Dec 08 2020

Story Analysis: How to Analyze a Short Story Step-by-Step

Adela Belin photo Adela Belin Content strategist and writer
Knowledge Cell

Have there been times that you have read a short story in class and tried to analyze its meaning by deep-diving into the text to understand better? If yes, this article is for you.

Short stories are relatively much shorter and less complex than most novels or plays. But that does not mean that they don’t require an in-depth analysis of what is written in the text and what messages the author of the book intends to convey to its readers.

In this article, you will learn how to analyze a short story step-by-step, along with the essential elements of a short story.

What are the Elements of a Short Story?

In order to analyze a short story step-by-step, it is important to know the basics of story analysis. Let’s take a look at the five key elements of a short story.


Characters (both major and minor) are what bring life to a story. Writers use them to transcend important messages throughout the plotline.

Every character has a purpose, a particular personality, and a developmental arc. To analyze these characters for your short story, you must have the answer to the following questions:

  • Who is the plotline’s protagonist?
  • Do you have your antagonist? If yes, who is it? What antagonistic qualities do they have?
  • Are the characters dynamic (changing) or static (unchanging)?
  • How does the author describe the character's appearance, personality, mindset, actions?
  • What are your thoughts, feelings, or opinions about the characters?
  • What is the relationship between all the characters?

People get invested in fictional characters, relate to them, and see them as real individuals with real personalities, going through real hardships in life.

That's the key motive of the author, and that's what needs to be analyzed.

Setting or Theme

The setting of a short story depicts the theme of the plot through key metaphors. It revolves around 3 important points:

  • Time
  • Location
  • Circumstances

This also aids the flow of the plotline, distinguishes the characters, influences viewpoints, and creates an aura for your story.

Even if a story is placed in a historic time and place, from when and where it was originally written, it can influence the entire context of the narrative.

Many stories would seem different and altered if their original setting was changed completely and is thus very crucial in interpreting the concept of the story.

Thus, try to assess how the setting affects the story and how it motivates its characters. Analyze why the author has chosen this particular setting, how the readers respond to it, as well as if there’s any symbolic meaning behind it.


The plotline makes a story by giving it a pattern and a structure to the events that are about to happen. Identifying and analyzing these plotlines will help in giving insights into the explanation of the story.

In short stories, the plot is majorly centered around one important character and their actions, or around one key experience that impacts the story greatly.

Usually, a short story plot has one major storyline, unlike novels, that have multiple trajectories of storylines. Thus, short stories are easier to analyze.


Authors use symbolism to convey messages poetically or indirectly, through their story, making it more interesting and a complex piece.

Symbolism is depicted using a physical object or even a person to be an abstract idea. For example, a dove represents love and peace or a storm represents hostility and turmoil.

Symbolism can also be used as metaphors in the narrative, such as life is a roller coaster which portrays life to have its ups and downs.

Similarly, in short story novels, authors symbolize certain conflicts and important issues by using a metaphor or a simile in their story. For example, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the officials dismantled the coronations of Caesar's statues, foreshadowing their plan to topple him.

Original: SourceMoral

Lastly, the reason you are reading the short story is to identify what you have learned from it and what the moral of the narrative is.

Even though short stories novels are crisp, interesting, and entertaining, there is always a life lesson behind each of them. This moral is implied to help the readers understand the author’s perspective, what they want to convey, and what lesson you should learn from the text.

How to Analyze a Short Story Step-by-Step

Now that we know the major elements that are involved in crafting an exceptional story analysis, let's take a look at five tips for how to analyze a short story step-by-step.

Read and summarize

As you prepare to analyze the short story assigned to you, it is recommended to read and re-read it multiple times. Since it is a short story, you’ll have plenty of time to understand all the details included within the story and the context of the plot.

To analyze the book, divide the narrative into sections. Read each of these sections and write down key points and essential details that are related to these portions of the story. As you do that, summarize your interpretation of the plot into a more understandable and easy piece.

Brainstorm and take notes

While reading the text, if you come across an interesting subplot, a challenging character arc, or even a major theme that isn't showcased through the text, make it a point of writing them down.

These notes will be your crutch as you begin analyzing your short story for your class assignment. Taking notes brings organization to your thoughts and ideas, as well as gives you proper knowledge about every detail you find in the short story.

Brainstorm multiple ideas and write down the concepts that you find fascinating while reading the book. Always pay close attention to the details to understand the purpose of the text, as well as the author’s point of view on multiple important situations or events.

Here’s an interesting video by Jesse on how to take notes while reading

Identify crucial concepts

Identifying important concepts in the short story such as the main conflict that helps with creating the primary argument for the thesis statement, the characters’ personalities, their defining traits, the choices they make, and also the point of view of the narrator.

The point of view is an important aspect of the storyline as it creates a lens for the reader so as to understand and analyze themes, details, characters, and important events in the story.

While examining these concepts, you will realize the intention of the author, how the story was significant to them, and why they made certain choices while writing the short story.

Similarly, exploring the literary devices of the short story, such as the setting, mood, tone, and style of the text will help further in analyzing the plotline in a more notable way.

Include examples and evidence

When you state an argument in your story analysis, it is always better to back it up with credible sources and accurate evidence. For example, you can paraphrase or directly quote a sentence from your assigned story to claim your point.

However, quotations cannot become evidence unless it is explained how it proves the claims that are being made.

Having good sources for your story analysis gives you a higher level of authority over the book that you are writing about and also makes it easier for the reader to understand the author’s perspective.

Craft the thesis statement

It is important to make sure that all the points that have been made for the analysis ties together and ultimately supports your thesis.

Keep in mind that the thesis for your short story should not just summarize the plot, and neither should it be a review of the book. Your thesis statement should be an interpretation of the text or an argument that is based on the storyline.


Writing a quality analysis for short stories requires a solid thought process, an organized structure, and the ability to deep-dive into the literary meaning of a text.

Here, you understand and think through the author's perspective of the book and why they have chosen to write their thoughts and ideas through this narrative.

Hence, to know how to analyze a short story step-by-step for your class assignments and also score high, you need proper guidance, key steps, and other tips and tricks that put your analysis at the front of the line. This article is here just for that!

If you still find yourself to be stuck, reach out to Writers Per Hour. Our team of professional writers are experts in analyzing stories and will help you deliver a 100% original short story analysis, written from scratch.

last edit at Sep 26 2021