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What would be a good thesis statement for the question, "What makes an excellent short story?"

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Rebecca Hope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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If you are given a prompt to write an essay about what makes a good short story, you could approach it in a number of different ways. One way would be to focus on the key elements of a short story, such as characters, plot, and theme. For each of these, you could provide an adjective describing how a "good" short story presents these elements. For example, you might say that a good short story has memorable or relatable characters, an exciting plot or a surprising plot, and an inspiring or a clear theme. Another way would be to take just one of those story elements that you think is most important and describe how good stories use that element. For example, you might think characters are the most important element that makes a story good or not good. What makes the characters in a story the key element of a good story? Choose three criteria such as: A good story has characters who are believable, sympathetic, and dynamic. (Dynamic characters are characters that go through some kind of change in the story.)

Another approach to developing a thesis for this prompt would be to discuss the importance of the "epiphany" in short stories. Short stories from the 20th century onward tended to focus on an epiphany that the main character experiences. James Joyce popularized this approach, and Katherine Mansfield was also known for creating stories in which the main character had an eye-opening or life-changing revelation as a result of some, often simple, experience within the plot of the story. You could develop this thesis by providing examples of stories that contain epiphanies and describing the effect those epiphanies have on readers.

You could also develop a thesis statement based on Edgar Allan Poe's rules for short stories (see link below). For example, you could argue that a good short story is unified, aims for truth, and stresses imagination.