The One Sentence That Improves Every Short Story | Writer’s Relief

Jul 5, 2023 | Creative Writing Craft and Techniques, Short Stories, Writing Tips

The One Sentence That Improves Every Short Story | Writer’s Relief

It’s true: There’s a single sentence that can improve every short story you write. It will make your story more focused, readable, and enjoyable. Yet surprisingly, this powerful sentence won’t be found in the actual story! This particular sentence is for your eyes only and acts like a road map while you’re writing. Writer’s Relief offers you tips and advice on how to write the one sentence that improves every short story.

How To Write The One Sentence That Improves Every Short Story

You’ve collected your short story’s main plot point and characters, and have a general idea of the story arc. It’s time to write! But before you begin to put the pieces together, you’ll need to compose your short story’s most important sentence—a summary sentence that will guide you as you write.

This sentence for your short story will be similar to the logline screenwriters create. A logline is a one-sentence summary that includes details such as who the main character is, what the setup will be, what the conflict will be, and who (or what) the antagonist will be. Try to stick to twenty-five words or fewer. Here are two examples of how you might write your summary sentence:

It took a deadly tornado strike for Steve to realize how much he loved his wife, but now she’s missing.

The jester overhears the duke’s plot to kill the king and has only minutes to secretly foil the plan.

As you’re writing your short story, be sure to regularly refer to the summary sentence you created. Have you drifted away from the main action? Are you adding unnecessary details that don’t move the story forward? Has an important character been pushed to the sidelines? By checking your summary sentence, you’ll be able to stay on the right track.

You can use the same elements found in loglines to create your short story summary sentence:

Protagonist: You can use a person’s name (since this is for your reference, and you know who you’re writing about) or a character type like marine biologist, detective, single parent, awkward teenager, and such. This character will be the lens you use to see how the story plays out.

Inciting Incident: What changes the status quo for your character? Has a long-forgotten debt from the past suddenly come due? Or perhaps a letter has arrived in the mail. What occurs to make the story move forward?

Action: How is your character responding to the situation: fight, flight, or frozen with indecision? By performing one last heist, or reuniting with long-lost family? Whatever it is, it’s important that you describe the situation with evocative, active language. You don’t want your character passive; they should be the one doing all the fun stuff!

Conflict/Antagonist: Whether it’s a rival or a dark family secret, something is going to make your protagonist’s journey a bumpy one. This could be a person, a setting, or even a time limit. The conflict raises the stakes that have already been established.

Once you’ve successfully created your one-sentence summary, you can begin writing your short story. The result will be a short story that’s focused, intriguing, and keeps your readers engaged. You’ll also find it’s easier to stay within the publishing industry’s preferred word count of 3,500 words or fewer, since you’re less likely to wander off from the main plot or action.

When your short story is proofread, polished, and ready to submit to literary journals, here’s the next most important sentence you need to know: Writer’s Relief can help you target the best publishing opportunities and boost your odds of getting an acceptance! Learn more about our services, and submit your work to our Review Board today!


Question: What would be a one-sentence summary of your latest short story?