Showing posts from November, 2011

Action/Reaction & Dialogue sentence order

Continuing the theme of strengthening sentences, one of the things that I see a lot of in MSS is the order in which the characters do and say things. This may not seem too important, and it’s one of those things we don’t necessarily pay much attention to, however when it comes to clarity, being able to put the action or reaction or dialogue in the right order makes for tighter, polished and better sentences.

And they make more sense, of course.

The aim is to write actions and their reactions in chronological order. Not only does it create clarity but it also keeps the flow of the sentence, without interruption, and it reduces ambiguity. It makes life so much easier for your reader, and by putting the action before the dialogue, it increases the effectiveness of the sentence.

Here’s a simple example:

He grabbed the phone, startled by it.

Essentially this sentence isn’t actually grammatically incorrect, but it does read as though he grabbed the phone first, then he was startled by it, …

Strengthening sentences with some weeding

The great thing about the editing process is that it’s a chance for writers to weed out the superfluous, the structural errors and all those grammatically incorrect words and sentences. 

A writer should always aim for better constructed sentences. That means weeding out things like adverbs and adjectives, passive sentences, gerunds and making sure the tenses are correct etc.

There are other constructions that creep into our writing without us noticing and that is the use of phrasal verbs or prepositional words.

We write these kind of phrases and words without thinking too much about them, which is why they can end up becoming prevalent in our work.  For the most part, if you want tightly constructed, concise and well thought out sentences, you take need to weed them out.

How many times have your characters decided to do something, or they have begun to or started to do something, or they are going to do something? If you read back through your work, I’m willing to bet a few of thes…

Creating Sibilance

Ever wondered how you can create poetic resonance within your narrative, or you’ve read what you have written and you’ve discovered it has strong characteristic sounds? The descriptive language somehow appeals to your senses to create an extra dimension to the narrative. This is known as sibilance.

Sibilance is a literary device which writers can use to create certain sounds within their narrative, usually a hissing sound with ‘s’ or ‘z’ or ‘sh’ and sometimes a soft ‘c,’ and it is most often found in poetry. These words resonate with the reader, it visualises sound and if done properly, it can bring the description to life.

Sibilance can either appear within narrative or you can use it in dialogue, but as with all writing, it’s about knowing how and it works and where the sibilance should be placed that counts. It’s an effective tool to create multi layers to what might be flat, uninspiring narrative. Besides, effective use of language is what writing is all about and writers shoul…

Part 3 - Modifiers, Intensifiers and Qualifiers

Continuing on from Part 1 and Part 2 - modifiers and intensifiers - in this last part we’ll look at Qualifiers.

Writers should familiarise themselves with the different types of modifiers so that when it comes to editing, the process is easier.

Qualifiers are a type of modifier; they modify words in a sentence or phrase in a certain way, they qualify adjectives and verbs and provide readers with specific details. In other words, they change how absolute or generalised a sentence can be.

For instance, ‘this sum is very large’ or ‘this sum is a great deal bigger than I expected’, where the words ‘very’ and ‘great deal’ are the qualifiers. Or ‘he came across it almost by accident’ or ‘he came across it pretty much by accident’, where ‘almost’ and ‘pretty much’ are the qualifiers. To varying degrees, each of these has modified the sentence.

Often, qualifiers provide unnecessary padding to your narrative. We use qualifiers in our speech all the time, but when it comes to fiction writin…