How To Write A One-Shot in 8 Steps

Do you have a great idea for a story, but don’t want to commit to a long series? In this post, you’ll learn how to write a one-shot that will captivate your readers and leave them satisfied. Whether you’re writing fanfiction or original fiction, these 8 steps will help you craft a short but powerful story. Let’s get started!

What is a One-Shot?

One shots are short stories that can be read in one sitting. Instead of a long, ongoing novel, one-shots are a self-contained story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. They tend to be over 100 words long but do not include any chapters. Think of a one-shot as a single episode of your favourite TV series – Though it may be part of a larger storyline, the episode itself is contained to one instalment of a mini storyline.

Overall, one-shot stories in creative writing allow writers to explore unique concepts, experiment with different styles, or introduce new characters without the commitment of a long-term project.

How to Write a One-Shot

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a one-shot story:

Step 1: Choose the theme

Decide on a specific idea or concept for your one-shot story. It could be a particular event, a character’s journey, or a mystery to solve. Having a clear focus will help you stay on track while crafting your story.

Let’s consider the theme of “Friendship and Adventure.” This theme revolves around the power of friendship and the thrilling experiences that can unfold when friends embark on an extraordinary journey together.

In our one-shot story, a group of young adventurers discovers an ancient treasure map hidden in their grandfather’s attic. Fueled by curiosity and the desire for excitement, they embark on a quest filled with thrilling challenges, magical creatures, and unexpected twists. Along the way, they learn valuable lessons about teamwork, trust, and the importance of friendship.

Step 2: Develop Your Characters

Since this is a one-shot, you might want to focus on just one or two main characters. Even though the length of the story is limited, your characters should still be compelling. Think about the characters you will use in your one-shot. Give them unique personalities, goals, and motivations. Consider how they will interact and evolve throughout the short narrative of a one-shot. Read our guide on character development for more guidance.

For example, based on our previous theme of Friendship and Adventure, we might have the following characters in our one-shot story:

  • Lily: She is a curious and resourceful girl with a knack for solving puzzles. Lily’s determination and quick thinking often get the group out of sticky situations during their adventure.
  • Max: A loyal and kind-hearted friend, Max is always there to support the group. He has a deep connection with animals, which proves useful when they encounter magical creatures along their journey.
  • Mia: Mia is a talented artist who brings a sense of creativity and imagination to the group. Her vivid illustrations and a keen eye for detail help them decipher clues and navigate the challenges they face.
  • Ben: Ben is a tech-savvy member of the group, always armed with gadgets and devices that come in handy during their adventure. His logical thinking and problem-solving skills contribute greatly to their success.

Each character brings unique strengths, interests, and quirks to the group, fostering a sense of harmony and diversity. As they work together to solve the mystery and find the hidden treasure, their friendship deepens, and they learn the value of trust, cooperation, and supporting one another.

Step 3: Outline the Plot

Create a rough outline of the key plot points and events. Clearly identify the beginning, middle, and end of your story. And don’t forget to outline the conflicts and challenges your characters will face, to ensure a satisfying story structure. 

Here is an example simple book outline based on our original theme of ‘Friendship and Adventure’:

  • Introduction:
    • Introduce Lily, Max, Mia, and Ben as best friends who stumble upon an ancient treasure map in Lily’s attic.
    • Establish their excitement and curiosity to embark on a thrilling adventure together.
  • Rising Action:
    • The group deciphers clues on the treasure map, leading them to a mysterious forest rumoured to be filled with magical creatures and hidden dangers.
    • They encounter their first challenge, a rickety bridge guarded by a mischievous guardian.
  • Climax:
    • The group discovers an ancient temple hidden deep within the forest.
    • Inside, they encounter a series of tests that challenge their teamwork and friendship.
  • Falling Action:
    • Through their combined efforts and individual strengths, the group overcomes the temple’s challenges, unlocking the final chamber.
  • Resolution:
    • In the final chamber, they find the long-lost treasure, but instead of keeping it for themselves, they learn that the treasure represents the true bond of friendship.
    • They decide to leave the treasure behind and return to their ordinary lives, forever cherishing the memories and the strength of their friendship.

Step 4: Write the Beginning

Begin your one-shot with a hook that grabs the reader’s attention. This could be a captivating line, an intriguing situation, or a powerful image that pulls readers in. The beginning should also introduce the main character and provide a vivid description of the setting of your story.

Here is an example of a beginning for our one-shot story based on the theme of ‘Friendship and Adventure’:

The sun cast a warm glow through the attic window as Lily, Max, Mia, and Ben rummaged through old boxes. Amongst the forgotten treasures, Lily’s hand brushed against something peculiar—a weathered parchment. With trembling excitement, she unfurled the ancient map, revealing faded markings and a promise of adventure.

