Short Story


  • Narrative story also needs paragraphing. You can start your paragraphs with the expressions listed below.
  • Use the variety of tenses.
  • Try to keep the chronological order of events. It will help you avoid traps of sequencing.
  • Short sentences create suspense, which makes your story more interesting. Do not make the plot of your story too complicated.
  • You can incorporate short dialogues into your story.
  • Try not to overuse Past Perfect/Past Perfect Continuous. These tenses are not used very often. Sometimes they are necessary for the sake of clarity, but as their construction is such a complex one, they make your sentences longer. If you want to keep your narration brisk and vivid, you may want to find some other ways to convey your message. Use before and after instead.


    · Before she left for her holiday, she checked all the locks in the house.
    · Before she left for her holiday, she had checked all the locks in the house.

    The second sentence is correct, but it carries double information on what happened earlier: there is information in the word before = earlier and then it is repeated in the tense used.


    · She checked all the locks in the house, after that she left for her holidays.
    · After checking all the locks in her house, she left for her holidays.

    After (afterwards) = later

    Even if you do not want to resign from the Past Perfect tenses, you can write some sentences like those above in your story - just to change the pattern of the sentence.


Narrative tenses:

  • Past Simple:

    • to describe simple facts and states
      She opened her eyes, yawned, and slowly got up.
    • to describe events that follow each other
      She left the building, went to the shop where she realised she did not have enough money and returned home.
  • Past Continuous:

    • to set the scene
      The wind was blowing, dark clouds were gathering over his head and he was getting cold.
    • (used with Past Simple) to show that the continuity of one action is interrupted by another action
      Tom was watching the news when a strange noise came from the basement.
  • Past Perfect/ Continuous:

    • 'past in the past'- to indicate that something happened earlier than the action described
      She stared at him trying to remember where she had seen that face before.
    • to indicate that what happened earlier was a longer activity
      She was dirty and sweaty as she had been playing volleyball all day.


Useful expressions:
  • the first thing that happened; at first; it began with; it started with;
  • after that; just then; afterwards; when; once (meaning after); just as; then; after some time;
  • suddenly; out of the sudden; gradually; step by step; slowly;
  • in the end; eventually; finally; it ended with;

Sample answer:

Q: Write a short story that would begin with the following words: Jane woke up in the middle of the night. Her room was filled with the moonlight.

Jane woke up in the middle of the night. Her room was filled with the moonlight. She lay in her bed for a while watching weird figures appearing on the wall. 'Hmm. It is strange. The moonlight does not cast shadows' - Jane observed but she was too drowsy to give it a deeper thought.
The girl began falling asleep again when she heard a strange whisper. The sound was unusual enough to draw her attention. Jane got up and tiptoed to the window. Hidden behind the curtain and unnoticed by anyone, she witnessed an extraordinary meeting.
It was sort of an animal counsel. There were a lot of different species participating in this specific get-together. They sat together in two circles - bigger animals found place on the ground and birds shared the branches above them. The group discussed something - Jane was sure of that, but she did not understand a single word of their language.
Next morning Jane woke up on the floor next to her bed. She still thought of her funny dream while making breakfast. Her cat was sitting on the sill, watching her with narrowed eyes...

[189 words]