When you write a short story, your story and characters need to be just as vivid and just as real as if you were writing a full-length novel. Creating intense images can be challenging since you have a very small amount of space to bring your characters and setting to life. Using techniques that make every word in your story count can help you make your story and characters more believable even with the smallest word count.
Use Figurative Language
Figurative language like metaphor, simile and symbolism can create vivid imagery in a short amount of space. When Shakespeare says that his love is "more lovely and more temperate" than a summer's day in "Sonnet 18," the reader has a much better idea of her beauty than if he had simply said she was beautiful. Use figurative language that appeals to all five senses to describe every aspect of your characters, your setting and even the actions in your story.
Create Unexpected Contrasts
Cliche is a sure way to make your story dull and flat. To create vivid imagery, you must choose descriptors that are unexpected. One way to do this is to create contrasts that your reader won't expect. For example, you can describe something in terms of senses that aren't usually associated with it, such as describing a baby as "brawny" or a woman's hair as "mellow." Aim for originality in every description so that your readers can see your characters and setting in a new way.
Use Concrete Descriptors
Don't waste a single word in your story that doesn't make it more powerful. For your descriptions, that means cutting out unnecessary fillers like "really" and "very." Don't use several words where one will suffice. Instead of saying that a character ran very fast, say that he "dashed" or "sprinted." Use action verbs and be precise in your word choice. In some cases, you may need to use more words. For example, saying that a woman is "pretty" does not create a vivid image. Saying that she has "crystal blue eyes, porcelain skin and raven hair" creates a picture of her beauty.
Show, Don't Tell
It's one of the most important rules in writing for a reason. "Showing" your reader characters and events means creating pictures of what's happening instead of just telling what's happening. Instead of saying that your character is angry, describe the white skin on his knuckles as he grips the phone, the short answers that he gives and the stiff way he holds his shoulders. Avoid narrating an event, and paint a picture with your words.
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.