Wide-eyed and brimming with curiosity, the four friends huddled around the map, their gazes locked in awe. Lily’s voice, filled with wonder, broke the silence. “Guys, this is it! The map that leads to a hidden treasure!”

Max’s eyes sparkled with anticipation, Mia’s artistic imagination ignited, and Ben’s technophile instincts kicked into overdrive. They knew this was their chance to embark on the adventure they had always dreamed of.

Together, they formed a pact, promising to support one another through thick and thin as they unravelled the mysteries of the map. The treasure hunt awaited, and with each passing moment, their excitement grew.

Remember, when writing the beginning of your one-shot, aim to captivate readers from the start. Introduce the main characters, establish the central conflict or goal, and create a sense of intrigue or excitement that compels readers to continue reading.

Step 5: Introduce Conflict

Introduce obstacles and conflicts that your characters must overcome. This can include internal struggles, interpersonal conflicts, or external challenges. Conflict drives the story forward and keeps readers engaged.

Below is the conflict scene from our example story from earlier steps::

As they ventured deeper into the forest, the friends encountered magical creatures and faced an unexpected challenge. A towering tree blocked their path, its branches intertwined like an impenetrable wall. Undeterred, they brainstormed ideas, each contributing their unique perspective.

Lily suggested finding a hidden lever to lower the branches, Max proposed climbing the tree to create a makeshift bridge, Mia contemplated using her artistic skills to draw a magical doorway, and Ben theorized using his gadgets to manipulate the tree’s roots.

Their discussion sparked a heated debate, their individual desires clashing. Tension filled the air as frustration mounted, threatening to strain their friendship.

But amidst the rising conflict, Max took a step back, his eyes flickering with understanding. He reminded them of their promise—to support one another through thick and thin. With a newfound determination, they embraced compromise, combining their ideas into a cohesive plan.

Lily discovered the hidden lever, Max climbed the tree to secure the branches, Mia painted a vibrant portal on the tree trunk, and Ben used his gadgets to activate the tree’s roots, parting the branches like curtains.

The conflict is a vital component of storytelling. It adds tension, tests characters’ relationships, and allows for personal growth and resolution. By highlighting the conflict and its resolution, we create a more engaging and dynamic narrative that resonates with readers.

Step 6: Build Tension

Keep readers on the edge of their seats by escalating conflicts, introducing twists, or raising stakes. This helps maintain interest and keeps the story engaging.

Here is an example of the falling action scene for our one-shot story based on the theme of ‘Friendship and Adventure’:

With the branches now parted, the friends continued their journey through the enchanted forest. They finally arrived at an ancient temple hidden deep within the forest. Its weathered walls emanated an aura of mystery and intrigue. Excitement coursed through their veins as they stepped into the hallowed halls.

Inside, they faced a series of intricate tests that challenged their wits and resilience. Lily’s keen eye for detail unravelled cryptic puzzles, Max’s connection with animals aided in deciphering animal-themed riddles, Mia’s imaginative thinking unlocked hidden passages, and Ben’s technological expertise activated long-dormant mechanisms.

As they progressed, their individual strengths seamlessly intertwined, the harmony of their friendship becoming their greatest asset. They cheered one another on, celebrated each triumph, and offered support in moments of doubt.

Remember, the falling action allows for reflection, resolution, and the culmination of the story’s central themes.

Step 7: Provide Resolution

Bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. Resolve conflicts, tie up loose ends, and provide closure for your characters and their arcs. Consider the emotional impact you want to leave on readers.

In the final chamber, a sense of awe washed over them. The room sparkled with the glow of a thousand jewels, casting a mesmerizing light upon the friends. At its centre lay the long-lost treasure, glimmering in golden splendour.

But as they approached the treasure, a realization struck them like a lightning bolt. The true treasure was not the riches before them, but the unbreakable bond they had forged throughout their extraordinary journey.

In a unanimous decision, they chose to leave the treasure untouched. Their hearts swelled with the understanding that the memories, the lessons learned, and the profound friendship they shared were far more valuable than any material wealth.

Hand in hand, they made their way back through the temple’s corridors, their spirits light and joyous. Their faces radiated a sense of fulfilment that no treasure could ever replicate.

As they emerged from the forest, their pockets empty of gold but hearts full of cherished moments, they knew their adventure had transformed them. They had discovered the true meaning of friendship, the strength that lies in unity, and the beauty of selflessness.

Together, they returned to their ordinary lives, forever cherishing the incredible journey they had embarked upon. The map might have led them to a treasure, but it was their unwavering friendship that became their ultimate reward.

Hopefully, this ending brings a satisfying conclusion to the narrative, leaving readers with a sense of fulfilment and a lasting impression of the character’s journey.

Step 8: Edit and Publish

Review your one-shot story for grammar, punctuation, and clarity. Cut out any unnecessary details or scenes that don’t contribute to the core narrative. Ensure that each sentence serves a purpose and enhances the overall story. Once you’re done you can give your one-shot a suitable title and publish it online for others to read! You can use a website like Imagine Forest to publish your one-shots online. 

