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How to Write a Short Story In 5 Acts

It’s the end of the day and you’re curled up on the couch (stretchy pants on) binge-watching a show. Just before the break, your favorite character gets shot (or fired, or kissed)! You need to watch just a little bit more. Before you know it, you’ve watched the entire episode…or season.

What is it that keeps you absorbed and watching? Simple. Television shows are designed that way. Scripts are purposefully structured to draw you into the story and to keep you watching.

As an author, you want your readers to be so engrossed they can’t put your book down—to binge-read your story. Designing a short story in 5 acts, like a television show, engages and captivates your readers.

The 5-act structure is effective because it focuses each act on a component in the story and assigns every act a percentage of total word count. This paces the story naturally by distributing twists in the most effective position in the story arc. By purposefully calculating act length, breaks, twists, and cliffhangers, you can lay out the blueprint of a compelling, binge-worthy read.

Read the entire article in the July/August issueSubscribe!

Allison Gorner

Allison Gorner

Before becoming a short story author and screenwriter, Allison has been a librarian, production assistant, art director, and coal miner. She has diplomas in Cinema, Television, Stage & Radio, and Writing For Children, and is a member of Alberta Romance Writers’ Association (ARWA) and Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF). She finds time to write when she can extricate herself from her four kids and their pounding on the bathroom door.



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