constant Beyond Love’ Adultery: ‘Lady with Lapdog’ Revenge: ‘Dr Frankenstein, I Presume’ Activities Resources Bibliography

About the Author

Ailsa Cox is Reader in Creative Writing and English at Edge Hill University, UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Composition & Creative Writing
REFERENCE / Writing Skills