Writing Handout L-1
Analyzing a Short Story (10 steps)
Step 1: Know the Assignment ― If you are assigned to analyze a short story, you are being asked to identify
your personal reaction to the work and develop a clear explanation of your reaction, providing
supporting arguments. You may be required to provide support from external sources (books, articles,
etc.). These assignments are usually written in the third person, present tense. Remember: An analysis is
not a simple recitation of the plot.
Step 2: Read ― Read the entire short story, trying to identify the writer’s main idea.
Step 3: Review ― Summarize the story in your own words, using no more than two sentences.
Step 4: Read the story a second time to analyze how the author has supported his or her ideas. Take notes,
including page numbers for future reference. Examine the literary elements used by the author. Some
possible elements you might find that contribute to the meaning of the story or the author’s purpose
include the following:
*Allusion — Does the author refer to any past literary source or event in history? For example, many
authors use Biblical allusions.
*Character – What are the qualities reflected in the actions and/or thoughts of the individual figures in
the plot? Are the characters dynamic (changing) or static (unchanging)?
*Figurative language — (metaphor, simile, etc.) Is language used to help a reader understand the
characters or to help establish the significance of theme and tone?
*Imagery — Does the author use imagery to advance the story or provide insight to the characters? If
so, why? Imagery includes the senses (sight, sound, etc.).
*Point-of-view — Who is telling the story and what does he or she know (or not know)? Is the tale told
by an omniscient (all-knowing) narrator who doesn’t interact in the events, or is it presented by
one of the characters within the story?
*Plot — Is the story logical? If not, why not?
*Setting — Does the time period,...