This page contains a wide selection of short stories appropriate for college or university students. Every story is part of the literary canon and is suitable for deep reading and studying the usual story elements: plot, point of view, character, setting, tone and style, theme, and symbol.
Most of the short stories on this page are well known, so you’ll be able to find a lot of explanatory notes on most of them to supplement your understanding. Many of the stories for High School are also suitable for college students.
For stories that are about college see:
- Campus | Academic
If you want the latest literary anthology that all the cool students are reading, check out The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter 13th Edition. (Amazon) It has the usual selections from the literary canon as well as some newer pieces.
If you’d like to browse some Norton anthologies, this page looks at some popular volumes.
Short Stories for College Students
The short stories with PDF links are noted below.
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
Mama is an African-American woman living in the Deep South with her daughter, Maggie. Her other daughter, Dee, an educated woman who’s drawn to a traditional African identity, is coming for a visit. ()
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A woman’s husband, a doctor, confines her to the upstairs bedroom of their summer house. He diagnoses her with a “hysterical tendency” and “nervous depression”. She chronicles her confinement in her journal; the treatment doesn’t have a positive effect on her condition.
This story can be read in the preview ofThe Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories.
“King of the Bingo Game” by Ralph Ellison
A black man sits through a movie, waiting for the bingo game to follow. He’s very hungry but knows he can’t ask to share anyone’s food, because things in New York aren’t like back South. He’s unemployed and has no money. He needs to win the bingo jackpot so he can take his sick wife to the doctor. ()
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
A Southern spinster, Emily Grierson, has died. She had been a recluse, so the townspeople are curious about her and her house. The narrator recounts episodes from her life. ()
This story can be read in the preview ofA Rose for Emily and Other Stories. (18% into preview)
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
A woman receives the news that her husband has been killed in a train accident. She processes the news over the next hour, experiencing a range of emotions.
Read “The Story of an Hour” (Includes Summary & Analysis)
“The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence
A middle-class woman, successful but perpetually short of money, lives with her two children. She is unlucky, but her son isn’t: when he rides his rocking-horse, he’s able to work himself into a state where he can pick the winner of a horse race.
This is the first story in the preview ofBig Book of Best Short Stories.
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver
Two married couples sit in the McGinnis’s apartment, drinking and talking about real love. They use their own, and second-hand experiences, to try to define it. ()
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway
The Macomber’s are an American couple on an African safari. They have a guide, Wilson, a professional hunter, who will lead their outing. It is revealed that Francis had panicked in an earlier hunt when a wounded lion charged at him.
This is the first story in the preview ofThe Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway.
“20/20” by Linda Brewer
Bill and Ruthie are on a road trip. Bill finds her conversation simplistic; she refuses to argue anything. She says what she sees along the way. ()
“Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason
Leroy has been off work for four months since getting hurt. His wife, Norma Jean, supports them both by working at a drugstore. Leroy is glad to be home with his wife, but he’s worried that she’s drawing away from him—maybe his presence reminds her of their son who died as a baby.
This story can be read in the preview ofShiloh & Other Stories.
“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
In a small town, an old man with wings washes up on shore. There are many ideas about what he is and where he’s from. A couple takes him and locks him up on their property.
This is the eleventh story in the preview ofThe Big Book of Modern Fantasy. (78% into preview)
“The Necklace” by Guy De Maupassant
Mathilde is married to a minor government official. They’re of modest means, but Mathilde has expensive tastes. When they get invited to a party, she borrows a necklace from a rich friend.
Read “The Necklace”
“Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield
A middle-aged woman takes a weekly Sunday walk. She likes to observe and listen to people, but she overhears something that upsets her.
Read “Miss Brill”
“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver
A woman and a blind man have kept in contact for ten years, mailing tapes to each other. His wife has recently died, so he’s going to visit her family. On the way, he’s going to spend a night at the woman’s place with her new husband. Her husband isn’t looking forward to the visit.
Read “Cathedral” (PDF)
“In Broad Daylight” by Ha Jin
Two boys rush to the home of Mu Ying on Eternal Way. A crowd is gathering there, as Mu Ying is going to be paraded through town as a punishment. Grandma remembers the old way of punishing an adulteress and wants her to be executed. Mu Ying, surrounded by Red Guards, is led out through her gate.
“How” by Lorrie Moore
The narrator describes the progression of a relationship, with some possible variations, from the first meeting to its dissolution.
“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin
The narrator is a teacher in Harlem; he has managed to keep away from the bad influences around him. His brother, Sonny, is a jazz musician with a heroin problem. They haven’t stayed close over the years.
Read “Sonny’s Blues” (PDF)
“Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather
Paul gets suspended from his Pittsburgh High School. His father wants him to be a responsible wage-earning family man when he grows up, but Paul is drawn to a life of wealth and glamour, so he decides to go to New York.
Read “Paul’s Case” (PDF)
“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty
An elderly African-American woman, Phoenix Jackson, walks through the Mississippi forest to get into town. She encounters many obstacles along the way.
