Day 2 – A Solid Support

Day 2

I’m continuing to ease you in to this challenge with tiny tasks, and today’s is to download The Short Story Framework and file it away in your dedicated StoryADay workspace. 

(You did set one up, didn’t you?)

Why Use The Framework?

Of course there is no single way to write a short story, and no single ‘correct’ form of what a short story should look like.

(They’re subversive little things, and that’s why I love them)

There is, however, a simple framework that will support a particular type of short story: a traditional, narrative short story with one protagonist and a couple of supporting characters.

It’s a solid scaffolding that allows you to focus on the aesthetics of the thing: the characters, the description, the theme…

We’re going to be working with this framework later this week so today’s task is:

Download The Short Story Framework

…and put it in your dedicated StoryADay workspace.

Then bring it out again, because I want you to read through the framework.

Don’t write anything yet (I mean, you can. I can’t stop you…) but instead think about stories you already know and how they fit into this framework.

(Good models are the Star Wars movies, and episodic TV that tells a single story each week)

The framework isn’t something I invented. It’s what I reverse-engineered from millennia of western storytelling (and other people’s attempts to deconstruct it).

It will serve you well, to get from “Idea” to “The end” this month, without taking too long to get into the real story; without wandering off into a messy middle that never wants to let you leave it; and without wondering if you’ve really reached ‘the end’.


make sure you set your printer to print this at original size, not full-page!

Here’s your next Bingo Piece. Download the pic, print it out and paste it onto your bingo sheet. Then share a picture of it on social media with #storyadaybingo

You don’t have to do all the tasks in order, so paste your tokens on the gameboard on whatever day you get to it!

Leave a comment:

  • Were you able to recognize the structure as you thought through stories you knew? Did it feel familiar and comfortable?
  • I mentioned a few common pitfalls that derail people’s short story efforts. (Taking too long to get to the real story; wandering around lost in the middle; not knowing how to end.) What’s your biggest enemy, when trying to write (and finish) a short story?
  • Bonus question: Do you tend to resist structure or love it? (Don’t worry if you don’t like outlining. That’s not what we’re going to be doing with this).

23 thoughts on “Day 2 – A Solid Support”

  1. I’m a newbie to short stories, but in novel-writing, my middles sag (the other day when verbally processing I accidentally said “soggy middle” and I still think it fits quite well haha). AND I don’t usually write to an ending. My current novel WIP–I have a very saggy, soggy middle and have no idea how I want it to end.
    I have a few short stories under my belt and–short stories fascinate me because they’re so short. An entire exists in a couple thousand words. With mine–they feel more like scenes and I wonder if that’s the mindset I need to get into to make getting into writing short stories easier.

  2. I have a hard time coming to a good ending with my stories > they tend to fizzle out so this framework is a good foundation for that aspect. I don’t resist structure/outlining but I do worry about overdoing it as I like the spontaneity of seeing where a story takes me. With that in mind, I love in your example how you have different versions of the ending > what a clever way to not have to decide until you need to decide.

    1. There’s a reason I need several endings – I’m definitely a person who resists structure!

  3. This is interesting and helpful. I tend to avoid outlines and structure and “just write it” and then worry about the rest later (sometimes). I do think embracing structure at least somewhat would be a helpful practice for me.

  4. You have perhaps realised I have signed up to SADM, several times and I always complete the month. This time something has really clicked with your Short Story Framework. I can see how the structure of my story is going to enable a better flow to my story. I’m feeling very positive.

  5. I’d say that the structure reminded me of adlibs and had a playful way to view the story structure. It made me a little uncomfortable because it was something I wasn’t used to trying out. I haven’t yet. I listened to your suggestion on waiting. I feel like my biggest enemy is forever my inner critic and self doubt. I get discouraged when I’m writing a novel or a story. I hit plateaus and I have a hard time finishing anything. I had an idea for a trilogy almost 10 years ago and it’s about 60% done right now (has been since 2018). Hoping to break the writer’s block this year!

