How to Write an Explication of a Short Story

Take notes as you read to help you remember important points when you write the explication.
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Writing an explication of a short story will help you understand how the writer used various tools to convey ideas in the story. Explications involve analyzing elements of fiction, and thoroughly analyzing a story can improve your observations as a reader. If you write fiction, you may discover ways to improve your writing skills, too. Knowing how to critically analyze the components, as well as the story as a whole, will help you write an effective explication.

1 Focus

An explication requires you to analyze elements of fiction found in the story. You will look at the characters. The main character should experience change by the end of the story, so you may want to evaluate this change. Consider the themes that appear in the story. Does the character experience loss or find strength to succeed? Short stories may not have a stated theme or idea, so you will need to consider the characters’ journeys through the story to help you find a deeper meaning.

Other elements of fiction you might consider important during your analysis include the setting of the story and the narrative point of view. Main factors to consider will vary between stories, each determined by a writer’s style and her intent when writing the story.

2 Summary

In your explication, you can give a short summary of the plot, but you do not need to give a detailed description of what happens. When summarizing the events of the story, focus on the moments that make the biggest impact on the characters. These important moments create the changes that occur within a character, and pinpointing these plot points may help you understand the writer’s methods.

3 Thesis

A thesis statement in an explication will involve the theme in the story or how the writer uses one or more elements of fiction to create a particular effect. Your thesis will often refer to something you noted in your analysis of the story. For example, “The writer uses description of the setting in each scene to portray the theme of loss.”

4 Format

Your instructor may require a specific word count or number of pages, so keep those guidelines in mind as you work on your explication. However, the format for your explication will follow a standard essay layout. Begin your essay with an introduction. List the title and author, and you might choose to give a brief overview of the story or theme you uncovered. You will place your thesis in the introduction.

In the body of your essay, you use elements of the story to help prove your thesis statement. You may have a number of points to discuss, and this will depend on your instructor’s requirements as well as the story itself.

You will conclude your essay by restating your thesis statement and summarizing how the points you made logically connect to your thesis.

Kate Beck started writing for online publications in 2005. She worked as a certified ophthalmic technician for 10 years before returning to school to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing. Beck is currently putting the finishing touches on a novel.