Online Class: Writing the Great American Short Story

A self-paced online writing course with the specific goal of learning more about the short story form and writing one short story using traditional narrative techniques.

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  • 7
  • 11
    Exams &
  • 750
    have taken this course
  • 5
    average time
  • 0.5

Course Description

A pair of hands on the keyboard, a blank screen, and a single wish: You want to write the Great American Short Story! You've read many of them -- Poe's "Black Cat," Cheever's "Enormous Radio," Welty's "The Worn Path" -- but have you come close to writing a tale that lingers with readers after the last page is turned?


In this class, you will gain the inspiration and the discipline to write a short story of 1000 to 8000 words. We will use examples from all genres, exploring the techniques of plot, style, flow, voice and tone that will make your fiction sing. This close reading of master works is accompanied by tried and true methods for putting words on the page, revising, and handling criticism from others. One thing's for sure: Your stories are ready to tell themselves to you. And, if all goes well enough, they'll tell themselves to the world as well. So, are you ready to start writing?


  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video  
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Average Lesson Rating:
4.7 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
"Extraordinarily Helpful"
(738 votes)

Lesson 1: The Short Story Landscape in America

Who reads short stories in America? Who writes them? Who will read your story? 11 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Who Will Read Your Short Story?; Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete: Assignment 1A: Class Forum Postings
  • Assessment: The Short Story Landscape

Lesson 2: Answering to the Muse

Before you can begin writing a story, you need to know what story you will write. In this lesson, we'll consider how a short story is born. 20 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Inspiration
  • Complete: Assignment 2: Write the First Page of Your Story
  • Assessment: Answering to the Muse

Lesson 3: Developing a Main Character

Who is your hero, and why? The hero or heroine of your story is the person the reader must become as the story progresses. Additional lesson topics: How to Develop a Character in a Short Story or Novel 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Lesson discussions: The People Around You
  • Complete: Assignment 3: Character Profile Worksheet
  • Assessment: Developing a Main Character

Lesson 4: Telling the Story: Structure and Plot

In this lesson, we're focusing on plot, story structure, narrative -- whatever you choose to call the act of telling the story. Additional lesson topics: Plot Structure; The Short Story on Structuring Your Short Story 9 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Approaches to Storytelling
  • Assessment: Telling the Story: Structure & Plot

Lesson 5: Styling the Words You Write

In fiction writing, differences in style and language distinguish writers from each other. Additional lesson topics: Short Story Writing Styles 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Lesson discussions: What's Your Flavor?
  • Assessment: Styling the Words You Write

Lesson 6: End Your Story Like a Master

Brilliant conclusions are definitely possible. 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Lesson discussions: The Easy Way Out
  • Complete: Assignment 4: Finish Your Short Story
  • Assessment: End Your Story Like a Master

Lesson 7: Revising Your Writing

How long is your work a work-in-progress? 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Receiving Feedback; Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course); Course Comments
  • Assessment: Revising Your Writing
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Summarize the short story landscape in America.
  • Describe developing a main character.
  • Summarize telling the story.
  • Describe styling the words you write.
  • Summarize ending your story like a master.
  • Revise and edit the story.
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
  • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
  • Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
  • Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
  • View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
  • Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Writing the Great American Short Story
Course Number: 9770544
Lessons Rating: 4.7 / 5 Stars (738 votes)
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Availability: This course is online and available in all 50 states including: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas.
Last Updated: August 2022
Course Type: Self-Paced, Online Class
CEU Value: 0.5 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Dana Kristan
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Course Fee: $95.00 U.S. dollars

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Student Testimonials

  • "Precise information and easy to read format. Instructor is very prompt and responsive." -- Siewleng T.
  • "I've had the pleasure of having this instructor before, she's GREAT!!" -- Joy K.
  • "Great Course. Great Instructor." -- Kyle B.

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