Lesson Ten




          A short story is a short fictional/ true prose narrative. It usually has a single incident, a         single plot and deals with only a few characters. Edgar Allan Poe defined a short story as the one that can be read at one sitting of half an hour to two hours. It differs from an     anecdote in its use of plot. As against a novel which generally deals with multiplicity of   plots and characters, a short story usually concentrates on a single plot, conveyed in   only one or a few significant episodes and scenes.


            Masters of Storytelling

          The well-known American story writers of the 19th century were Washington Irving     (1783-1859), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) and Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). Guy         de Maupassanat (1850-1904), a French writer, is considered as one of the masters of      the short story. His technique of surprise ending in a story was adopted by Anton          Chekhov (1860-1904), the Russian master of the short story. Other Russian short story     writers include Nikolay Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy.

          Components of Short Stories

          The short story is a work of fiction that is usually writeen in narrative prose. It is often         more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novels or epics. Short story writers        use a combination of creative imagination, personal expression and language skills to create a story. Some of the essential elements of a short story are given below.


          Every story has a plot. It is the sequence of events or incidents of which a story is    composed. These events or incidents are interrelated as one thing happens because of    another. Thus, a plot is a planned logical series of events: having a beginning, a middle      and an end. Unlike a novel or an epic, a short story usually has one plot so that it can be        read in one sitting. There are five essential parts of the plot.

§  Introduction

§  Rising action

§  Climax

§  Falling action

§  Denouement


Conflict is an essential component of the plot. It is the opposition of forces which bind one incident to another, and makes the plot move forward. Conflict is not merely confined to open arguments, but occurs in any form of opposition that the main character has to face in the story. Within a short story, there may be only one central conflict, or there may be one central conflict with many monor ones.

Depending on its origin, there are two types of conflict:

External:        It refers to a struggle with a force outside one’s self

Internal:        It refers to a struggle within one’s self; a person must take some                            decision, overcome pain, resist anger, etc.

§     Human vs. Human    (physical)

§     Human vs. Circumstances (classical)

§     Human vs. Society (social)

§     Human vs. himself/herself (psychological)



A story is usually given a title either after the name of the protagonist of the story or a particular incident or theme in the story. The title can be a popular expression or harbor a hidden meaning that unfolds later in the story. Titles can also be named after a person or place. A title may come from an existing work or be a memorable line from the story itself. The title should reflect the subject of the story, without giving everything away. It is the ultimate headline.


The theme in a story refers to its controlling idea or its central insight. It is the author’s underlying meaning or main idea that is conveyed in the story. The theme may be the author’s thoughts about a topic or view of human nature. Ambition, greed, love, fate, jealousy, loyalty are some of the common themes in short stories. The author makes use of various figures of speech to emphasize his theme, such as: symbol, simile, metaphor and irony.

Allegory and Symbolism

Allegory is a work of art which runs on two levels—the surface level and the deeper level. It is a story in which the author uses the characters, events or ideas on the surface level to bring out the moral of the story. Symbolism means an indirect method of communicating a deeper truth.


Irony is a language device in which the real meaning is concealed by the literal meaning of the words. Very often, there is a discrepancy between what is expected and what occurs.


Pathos is a quality that makes people take pity on others.

Simile and Metaphor

A simile is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things, often introduced with the word ‘like’ or ‘as’. Even though similes and metaphors are both forms of comparison, similes allow the two ideas to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas metaphors seek to equate two ideas despite their differences.


An allusion is a figurative or symbolic reference to something supposed to be known, but not explicitly mentioned.


A story must have a setting. Setting is the time, place and social reality within which a story takes pace. In other words, the location and the background atmosphere in which a story takes place is called the Setting.

Place: Where is the action of the story taking place?

Time: When is the story taking place? (historical period, time of day, year, etc)

Weather Conditions: Is it a rainy, sunny, or stormy day?

Social Conditions: What is the daily routine of the character? Does the story contain local colour (writing that focuses on the speech, dress, mannerisms, customs, etc., of a particular place?)

