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Short Story Resource Guide

Our judges want to share their knowledge and experience to help you write the best short story possible.

General advice to help get you started:

  • Your story idea should be a fictional account that is compelling, convincing and memorable. Find the focus before you start.
  • Outline character and setting details.
  • Choose a point of view for the story. For example, a story written in the first person would use the pronoun I. “I woke up tired the morning of my last day on earth.”
  • Show what you mean through strong language. Use figures of speech (metaphors, etc.). Don’t tell, explain, or preach.  Let the reader work things out. 
  • Make sure the progression is logical and clear.
  • Write a satisfying conclusion.
  • Pick a title at the end, and an opening sentence.
  • Re-write for clarity and be sure to proofread before you submit your story.


Resources in our collection to help you:


Reading as many short stories as you can will help you get a feel for the length and structure required. Some suggested titles available at the Ottawa Public Library are listed below, however there are many more.

Print titles


The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The door in the wall by H.G. Wells

Family furnishings by Alice Munro

The gift of the magi by O. Henry

The Maltese falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The secret life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

Home truths by Mavis Gallant