The University of Southampton

ENGL2075 Brief Encounters: Writing Short Stories

Module Overview

Many writers begin with the short story. Through writing short stories they are able to experiment, learn the fundamentals of narrative composition, and have the satisfaction of completing something to a high standard in a relatively short period of time. The short story form can be the most flexible and satisfying to work with. Shena Mackay likened the short story to a magic box, Hermione Lee described it as being like a polished pebble, and Helen Simpson said that it is like a gin and tonic. What did these writers mean? On this module you will gain an understanding of the appeal of short stories to readers and writers, and the limits and possibilities inherent in the form. The module is designed to introduce you to the work of a range of short story writers, whilst helping you to develop your skills in crafting short fiction. You will be asked to study particular stories each week, but you will also be expected to pursue your own interests in reading. You will be encouraged to “read like a writer” and to reflect on that reading in critical commentaries to accompany your finished work. The skills required for writing short stories are also key to working in other forms, so this module will help you to develop as a writer whatever your plans and ambitions may be.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to introduce you to a range of contemporary short stories and help you develop skills in writing short fiction.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the work of particular short story writers
  • the methods by which writers work
  • the key elements of fiction (including character, viewpoint, plot, dialogue, and imagery)
  • the way that writers draw upon archetypal narratives, myths and traditional tales.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • be able to successfully plan, structure, rewrite and edit your work.
  • have written two short stories for assessment.
  • have practised writing very short stories (for example, twitter fiction and flash fiction)
  • have practised working with the key elements of fiction including character, viewpoint, plot, dialogue and imagery.
  • be able to write critical commentaries of your own work.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • be used to generating and developing ideas for stories.
  • be able to think critically about your own work including your creative methods and influences


You will look at how the elements of fiction (e.g. place, character, narrative, structure, and point of view work together to create a successful short story. You may begin by writing autobiographically and practise using memories as starting points for fiction, but you will also use your powers of observation to develop character and setting. You will look closely at how the elements of fiction work in both contemporary and classic works, also investigating the way that archetypal narratives, myths and traditional tales can be used as the basis for contemporary short stories. You will look at flash fictions, as you begin to write your first short story or stories for assessment Having gained skills in the key elements of writing short fiction, you will be expected to write another longer story for your final assignment. Reflecting and writing critically about your own methods and finished work is a key element of this module, and you will be required to write a critical commentary as part of the second assignment.

Special Features

This module gives you the opportunity to write creatively and reflect on your practice. You will receive guidance and feedback on your work from a published writer. We hope that a writer or publisher of short fiction will be invited to speak at one of the lectures.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

You will have one three hour seminar and a one hour workshop seminar each week. Classes will be structured around writing exercises and opportunities to review your work in small groups and with the tutor. You will be expected to bring drafts of your work to seminars prior to each deadline, and to offer feedback to your fellow students on their work. You will be able to see your seminar tutor in regular consultation hours and to ask for feedback on work in progress as well as on marked assignments.

Completion of assessment task100
Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Wider reading or practice80
Follow-up work32
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Lorrie Moore (2009). The Collected Short Stories of Lorrie Moore. 

Raymond Carver (1993). Where I’m Calling From: The Selected Short Stories of Raymond Carver. 

Angela Carter (2006). The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. 

Richard Ford (2008). The New Granta Book of The American Short Story Volume 2. 

Ailsa Cox (2005). Writing Short Stories. 

Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter (1991). What If?. 

Daniel Halpern (1987). The Art of The Tale - An International Anthology of Short Stories. 

Julia Bell (2001). The Creative Writing Coursebook. 

Hermione Lee (1997). The Secret Self - A Century of Stories by Women. 

W.G. Sebald (2002). The Rings of Saturn. 

Harry Bingham (2012). The Writers’ and Artists’ Guide to How To Write. 

Christopher Booker (2004). The Seven Basic Plots - Why We Tell Stories. 

Janet Burroway (2011). Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. 

Annie Proulx (2009). The Shipping News. 

Andrew Cowan (2011). The Art of Writing Fiction. 

Shena Mackay (2010). The Atmospheric Railway – New and Selected Stories. 

Anne Tyler (1987). Morgan's Passing. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (1500 words) 25%
Written assignment  (2000 words) 30%
Written assignment  (3500 words) 45%


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (1500 words) 25%
Written assignment  (3500 words) 75%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Travel Costs for placements

The module will be greatly enhanced by a talk from a visiting writer or publisher of short fiction for which a fee and travel costs would be required

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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