Questions for Exploring Short Stories
• Is the story:
• Who is the narrator?
• Is the narrator also a character?
• What role does the narrator play in the
development of the plot?
• Do we trust the narrator?
• How does the story start?
• What happened before the story started?
• Where does the reader “land” in the story?
• How do we learn this background?
• Is the delivery of this background important
to the plot of the story?
• Who are the main characters?
• How are they introduced in the story?
• When are they introduced?
• What do we know about these characters?
• What do we need to know about them?
• Do they ﬁt any archetypal patterns?
Character and Setting
• What time period is the story set?
• Do the characters behave according to the
standards of time and location?
• What do we need to understand about the time
period, customs, language, mores, habits, and
traditions of the culture or time period?
• How are the major characters drawn? What are
their major strengths? Weaknesses? Are they
• How to the characters function in relationship to
• How do the minor characters work with the major
• Do we trust the characters? Why or why not?
Action, Speech, Ideas
• How to characters present their ideas?
• How is speech crafted to provide characterization?
• Which is more important to the character - actions
• Does the reader “get inside the head of” any
• Do the characters change (for better or worse)
during the story?
• How does the author address setting?
• Is the setting described in full or is it implied?
• What role does the setting play in the plot/action
of the story.
• How does the setting establish mood?
• Does the setting impact character development?
• Is the plot of the story the most meaningful part of
the story? If not, what is?
• Is there anything missing in the plot? Is this
element missing on purpose?
• Are there any inconsistencies in the plot? Are
• How does memory play a role in the development
of the plot? Do we trust these memories?
Organization of Plot
• Is the story organized thematically or
• Would the outcome be different if the events
• What are the motivations of the major and minor
• Is this story didactic?
• What is the point of the story - to inform,
persuade, or entertain?
• How does the plot establish the theme?
• How do the characters function in relationship to
• What value statements are implied by the theme?
• Are symbols used in the story?
• Do the characters recognize the symbols, or are
the symbols used for the beneﬁt of the reader
• Do these symbols add meaning? Why, or why
• Are there major and minor symbols?
• Are the symbols archetypal?
Reality and Believability
• Is this story believable or fantastical?
• Does the story need to be believable to achieve the
overall effect or impact of the story?
• How does the plot function in believability?
• Are the characters believable?
• Is the setting realistic? Does it need to be
• How would a Feminist react to this story?
• How would a New Critic react to this story?
• How would a Deconstructionist react to this
• How would a Psychoanalytic critic react to
• How would an Ecocritic react to the story?