Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Thanksgiving Exercise 3

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Jessie and I think writing outside of your story really helps improve your writing. We thought we’d change up the routine this week for Thanksgiving and show our thanks to our readers by offering short exercises to improve your craft.


Today’s Thanksgiving Exercise is on high stakes. We all know what the stakes are by now, and we know how important they are. Easy exercise you say? Not quite. Try getting out your entire story concept out in 600 words. 600 words to get through the beginning, set-up, climax and conclusion. You’ll notice that the best authors are able to set up the stakes of the story–no matter how long–within the first few pages. Setting up the stakes right away attracts interest and sets up the story.

Here’s the exercise:

1. Read this amazing example of what we’re looking for here before you get started. You’ll notice that the author takes no time diving right into the meat of the piece. It catches your attention and makes you wonder what is going on within the first few paragraphs. The end doesn’t leave you hanging; it’s complete–and yes, 600 words.

2. Think of a concept that can be completed in roughly two pages–but exactly 600 words. The stakes must be clear to see, as to keep the readers interest peaked. It can be anything from horror to romance, but there must be stakes!

Here’s the writing part:

3. Your short story must start with the line “It was the worst thing that could have happened.” and end with the line “Nothing was ever the same again after that.” Something I was taught while working with this exercise myself is that you have to have enough action to pay for the last line. It took me a few tries to get it the within the requirements, but trust me! The pay off is worth the effort.

We all know the stakes are important, that much is for sure. But not all of us know how to get them out clearly and concisely. This really helped me and I hope it will help you, too. Give it a try and post it up on your blogs or in the comments. I’d love to see what you create. 🙂


Written by Devin Bond

November 24, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Exercises

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