Annie Nicholas writes paranormal and science fiction romance. Read about her hot vampire thrillers, werewolf romantic stories, alpha shifter and sexy alien romance.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Sentence Structures by a Dummy

When I refer to a dummy, I mean me. Like I stated in my first post, I don’t have any education in grammar, barely passed it in school, so if you’ve come here to be enlightened by big words describing each aspect to a sentence. Stop here.

I know a sentence starts with a capital letter, ends with a punctuation mark, has a noun, and a verb. There’s more to it than just that but I don’t think I need to know more. If you can’t wrap your mind around all the rules of the English language don’t sweat it. Try to write anyway.

What I do stress is to read and re-read your favorite books. Not for enjoyment but for study. Read what you liked the most and figure out why you like it so much. Pick out your favorite scene and dissect it. How did the writer use words to make it touch you?

Words are like music, they have a beat. When you watch an action movie the notes are fast and strong or a love scene can be lyrical and slow. How you construct your sentences affects the reader. Short to the point sentences can be used in high stress situations in writing, just like longer more poetic ones can be used to slow the mood in a story. The following example is an action scene. I’ve highlighted the short sentence to show the higher ratio.



            Ex: Rurik carried me back toward the wall. I could see Dragos' thugs fighting. A glimpse of a tall man with short, blonde hair in army fatigues between these warriors caught my breath. Colby was about to get creamed.


The smash of glass breaking made me twist around. Rurik had broken one of the small windows. He cleared the big shards away with his hands and winced as they cut through his skin. They barely even bled. He lifted me up to the hole, shoved me through it, then shouted, “Run, Rabbit, run!” A hard slap landed on my rump and pushed me through the rest of the way through the window. It stung.



The beat is made faster by the short sentences. It gives a sense of urgency and anxiety to the reader. This technique should not be used all the time, only in plot defining scenes, like this one where the story takes an unexpected twist. You will also notice I dispersed a long sentence in between these short beats. I call this a ‘take a breather’ sentence. If you have too many short beats in a row it sounds too desperate, like a racing heart, and not a good read.

Which brings me to my next point, don’t write boring. How is sentence structure connected to all of this? It’s everything. Readers need variety. Not just in characters and story but sentence structure too. Let me bring your attention to the red sentence above. I could have made all those sections short beats instead.



He lifted me up to the hole. He shoved me through it. He then shouted, “Run, Rabbit, run!”



How boring. It would have followed my short beat rules for action but it gave three similar sentence structures in a row, which is why I switched it. How can you tell what to do and when? Read it out loud. Listen to rhythm of the words.

Here are some quick simple rules to keep the reader’s interest. Don’t start following sentences with the same word or structure.



Bad ex: She walked to her desk and picked up a notebook. She wrote his phone number down.

Better ex: She walked to her desk and picked up a notebook. With a crayon, she wrote his phone number down.

Or: She walked to her desk and picked up a notebook. Writing his phone number down, she noticed her hand shook.


You’ll notice I’ve followed these same rules throughout this blog. Same goes with paragraphs, don’t use the same word or sentence structure to start succinct paragraphs.

Another rule, which I think most authors would agree with me, is EVERYTHING in moderation. It’s okay to use a LITTLE adverbs and –ing verbs, like the above example.

Try to start each sentence with an interesting word, be it verb or now. You won’t be able to do all of them but those that you can, then should be. Vary the, a, with, it, and pronouns starting sentences. I’ll use the same example from above.



EX: He carried me back toward the wall. I could see Dragos' thugs fighting. A glimpse of a tall man with short, blonde hair in army fatigues between these warriors caught my breath. Colby was about to get creamed.

The smash of glass breaking made me twist around. Rurik had broken one of the small windows. He cleared the big shards away with his hands and winced as they cut through his skin. They barely even bled. He lifted me up to the hole, shoved me through it, then shouted, “Run, Rabbit, run!” A hard slap landed on my rump and pushed me through the rest of the way through the window. It stung.



Each sentence started differently.

I hope this blog helped and didn’t make you more confused with my music analogy. It’s difficult to teach and learn this part of writing. This is one of the first steps of how to grip a reader’s attention. Like I mentioned before, re-read your favorite parts in books and examine the technique used.

Any questions?

5 comments:

Sonya said...

Great post! Your music analogy really worked for me, I think it would for most people.

Years ago I took a creative writing class at a nearby college. The professor was worthless, only wanted to bad mouth the publishing industry, and I learned nothing. What you're doing is really useful and helpful, so thanks!

Kristabel Reed said...

What you say makes a lot of sense, the beat and tone of the story is really wound around the structure of the sentence.

But I need to jump in and say sometimes too many shorter sentences all together seem like bad writing. James Patterson, for instance. I find his plots compelling (mostly) but his writing is (to me, please keep that in mind) bad. Short sentence after short sentence as if he's still writing ads for the inducstry. Course he's making millions, so may be onto something but it's the only example I could think of off the top of my head.

Sandy said...

Annie,

I think you did a great job. Sentence variation is very important in writing.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Very good post, Annie. You hit the nail right on the head with variation and why it's necessary.

Good job, keep it up!

Hugs

Annie Nicholas said...

Thanks. I do stress out when writing these types of blogs. LOL I don't want to pass misinformation.