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Creative Writing - A Lesson on Seeing the Stories in Life (the Concept of 'Show, Don't Tell' in Writing).

Updated on July 5, 2015

Everything has its story, even a teacup abandoned on a table in someone's kitchen, the dregs turned cold, the curtains still drawn. For the cup begins the story of someone's day - a businessman, perhaps, late for a meeting, his wife and children still asleep. He didn't wake them. It doesn't matter. They don't see him anyway - he is a ship in their night, gently moving around them, first at dawn and again at night.

Or perhaps it is a student, back in bed, blocking out a careless night. Or a young woman who took a phone call and rushed straight out, leaving the tea and the closed curtains and a meowing cat looking up with hungry eyes. Maybe she will return ecstatic; maybe she will be distraught. Maybe a neighbour with a key will arrive to feed the cat.

A grey tower block - or an English mansion
A grey tower block - or an English mansion
Image: Simon Howden /
Image: Simon Howden /

Everything has its story, even houses which smile or scowl with the vibrations of their dwellers, past and present. See the house that shines on the corner, children spilling onto the grass, muddy knees, fine hair knotted by the wind. Then look beyond, to the house that used to be proud; its windows never opened; its door never welcoming. Maybe inside is a little, old couple, out of touch with their own stark world. They have closed the door on the butterflies and the climbing clematis that tries to bloom in the garden, defiant in the face of decay. See the old ornaments lined up on the windowsill; relics from another time - a time before their children grew up and moved away and left them with only themselves.

In a dirty alley, a teenager sprays all of his hopes and frustrations onto a wall. Somewhere above, love spills from a cramped flat in the greyest tower block; a concrete jungle brimming with the pain of financial failure - whilst in a mansion cocooned by the English countryside, a couple sit in silence, as though they'd never met at all. Later she will say she has a yoga class, but she hasn't really. It's just that the facade seems easier than the truth.


Creative writing is more than the words of a pen on paper. Creative writing searches inwards, seering through thin masquerades until it discovers the depths within. Sometimes the depths are so deep it is almost as though you are falling into a well, down, down, down. Creative writing takes nothing at face value, because everything has hidden sides, constantly expanding like a small universe.....

Especially people......

There is a man on a bench, his eyes unseeing; lost. Behind those eyes hides his soul, buried beyond the debris that deadened his heart. Inside him, drink is drowning him, as though he is trapped in a tunnel as it gushes in. To passers by he is still; silent; minding his own business. Inside, he is screaming to get out of his own skin, back to different days.

A man from another land sits in a newsagents, watching the cold rain batter the windows. His mind takes him to other places - places he knows - like a time capsule; for the mind has no barriers. They were the days when his customers talked to him; when the sun shone every day on life. They were his friends. Now he has only the view of a busy road and the infinite world of his own thoughts.

A lady holds a door and you walk on through, thanking her as you pass. Her face contains the etchings of her life - crow's feet, smiling upwards; lines where she's laughed. Life's joys emanate as though her face, like a map, tells the story of all that she's been - loved; loving; joyful. Life has been kind to her.

A baby blinks against the newness of his life, all of his yesterdays and tomorrows already caught in one tiny soul. His story has not yet been told, but one day it will. As he lays wide-eyed in his pram, beside a noisy football pitch, he can hear the sound of his brothers and the other boys. They are jubilant; victorious - in their hearts they have already become the heroes of their time. The optimism of youth keeps their ambitions burning like fires of hope - one day, the stark reality of adulthood will teach them that, most of the time, dreams end up crumbling into nothing. For now, though, they are protected from such cruel disappointments.

Everything has a story, but even a story has its own life. It decides, itself, when it wants to be born - demands, even. Like the breeze outside, gently touching, then picking up, like a tornado, it whirls through the mind of its writer, refusing to let up until its voice has been heard. It goes on and on, because there are stories everywhere - in every street; behind every curtain; in the rhythm of music; in the silence that falls on a darkened night. They begin with the cup; with the student; with the lady with the shining eyes. They go back in time, like a film on rewind, or sometimes even forwards. Once they begin there is no stopping them, for they are persistent; nagging; continuing until they are caught by the writer as though in a net. Most times they are not even invited, but come anyway, in shops; whilst walking; even in the stillness as the moon casts its light.

The writer lives a double life - the life on the surface and the life hidden deep within. Sometimes, one or the other takes over, like a battle inside. The writer sees things that other people don't bother to notice...objects; feelings; somebody's journey. Yet in the end, when years have passed, even the storyteller is no longer there - but the stories remain, entwined in the fabric of life, as they wait, patiently, for someone else to bring them alive.


A bird flies, collecting seeds and twigs and stories - from branch to branch; tree to tree; street to street; world to world - and everywhere in-between......


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