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Edgar Allan Poe's Tips For Writing Short Stories

by Alex Banner

To show us what he means, Poe analyzes his own work, “The Raven”. Below are seven tips for writing short stories taken and condensed from the major points of Poe’s essay. We have covered the elements that he considered necessary to write an effective literary composition and that for him the effectiveness of the literary composition is mathematical.

Before starting to write, it's recommended for the writer to know the ending. In order to give a plot its air of consequence and inevitability, the author must always have the ending in his sights. 

“Single sitting” rule. For the poem to keep its unity of impression it must be read in a single sitting, just like reading true love quotes and sayings. If the reader is forced to take a break, it breaks the spell. That is the second Edgar Allan Poe's short stories rule.

Choose the desired effect. The choice of impression has to be decided in advance. As Poe states, authors can manipulate the emotions of the readers, so choose wisely as he did with “The Raven".

Pick the tone of work. Poe picked melancholy as the tone for “The Raven”, we can see that he stays in that tone with the “refrain” the wisely picked “Nevermore”. Even picking the bird which delivered those words was considered carefully, as he picked “the bird of ill omen”. 

The theme and characterization must be determined. Staying in the theme of melancholy he picks the thing that brings it the most, Death. The death of a beautiful woman, a bereaved lover and a piece of his heart. Contrary to the methods of a lot of writers, Poe chooses characters as mouthpieces of ideas.

Has the climax established? When writing his short stories, Edgar Allan Poe is making a combination. When talking about "The Raven", he is combining the two ideas, death to a lover and a Raven repeating “Nevermore”, Poe had composed the third to last stanza first to determine everything else. As Poe recommends to “have its beginning – in the end”.

Has the setting determined? Even if this looks like the first place to start, Poe keeps holding it to the end, after deciding why he wants to place certain characters, in certain places, saying certain things. Only after having a purpose and a plan to achieve it, he determines on the lover in his chamber. In order to have the literary scheme carried out it is needed to the effect of the insulated incident.

Book: Reflection on the Important Things