Mood or Atmosphere: What feeling is created at the beginning of the story? Is it bright and cheerful or dark and frightening?







                    Essay Writing Skills



     One of the most important skills expected of high-school graduates is the ability to write      clearly. Writing clearly means thinking clearly. Masterful writing can open doors for     success in life. Remember good writing doesn’t happen overnight. It requires applying    what you learn and refining your knowledge at every step. The goal of writing isn’t to    recapitulate a topic; it is to write with poise, power, and flair. Strong writers elicit   emotional responses. They explain. They persuade. And they impress.


     A good essay usually comprises one or more of the following elements:




  A new way of looking at old views

  Clear and well-developed presentation of a topic

  Assertion and proof that something is true


          A poor essay:


          Merely restates views already stated elsewhere

          Contains tired clichés and overly simplistic vocabulary

          Includes irrelevant details

          Is unclear, unorganized, or boring

          Contains a lot of filler information and padding that is of little consequence to the




The Process of Writing



Step 1.       Prewriting

Step  2.       Writing a First Draft

Step  3.       Sharing

Step  4.       Revising into a Second Draft

Step  5.       Editing into a Final Draft


Choosing a topic


§  Understanding your audience

§  Understanding your purpose

§  Free-writing

§  Brainstorming

§  Using inquiry (wh-words)

§  Clustering


Mapping ideas

§        Guided Free-writing

§        Venn-diagram

§        Idea chart

§        Narrative outline (My audience-my purpose-introduction-body paragraphs and conclusion)





Precis Writing




The main aim of précis writing is to give the gist of a passage. Summary questions can take three basic forms:

  1. Total Summary, where you are asked to summarize a whole passage (all its main ideas) in a specified number of words.
  2. Comprehension Summary: this is so called because it is sometimes disguised as a straightforward comprehension question, but will often be recognizable by phrases such as ‘In a paragraph of 70-80 words, say what the author thinks of …” or ‘In not more than 60 words, explain……..”. Obviously this, like the selective summary, is usually short  and requires clear understanding and precise expression to produce an effective answer.




  • Use of Reported Speech


Precis writing means reporting briefly one person’s opinion or comments to another. The use of the word ‘reporting’ is significant, because reported speech (indirect speech) is used in most of the summaries.


  • Making Notes


All of us have our own ways of making notes, but you can see from the specimen précis ular sections of the passage, and the notes you put under each heading must be directly relevant to that theme.

Do not spend more than five minutes constructing notes, as they are only an aid to clear thought. The will not count as a part of your summary.


  • Condense Information


          While trying to use as few words as possible you need to be précis. Any slight misuse of      words can lead to ambiguity, misunderstanding or inaccuracy. Consider the following       sentence:


          The Board of Directors decided that it was necessary to have a person appointed to act       on their behalf in Kathmandu.


          What word can be used to replace the phrase in italics? The word to economize space is           ‘representative’.

          As part of condensing passages, it will often be necessary to leave out non-essential details. The problem here is to identify what is necessary. All you can do is to decide        what the most important facts are and concentrate on them. Look at the following        sentence, and the division shown:


          In the market/ she purchased a few clothes/ which were new/ and a new pair of shoes/       without bargaining with the shopkeeper.

          There are five separate segments here. Only you can decide which the essential ones           are, but it is likely that a shortened version would read


          She purchased a new few clothes and a pair of shoes without bargain.




·         Summary Focus


Once you know what you are aiming to do—summarize the whole passage or selected themes—you should read it through and quickly the original marking off the sections which are relevant to your answers, or dividing the whole passage into ‘topic areas’. At the same time, make essential notes to indicate which the most important ones are.


·         Exclusion


                   While you select information, the following types of material can be left out:

                   i.        Any supporting information which is not absolutely essential to an                                              understanding of the main idea

                   ii.       Any digression, i.e. information not related to the points you are trying to                                    put across

                   iii.       Repetitions

                   iv.      Comparisons and examples (until they are essential to a clear                                           understanding or appreciation of a point)

                   v.       Non-essential details

                   vi.      Any descriptive passages

                   Once you have some notes to use as a guideline, you can begin drafting your                     answer. Obviously, you might still need to refer back to the original extract to                     clarify your thoughts and understanding.