  6. Well, I’ve got some sparks and I printed up the Short Story Framework. I can see how this would work. I have a lot of stories that I started and didn’t get to the middle. I have some where I got to the middle and gave up. (Actually, I usually think something is “too stupid” or just not good enough and give up anyway.) However, I am going to do all the tasks this May and I will end up with a short story–I feel certain of it.
    I’m taking a short story and novel writing course from The Writer’s Bureau online. I started this course before and stopped after a few months. Now I’ve signed up again and I’m back at it, but I haven’t done any writing in the last two months. This is frustrating!
    Anyhow, thanks for the useful tools and inspiration!

  7. I’m more of a “panser” than a “plotter.” But after watching a presentation (right before reading this post!) about plotting a middle grade novel, and now reading this post, I can definitely see the benefits of structure. I do tend to think structure can be too rigid and deflating to imagination and creativity. However, if I have the structure in the back of my mind, perhaps it can actually SAVE THE DAY by helping me avoid my usual pitfalls. I’LL GIVE IT A GO AND SEE WHERE IT TAKES ME! THANK YOU!

  8. I think that perhaps I’ve used the short story framework in the past as I was both writing and thinking. This task was good- to take a step back and not feel any pressure to write but just to read and process. I think that it may stick differently.

  9. I have 50 beginnings, and never get to the middles, and the ends. Hopefully the Framework will help me get at least one of those beginnings all the way to the end.

    Also, it looks like the wrong bingo piece is showing on this page.

  10. I’m not disciplined enough to not outline! I usually start out with a simple idea, and before I know it I’ve turned it into a James Michener epic. As a result I have at least a dozen half-finished tomes instead of the short, powerful story I’d wanted to write. I’ve tried using the framework you developed, but usually end up with notes crammed into every bit of white space I can see. This challenge will be, well, challenging, but I’d like to concentrate on developing restraint using this basic framework.

    1. Ha! Well, it may be that we’ll never turn you into a Flash Fiction writer, but I’m sure you can do a 4,000 word story and keep it powerful. There are tricks for putting James Michener back in his box…

  11. Honestly, I don’t think I have the imagination to do this. No worries, I’ll still go through the process, but I just feel stupid and incompetent in this context.
    It’s the story. I feel like there is a story out there somewhere, but when I approach it flits away like a cabbage moth. I can’t seem to brainstorm with myself going through “what if this happens, what if that character is a [thing]” So I’ll start this one with your advice of looking for the bones of stories I’ve read or watched as outlined in this SSF.
    Second spark yesterday kind of took off on its own. I ended up with almost two pages from it.

    1. You’re not stupid or incompetent and you’re not going to have to brainstorm this alone. We’re going to go through it together.
      Truth is: writing fiction is hard. But there are skills you can practice that make it easier to get that cabbage moth into the net 😉
      Be patient with yourself. And thanks for being vulnerable here.

  12. Thank you! The sparks are flying, and I can see how this could work. Starting is easy. Getting lost is easy. Finishing is hard.

    1. LOL, I usually say the middle is hard, but you’re right, getting lost in the middle is really, really easy!

  13. I had already downloaded the framework from your site before the challenge started, but it felt too simple and I didn’t give it a chance. I’m glad we revisited it today because I DO tend to get stuck in the messy middle, and if I want to actually finish a story, knowing where things are going to go is a big help.

    1. We’re going to go through each piece, bit by bit, day by day, and build a story from it. You’ll see how the story can become as complex as you like, when you have the bones in place. (At least I hope you will. I do this with folks in workshops and it’s always a hit — especially with the people who were the most skeptical…)

  14. Thanks. I think I already cheated some. While working I jotted down a few characters names and started a paragraph or two.
    I hate to outline it reminds me of those horrible term papers! I’m like Kinsey, but I use post it notes instead of note cards.

    1. I hear you on the outline thing.

      Later in the week I’ll start showing you how I like to work with the SSF, and it’s about only outlining as far as you need to (only needing to see as far as the headlights illuminate the road at night…I can’t remember whose metaphor that is, but it’s a good one).

      And if you want to write today, I’m not going to stop you 😉

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