We’ve been doing a lot of work on what makes a satisfying short story at the writing group, and here’s an easily digested summary of what we’ve discussed.
A memorable short story will say something about the human condition, encapsulating one idea succinctly, with each scene building towards a crisis point, followed by a point of realisation or moment of clarity. The issue you address at the start of the story should be the issue that is resolved at the end.
A good short story starts in the middle of the action and as close to the climax as possible. At the end of the story, the main character should be in a better place than at the beginning, enabling them to move forward.
There’s a trick to storytelling, to capturing our readers’ attention, and it’s not just about piling on the details and descriptions. We have to maintain some mystery. If we reveal too much too soon, our constant reader will work out what’s going to happen, their curiosity will wane and they’ll lose interest. In the process, we’ll destroy the narrative tension. There’s no harm in dropping hints along the way; that’s how we hook our readers attention and keep them gripped.