Advice from the Masters: Anton Chekov

Feb 10, 2016 | Better Writing

Anton Chekov is considered one of the greatest short story writers. I love his ability to captivate you with details. When sage writing coaches advise you to “show, don’t tell,” they usually mention Chekov and the following quote.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

That’s a great quote, but the folks over at Quote Investigator are pretty sure that Chekov never actually said that. Here’s what they think is the original, found in a letter from Chekov to his brother. I like it much better.

“In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.”

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts

If you want even more writing advice from writers, check out Jon Winokur’s blog, “AdvicetoWriters.”