How To Show And Not Tell In Short Stories

How To Show And Not Tell In Short Stories


‘Show, don’t tell’ is good advice for any writer, but even more so for a short story writer. The limited word count means our writing has to work harder. We really need to pack a punch. Here’s how:

1.  Express emotion as action:

2.  Choose a viewpoint character:

By choosing one character to focus on you make it easier for yourself to simplify your scene and make the most of it. Write small.

3.  Use the senses:

Write a list of what your character sees, hears, feels, touches and tastes. Then write about it without using the words see, hear, feel, touch and taste.

4.  Be specific:

The more specific you are with your descriptions and actions the easier it will become to show.

5.  Avoid these ‘telling’ words: is, are, was, were, have, had

6.  Use dialogue:

This is one of the simplest tools to use. The moment your characters start talking, showing becomes easier.

Show, don’t tell is a very powerful writing tool. Keep practising.

Happy writing.

[If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.]

 by Mia Botha

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