·         Use Your Own Words


As far as possible you will be re-expressing the author’s ideas in your own words. Remember:

i.        Do not add any information which is not given int eh extract

ii.       Do not alter the meaning or emphasis of what the author says.

iii.       Do not give your own opinion (unless asked specifically)

iv.      Do not simply list a number of points.


·         Check-List


Once you have drafted your précis in the rough grid, you must check the following points:


i.        Does it answer the question?

ii.       Is the information presented in a logical order?

iii.       Is there a clear development of the theme?

iv.      Is all the information relevant?

v.       Is the style suitable?

vi.      Are you within the stipulated number of words?

vii.      Is your language clear, straightforward and easily understandable?

viii.     Is all grammar, punctuation and spelling correct? Once you feel you have       completed all of the above draw a fair grid (set of line sand columns,         number them) and rewrite the rough précis correctly into the fair grid and          only after that is completed you must draw a single line across the rough précis to enable the examiner to correct and mark the correct fair précis.)

          go through the specimen summary assignment given below. Analyze it carefully and see if you can identify where the principles outlined in the      rest of the chapter have been applied.


Q.      In not more than 60 words, describe a beaver’s castle and how it builds it       as well as makes it frost-free.





                                    SELF-TEST KEY

ü  There are many adults at the conference.

ü  Anita threw water at him by mistake.

ü  Please don’t make such mistakes.

ü  All of the participants are discouraged to write their answers in ink.

ü  Make straight your line or get into the straight line.

ü  Walk slowly or else you’ll fall.

ü  Would you mind speaking English here?

ü  Bow your head; it’s the time for Morning Prayer.

ü  Bobbie returned my novel.

ü  An 8.5 Richter earthquake struck last night.

ü  I’m an honest student at GEMS.

ü  More than 90 per cent of the students have passed English paper.

ü  I go to the grocer’s once a week.

ü  Amar married an American girl.

ü  I would like to ask all of the English teachers to be frank. (ask-means request)

ü  My friends suggested to me to do a lot of reading.

ü  Anupama’s books fell down the stairs. (touching surface)

ü  Tuleshwor stood first in the marathon.

ü  What much mark have I scored?

ü  Class 5 girls need to do their hair properly.

ü  Many of the schoolchildren like purple very much.

ü  Mr Magar’s family moved into a new apartment in Kathmandu.

ü  Only seven students have been permitted to sit the re-examination. (take)

ü  Thank your Mr Tamang for your class.

ü  The school management are discussing the promotion of teachers.

ü  Could you please turn the fan off?

ü  Srijana hasn’t covered her exercise book properly.

ü  Anju is taking IELTS this July for overseas study.

ü  Have you ever been to Pokhara?

ü  Participants talked educational issues at the conference last week.

ü  Mr Lamichhane needs some thumbtacks in order to put this paper on the board.

ü  Class X students hereby are informed to get their hair cut in a proper manner.

ü  Can you all look ahead for a while?

ü  A guardian lodged a complaint against an English teacher.

ü  Aslesha said that she left her grammar book at home.

ü  Dipti has got a lot of homework for the summer break.

ü  I saw an accident this morning.

ü  When will you make corrections on paper?

ü  Bimal always jumps the queue/ pushes in.

ü  Anajan didn’t talk nonsense either.

ü  Two pupils are searching for Mr Bin.

ü  Grade X students are making noise at the back in the school bus.

ü  I told you to complete all of the assignments yesterday, didn’t I?

ü  Samridhi studies in class 5. She is a talented student.

ü  My uncle lives in the Philippines.


© Writers’ Diary, 2014

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Amar Bahadur Sherma (ELT)

Mr Sherma is HOD of English at Euro School, Online English Teacher and Content Writer at MiDas Education, English Textbook Writer at KEDC and Editor-in-Chief of Writers' Diary.

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