Remember, a one-shot story is meant to be concise, self-contained, and impactful. Focus on creating a compelling narrative within the limited space, and allow readers to experience a complete story in a single sitting.

Examples of One-Shot Stories

While one-shot stories are closely related to fan fiction, they can take any genre you like, from fairy tales to sci-fi and fantasy.

Here is an example of a one-shot fairy-tale story called, The Forgotten Locket:

Once upon a time in the quiet village of Willowbrook, a young woman named Lily discovered an old, mysterious locket in the attic of her family’s ancestral home. Little did she know, the locket held the key to a hidden treasure rumoured to be buried deep within the enchanted Forest of Whispers.

Driven by curiosity and a longing for adventure, Lily embarked on a quest to uncover the secrets of the locket. With her loyal friend, a mischievous fox named Finn, by her side, they ventured into the dark and enchanting forest. Along the way, they encountered riddles from ancient spirits, encountered a mischievous sprite who led them astray and faced perilous trials that tested their courage.

Finally, after overcoming countless obstacles, Lily and Finn reached the heart of the forest. They discovered a magnificent hidden clearing, bathed in shimmering moonlight. There, beneath a majestic oak tree, they found the long-lost treasure—a chest filled with precious gems and ancient artefacts.

Overwhelmed with joy and a sense of accomplishment, Lily realized that the true treasure was the journey itself. She returned home, forever changed by the adventure and the memories shared with Finn. The locket remained a cherished memento, a reminder of the extraordinary tale that unfolded within the span of a single day.

And so, the village of Willowbrook never forgot the brave and curious Lily, whose one-shot adventure became a legendary tale passed down through generations, inspiring others to seek their own moments of magic and wonder.

And here is an example of a one-shot fanfiction story relating to Warrior Cats, called Shadows of Destiny:

In the heart of the Whispering Woods, a prophecy whispered among the wind stirred the Clans. Mistycloud, a wise medicine cat of SkyClan, sought the truth hidden within the ancient trees. There, she encountered Bramblepaw, an adventurous apprentice of ShadowClan, lost in the depths of uncertainty.

Together, they deciphered the prophecy’s riddles, unveiling a fateful encounter at the Silvermoon Falls. Two warriors, chosen by destiny, would determine the Clans’ future. With urgency in their hearts, Mistycloud and Bramblepaw embarked on a perilous journey through moonlit meadows and treacherous ravines.

At Silvermoon Falls, under the watchful gaze of a silver moon, they met. Mistycloud, guided by her intuition, recognized the hidden potential within Bramblepaw. The two warriors engaged in a fierce but brief battle, their strength and determination tested. In the end, they realized that their destinies were intertwined, not as enemies, but as allies.

In a surprising twist of fate, Mistycloud and Bramblepaw united their Clans. The bonds forged in the moonlit battle transformed ancient rivalries into newfound harmony. The Clans, once divided, now stood as one, united by a shared purpose.

As whispers of their remarkable tale spread across the territories, Mistycloud and Bramblepaw became symbols of hope. Their one-shot adventure, a catalyst for change, inspired the Clans to set aside old grievances and embrace a future filled with unity and strength.

Both these examples illustrate a complete and satisfying narrative with a beginning, middle and end. While they capture the essence of a self-contained one-shot story, the shortness of the story limits the depth of character development and plot complications that could be explored in longer formats.

One-Shot Story Ideas

Here are a few one-shot story ideas you can use to practice your skills:

  1. A girl finds a magic pencil that can draw anything into reality.
  2. A lost key found on a busy city street unlocks a box of memories and leads to an unexpected reunion.
  3. A boy gets trapped in his favourite video game and has to beat the final boss to escape.
  4. A dog learns to speak human language and decides to become a detective for one day.
  5. A pair of twins switch places for a day and discover each other’s secrets.
  6. A lonely robot makes friends with a bird that visits its window every day.
  7. A struggling artist finds inspiration in an unexpected place and creates a masterpiece that touches the hearts of many.
  8. A young girl befriends a lonely ghost and helps them find peace by solving the mystery behind their untimely death.
  9. A child discovers a magical stone that grants them the ability to talk to animals for one day.
  10. A mysterious note left on a park bench sets in motion a series of events that leads two strangers together.

You might also want to take a look at these flash fiction writing prompts for more ideas.

Free One Shot Template

Need help writing your one-shot story? Use this free template to help you plan your one-shot stories easily:

one shot template
Download the Free one-shot template for planning your story

Writing a one-shot story can be a thrilling and rewarding creative experience. By following the 8 steps outlined in this post, you can craft a captivating narrative that engages readers from start to finish.

Have you tried these steps on how to write a one-shot? Did you find this post useful? Drop a comment below and let’s continue the conversation.

How To Write A One-Shot

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