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
An extended family is headed to Florida for a vacation. The grandmother wants to go to Tennessee instead, so she talks about an escaped murderer–The Misfit–who is suspected to be on his way to Florida.
“Silence” by Tadeusz Borowski
A man is seized in a German barracks and dragged into an alley. The mob is broken up when they are warned of an approaching company of American soldiers.
“The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges
A German spy knows that his cover has been blown and he’s being pursued by English authorities. He has vital information to communicate to his government, so he comes up with a plan: he finds a man named Stephen Albert in the phonebook and heads for his home.
“Winter Dreams” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Dexter Green is a fourteen-year-old caddy, working for pocket money. He quits one day when Judy Jones, a beautiful eleven-year-old, treats him as an inferior. Years later he goes into business and becomes a success. He has another meeting with Judy Jones.
Read “Winter Dreams” (PDF)
“Flowering Judas” by Katherine Anne Porter
Laura, an American, is in Mexico City after the Mexican Revolution working for the revolutionary cause and its leader, the socialist Braggioni. Braggioni indulges himself and tries to seduce Laura. Her religious and revolutionary ideals are tested.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
A rebellious fifteen-year-old girl encounters an older man in a parking lot. He later shows up at her place when she’s home alone to ask her to go for a ride with him.
Read “Where Are You Going . . .” (PDF)
“The Swimmer” by John Cheever
On a summer Sunday, Neddy is hanging out at the Westerhazy’s pool. They’re talking about how they drank too much last night. He realizes he could make his way home by swimming the length of the pools in his neighborhood.
Read “The Swimmer” (PDF)
“A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka
A hunger artist—a professional faster—puts on public fasting exhibitions. The public responds enthusiastically at first, but eventually loses interest.
There are many other excellent short stories for college students. This page is just a sampling of appropriate short stories, offered as a starting point.
- Generate your idea.
- Know your character.
- Outline your short story.
- Start with something out of the ordinary.
- Get your draft done as soon as possible.
- Edit your short story.
- Title your short story.
"The Tale of Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter tells the story of a mischievous little rabbit who doesn't listen to his mother and goes through a heart-pounding chase with Mr. McGregor.What are the 5 types of short stories? ›
- Novella. A work of fiction between 20,000 and 49,999 words is considered a novella. ...
- Novelette. A novelette falls in the range of 7,500 to 19,999 words. ...
- Short story. ...
- Flash fiction. ...
- Short Fiction Challenge.
Short Story: A fictional tale of a length that is too short to publish in a single volume like a novel. Short stories are usually between five and sixty pages; as a result, they can be read in a single sitting. Usually, short stories concentrate on a single event with only one or two characters.What is a good introduction for a short story? ›
Start with action or dialogue. Ask a question or set of questions. Describe the setting so readers can imagine it. Give background information that will interest readers.Where can I find good short stories? ›
- Narrative Magazine. Narrative Magazine is a free space for readers to enjoy some of the best short stories, essays, and poetry written by both established and emerging writers. ...
- The New Yorker. ...
- Electric Literature. ...
- Wattpad. ...
- Granta. ...
- Tor.com. ...
- Lightspeed Magazine. ...
- American Short Fiction.
The short story is usually concerned with a single effect conveyed in only one or a few significant episodes or scenes. The form encourages economy of setting, concise narrative, and the omission of a complex plot; character is disclosed in action and dramatic encounter but is seldom fully developed.What are the 3 types of short stories? ›
While there are many different short story styles, here we will consider three popular short story types: lyrical, flash fiction, and vignette.What 3 things should a short story have? ›
They are true masters at combining the five key elements that go into every great short story: character, setting, conflict, plot and theme.How long should a short story be? ›
A short story length is typically around 5,000 words in length but maybe as long as 7000 words. Stories that range from 500 to 1,00 words are classed as flash fiction (here's a great example). Stories less than 500 words are considered to be micro-fiction.
Short story length is always between 1,000 and 10,000 words, and usually 1,500-7,500 words. How long should a short story be in pages? A short story is 3-30 pages long. This number of pages works best when published in a literary magazine or similar publication.What are the 7 elements of a short story PDF? ›
These elements are character, plot, setting, theme, point of view, conflict, and tone. All seven elements work together to create a coherent story.What are the 7 elements of a short story? ›
You can turn the slightest concept into a gripping tale by mastering the seven essential elements of a story — theme, characters, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and style.What makes a story a good story? ›
The best story is a well-told tale about something the reader feels is relevant or significant. The best stories are more complete and more comprehensive. They contain more verified information from more sources with more viewpoints and expertise. They exhibit more enterprise, more reportorial effort.What is the first sentence in a story? ›
The first lines of a novel or short story must grab the reader's attention, enticing them to continue past the first page and continue reading. The first sentence provides you with an opportunity to showcase your writing style, introduce your main character, or establish the inciting incident of your narrative.How do you start the first sentence of a story? ›
- Start in the middle of a story. The first lines don't have to begin with long descriptions of a room's appearance or a character's personality. ...
