Have you ever read a paragraph or two of a novel and found yourself yawning, your eyes getting heavy? You probably didn’t get past much more than a few paragraphs before putting it down.
It could be that it was just a boring story with zero conflict and no reason to go on, but it also could have been a very good story with one major problem-Monotony.
Good writers have tricks they use to break up the monotony of their writing. They change subject-verb patterns and sentence length. By mixing things up, they control the pace, add suspense, and keep the story moving forward. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a hook 🙂
Suzie went to the grocery store. She purchased watermelon and soda pop. She knew her friends were waiting at the park. She would surprise them with a little treat.
Now that paragraph was about as boring as they come. But who’s to say she doesn’t get to the park to find her first love sitting on a bench with a bouquet of flowers and expectations that she will reunite with him, despite the fact that her new love is at the park as well. I guess you will have to hope your reader sticks around to get to the good stuff.
Suzie stopped by the grocery store on the way to the park. She had planned a little surprise for her friends. What she didn’t know, was a little surprise waited for her.
Something to think about.
Have you ever read a sentence and thought that is way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.
Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.
There’s not a set rule for short or long. The sentence length you choose depends a lot on what you are trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, lost me a long time ago sentences, and short, what just happened sentences. It’s up to you to decide when to use them, given the context of your writing.
What do short sentences do?
- Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
- Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
- Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
- To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.
What do long sentences do?
- Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
- Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
- Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.
Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.
When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.
Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