"Show not tell": a short story about Kobe

“Show, don’t tell” is common advice in storytelling. But how do you “show” when you have limited word count?

Here’s a great example. I saw this image on Facebook and thought, “Wow. Kobe’s work ethic is incredible.”

Notice that these phrases never showed up in the actual text: “work ethic,” hard-working", “intense,” “dedicated.” But from reading this example, all those words popped into my head.

The original story first appeared on Reddit with 745 words. This excerpt has 122 words. While the rest of the story is strong and worth reading, these 122 words get the point across powerfully in one fifth the word count.

How was this short story able to accomplish so much?

First, there’s a good amount of dialogue, which brings action to the forefront.

Second, the story jumps right into the action. There’s not a lot of set-up or explanation. A good rule of thumb is, wherever you think your story starts, cut out half of it and jump to the juiciest part. Start there.