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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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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    • MCWebster profile image

      MCWebster 7 years ago

      Beautiful article. Filled with sensory images and a great example of 'show, don't tell.' Loved it.

    • myownworld profile image

      myownworld 7 years ago from uk

      Beautiful is too smal a word for writing of this quality. You tell me I should write a book, but I swear this here is the beginning of a book already! Such wonderful images you used: Lives 'defiant in the face of decay'....teenagers 'spraying hopes' on walls... ..'concrete jungles' of financial failure ... boys 'heroes of their time'!

      Yes, your story is like a small universe of your creation...and you've set it in motion here already..! Keep writing always....you're just meant to! :)

    • Dobson profile image

      Dobson 7 years ago from Virginia

      This is a great hub filled with truths about how everything can be used as a subject for writing. I find the most interesting things that beg a story, but do not always take the time to do so.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Beautiful hub. We all have a story to tell. Great photos too.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      MCWebster - thank you for your wonderful comments, I really appreciate them. Yes, that's exactly what I was hoping to do - show it, not tell it. I'm really pleased you liked it.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      myownworld, you should know that I wouldn't have written it at all had we not talked on the forums about creative writing as opposed to marketing...do you remember? Your comments are beautiful and really mean a lot as there is no one here who inspires me more than you...I mean that sincerely.

      And yes, I really do hope to write a book- many times I have started but not carried on. And you MUST write one, or it will be a travesty! Thank you :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Dobson - thank you for reading and commenting, I'm really happy you liked it. It's so true - everywhere I see things that can inspire a story, in fact sometimes I even think of the beginning of the story before I get home, but then, like you say, if I haven't got the time for it then it's just lost. Once again, thanks for reading - I'm going to read your hubs later - tomorrow, as it's late now. :)

      Sandyspider - thank you so much for your wonderful comment, very much appreciated :)

    • Bill Yovino profile image

      Bill Yovino 7 years ago

      You have wonderful insight and a gift for putting it into words. Please continue to nurture this talent.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Bill - Thank you for reading and for your great comments, I really do appreciate it.

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

      Lovely - you could write a wonderful story with all the elements in this hub! :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Feline Prophet, thank you for your wonderful comments, and for taking the time to read my hub :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Feline Prophet, thank you for your wonderful comments, and for taking the time to read my hub :)

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

      again you have some incredible talents and this simply proves it, I know that you will see success, as you have a talent for writing, this is awesome, and yes everything and everyone have a story.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Rebecca, thank you for your comments, they are wonderful and really do mean a lot to me....actually you have made my day! :)

    • sagebrush_mama profile image

      sagebrush_mama 7 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

      Polly C, what a lovely hub, and so true, there are stories in the most unexpected places. My husband just added a horse to our little "ranch", and I'm quite certain he (the horse, of course!) is here simply to spark some stories.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi sagebrush_mama, thank you for reading and for your great comments - I love the idea of your horse sparking off some stories in your lives! :)

    • itakins profile image

      itakins 7 years ago from Irl

      Polly C

      This is really wonderful writing-not only do you manage to inspire and show us how to tell a story-but this also has so many stories within it.Genius hub-it touched a chord.Thank you-I have been neglecting this area of writing lately-I need to get back to it.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Itakins, thank you, your comments are amazing and very much appreciated. Creative writing is what I enjoy doing most of all, really. To know that you like it means a lot - and I always enjoy your writing, too. :)

    • alternate poet profile image

      alternate poet 7 years ago

      Very creative :D and well written.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi alternate poet, thank you for dropping by and commenting, it is always appreciated :)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

      Wonderful writing, Polly! I'd say you can safely call yourself a writer :-)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Elena, thank you for stopping by and reading. Your compliment is lovely, and very much appreciated :)

    • MeGunner profile image

      MeGunner 7 years ago from Lagos

      Awesome... Just read this hub today and honestly you got me thinking that there's still a lot of grounds to cover.. Hope you've written some books! Really wonderful

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi MeGunner, lovely to see you here! Thank you for your wonderful comments - no, I haven't written any books yet, but that has always been my dream. Maybe one day! Thanks once again for reading :)

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for writing this beautiful journey into the life of everyday things that want their story told. It is the writer that brings to life the stories and you definitely know how to do that with talent and sensitivity.