- Open with a mystery. ...
- Flash back to the past. ...
- Describe the current state of affairs. ...
- Set the tone. ...
- Start with a voice.
- I didn't mean to kill her.
- The air turned black all around me.
- Icy fingers gripped my arm in the darkness.
- Wandering through the graveyard it felt like something was watching me.
- The eyes in the painting follow him down the corridor.
- A shrill cry echoed in the mist.
- Introduce a key character's name (and how they got it) ...
- Begin with a landmark personal or historical event. ...
- Sow the seeds of your story's world. ...
- Start in the thick of action with dialogue. ...
- Introduce a strong narratorial voice. ...
- Begin with a character doing something unusual.
- “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl. ...
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. ...
- “How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore. ...
- “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian. ...
- “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. ...
- “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O'Connor. ...
- “Symbols and Signs” by Vladimir Nabokov.
The average short story should run anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 words, but they can be anything above 1,000 words. Flash fiction is a short story that is 500 words or less.
- The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.
- The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
- The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
- Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.
- The Dead by James Joyce.
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
- Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway.
- Cathedral by Raymond Carver.
Write the body paragraphs.
Retell the story in your own words. Describe the most important events from the story including the climax and resolution. The number of body paragraphs you have will depend on the length of the piece.
Some short stories build to a single sentence. This is so common, actually, that it sometimes seems most of the stories I read are of this type.What are the 4 parts of a short story? ›
What Makes A Good Short Story? The four elements necessary for your story structure are character, plot, setting, and tension. Balancing these elements is the first step to making your creative writing amazing.What are the six basic stories? ›
That said, Vonnegut's six basic plots are:
- Rags to Riches (Rise)
- Riches to Rags (Fall)
- Man in a Hole (Fall, then rise)
- Icarus (Rise, then fall)
- Cinderella (Rise, fall, rise)
- Oedipus (Fall, rise, fall)
Short story: over 1,000 words, usually less than 10,000. Novelette: 7,500 to 19,000 words. Novella: 10,000 to 40,000 words.What should you avoid in a short story? ›
- Clichés. Many writers tend to use hackneyed phraseology in their writing, and that detracts from the originality of their voice. ...
- Know your audience. ...
- Keep your point of view consistent. ...
- Have a good story title. ...
- The classic 'show, don't tell'
- Indicate character change through action. ...
- Show character stasis through inaction. ...
- Kill someone. ...
- Welcome baby. ...
- Do the twist. ...
- Leave the unanswered questions unanswered. ...
- Come on, get happy. ...
- Be a story mad scientist.
There is no defined number of paragraphs in a short story, as it's up to the writer to decide how to structure their manuscript. Generally speaking, if you're expecting to write ~5,000 words, you could be looking at 25 paragraphs if they are 200 words long.Does a short story have chapters? ›
Short stories, which are usually between 1,000 and 7,500 words long and very rarely have chapters. They do, however, sometimes include scene transitions and breaks to denote a change in setting or scene, or the passage of time.
Short stories require skills honed through experience and study, with every writer utilizing their own techniques. Even though every author has their own method for composing these miniature tales, most agree that short stories are more difficult to write than novels.How many characters should a short story be? ›
(3) Short stories focus on a single character: Another major difference between a novel and a short story is that a short story gives you a very limited room for exploration… that means you'll have to focus on just a single character. There's no room for exploring multiple characters or subplots in this kind of story.How many pages is 50,000 words? ›
A typical manuscript page (8.5×11 paper, 1-inch margins, standard 11- or 12-point font, doublespaced—like you would type in Word) is considered to be 250 words. So a 25,000-word manuscript is about 100 pages. A 50,000-word manuscript is 200 pages.What is the structure of a short story? ›
As stated, there are two parts within any short story structure. The first is the plot which is 'what happens' or the chain of events that occur in your short story. The other is 'story elements' which is the 'underlying factors that drive the narrative action: protagonists, conflicts, setting, etc. 'What are the 7 steps to writing a short story? ›
- Identify the focus of your short story. ...
- Start writing. ...
- Write a compelling beginning. ...
- Create a powerful ending. ...
- Read your story out loud. ...
- Edit and revise. ...
- Ask for feedback.
Story Writing usually follows a format that helps writers to structure their work. This format is a recognisable feature to lots of stories, and typically have five main components. Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Theme.How do you structure a short story? ›
There are five main structural features of a short story:
- Rising Action.
- Falling Action.
- Resolution (or Denouement)
- Tell the story of a scar.
- A group of children discover a dead body.
- A young prodigy becomes orphaned.
- A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost.
- A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her.
- A talented young man's deepest fear is holding his life back.
There is no defined number of paragraphs in a short story, as it's up to the writer to decide how to structure their manuscript. Generally speaking, if you're expecting to write ~5,000 words, you could be looking at 25 paragraphs if they are 200 words long.How long is a basic short story? ›
How Long Should a Short Story Be? The average short story should run anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 words, but they can be anything above 1,000 words. Flash fiction is a short story that is 500 words or less.