Another common error young writers make is telling a story, rather than showing a story. This is probably because many of the short stories they have been exposed to are fairy tales, which have a distant point of view and summary-like narration. They start with phrases like "There once was..." and use direct characterization, like "She was the kindest girl in all the land."
When we write, we need to show our stories, using vivid verbs, specific details, and deep point of view. Here's an example of a passage that is told. The action is summarized and the reader feels as if the action is happening far away:
It was June of 1943. Eric's older brother had gone away to become a fighter pilot. Eric wanted to be a pilot too, so he got in the family's crop dusting plane and started it up. He flew it out of the barn and crashed it into the old oak tree in the yard. He hit his head. The doctor had to come. His brother came back, injured from the war. The two healed together.That right there is the plot for an ENTIRE short story, not a paragraph of one, but it's similar to many of the stories students turn in.
Here's an example of some of the same action -- Eric immediately after the crash -- but shown instead instead of told:
Eric raised a hand to his forehead. When he brought his fingers away, blood covered them. He blinked once, twice. The smell of burning filled the air, and the control stick to the plane, just in front of him, swam in and out of his vision.
"What...what happened?" Eric said, but no one answered. In the distance, as if it came from miles and miles away, screaming began, and he thought, Who could that be?Some things to notice about the second example:
- It has dialogue.
- It has internal thought.
- It has active verbs.
- There are no weak or passive constructions in the scene, or narration.