      More or less we all see the same things in life, but the way those things resonate with our soul and captures our imagination is different. Some will see the Moon as the eternal symbol of romantic love, while others will see it just like another planet in the immensity of our galaxy or a new challenge to conquer and proudly place a “victory” flag on.

      It is the writer (or any sensitive soul for that matter) that brings a new perspective and breaths life into the ordinary.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Petra, thank you for reading and for your wonderful comments. I love the second part - the way you describe the moon from different people's perspective. It's so true, we do all see things in different ways -some just see the objects, the surface of things, whereas some look further within. And writers just attempt to show these depths, and a new perspective to their readers. Thanks once again :)

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      That was quite enjoyable and so beautifully written. I'm so impressed that I'm slightly lost for words right now yet I want to write something meaningful. How's that for creative writing? Or lack there of?

      It's so true that you can savour one small moment, for lack of a better way to put it, and turn that moment into an entire story. Thanks for the good read.

    • samboiam profile image

      samboiam 7 years ago from Texas

      This was absolutely fantastic. I wish I could write like that. Rated this everything but .

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      kaltopsyd - thank you for reading and for your beautiful compliments. It really does mean a lot to me. Yes, any moment can be turned into a story, or at least become part of one. I love to try and look out on life through other people's eyes - perhaps I'm just nosy! Anyway, thanks once again :)

      samboiam - Thank you for your wonderful comments and for stopping by to read. It just came into my head one day, especially the beginning bit. Anyway, your compliments have really cheered up my afternoon, thank you :)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      You are an excellent writer! Thank you for this illuminating Hub. On a side note, I had a client who became a millionaire growing and selling one single plant— clematis. He sells it to Walmart and Home Depot. :D

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrea 7 years ago from Italy

      Everything has a story, so right and so true. Deciding to follow such a good writer has been a really wise choice. Rated up and beautiful. And stumbled too. :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi James - Great to see you here and thank you for your lovely comments. I liked hearing about your client and his clematis - see, that's quite a big story from a simple little plant!! Thanks for reading :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Hynodude, thank you so much for your wonderful compliments, it really does mean a lot. And for the rating and stumbling! :)

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

      I again have read this and you see, it has helped me out of a low point, remebering that everything and everyone has a story is sooo important, thanks!

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Rebecca, you are very welcome. I'm glad it helped and I am honoured that you came back to read it again :)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I was totally entranced by this Hub - subject matter and writing beautifully fused!

      Especially loved that last line: "...the stories remain, entwined in the fabric of life, as they wait, patiently, for someone else to bring them alive." And the concept of the writer's double life. Just awesome.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Tony, thank you for your comments, they are really wonderful. I am really pleased you liked it, especially this hub as it is the one I have put the most passion and soul into. Thanks once again! :)

    • Lindac21 profile image

      Lindac21 7 years ago from Scotland

      I enjoyed this and I totally agree that everything in life has a story :) Makes the world seem an exciting place doesn't it?

      Thanks for sharing

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Hi Linda, nice to meet you and welcome to Hubpages....I never have as much time as I would like to indulge in writing either! Never mind, just have to fit it in where we can!

      Thank you for reading and for your great comments - yes, I guess the world is a pretty exciting place really :)

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 7 years ago from U.K.

      Wonderful hub Polly, you have a real talent for creative writing very beautiful prose. I loved the premise that all objects resemble something and will certainly use the ideas in your hub for my own work. Brilliant job. :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      Wrenfrost, thank you - your compliments are very much appreciated and mean a lot. I think that this hub and your hub about food show a lot of similarities and share the same premise already - my hub tells stories through objects and your hub tells stories through food (which I thought was an excellent idea). I really want to do more of this kind of writing but struggle to find the time. Anyway, thanks again, great to see you here :)

    • sammyfiction profile image

      Sammy 7 years ago from Australia

      I really like this hub :) It has nice imagery and makes sense in every way. It has a great way of portraying what we think and how you think. Amazing :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 7 years ago from UK

      sammy, thank you for your kind compliments, I'm really happy you enjoyed it. Yes, this hub is a portrayal of looking at life to tell a story; of taking a scene and seeing what is behind it. Though it did sort of write itself, in a way. Anyway, thanks for reading :)

    • lex123 profile image

      lex123 6 years ago

      I liked this hub. Reading this brings me many ideas for my creative writing.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 6 years ago from UK

      Hi Lex, thanks for your comments. Creative writing is what I like to do most, though I haven't yet done so much of it on here. I'm glad you found ideas, once again, thanks for reading :)

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 6 years ago from UK

      Really useful hub

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 6 years ago from UK

      Hi leni, thank you for stopping by :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      I sometimes wonder how people can think and not write!

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 6 years ago from UK

      @RTalloni, Love your comment, I totally agree! Thank you for reading :)

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I really enjoyed this hub. It is beautifully written. I need to read your other hubs now. : )

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 6 years ago from UK

      Hi Jeannie, thank you for your lovely comment, much appreciated. Great to meet you here, be over to look at your hubs soon:)

    • celeBritys4africA profile image

      celeBritys4africA 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I like your hub, I hit the awesome button and I am one of your followers now.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 6 years ago from UK

      Thank you, celeBritys4africa. I'm really pleased you enjoyed it :)

    • rembrandz profile image

      Remy Francis 5 years ago from Creative Zone Dubai

      Hi Polly

      My Gosh what a lovely hub!! While I was reading it I just couldn't help pictures coming out of it one sentence at a time. I really enjoyed it! Thanks

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 5 years ago from UK

      Hi rembrandz, thank you for your lovely comments :)

    • Leaderofmany profile image

      Leaderofmany 5 years ago from Back Home in Indiana

      I enjoyed the Hub, my husband thinks I'm silly when I make up a story about people and things. My children always enjoyed it, my oldest son has that talent as well.

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 5 years ago from UK

      Hi Leaderofmany, of course it is never silly to make up stories and after all there are so many stories one could tell! Children intrinsically love the magic of storytelling, and I think it is a great thing to hold onto. Great to hear your son is following in your footsteps! Thank you for stopping by :)

    • profile image

      shazia 4 years ago

      One of d best blogs i have been to.. truly innovative.. I envy u:)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 4 years ago from UK

      Hi Shazia, thank you for your wonderful comment, it means a lot. Many thanks for reading :)

    • rohanfelix profile image

      Rohan Rinaldo Felix 3 years ago from Chennai, India

      I found this article to be deep and meaningful. Thanks for sharing your expertise with others!

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 3 years ago from UK

      Thank you so much, rohanfelix, I'm so happy you liked it :)

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      You certainly do have a way with words. I admire the way you use them. I can tell my stories, but I doubt they have the flow and feelings that you show, just using examples. Thanks, so much, for sharing! ;-)

    • tony.abacab profile image

      Ant Richards 2 years ago from UK

      Great hub! Enjoyed reading it and pretty much related to it, having published my first book a few months back. Well done!

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 2 years ago from UK

      @tony.abacab - hi, thanks so much for reading and commenting! Congratulations on your book :)

    • Polly C profile image
      Author

      Polly C 2 years ago from UK

      @Homeplace Series - So sorry I didn't reply to you before, I hadn't noticed that you had visited. Thank you so much for your kind words and comments, they are much appreciated :)

    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 2 years ago from Southern California

      Thank you...your hub was very interesting! Glad I found you on HP!

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