For the past few months, I have been studying the way other writers use sentences in their stories. Using sentences in a perfect way is an art form which some writers have mastered and others (like me) need to concentrate and work hard on.
Great sentences have a zing to them. I have noticed that long sentences tend to drag and the pace slackens. Long sentences are good for inner dialogues. Well, we need lots of words to describe our inner tension. So the opportunity to use long sentences is grabbed by writers at that point.
But for descriptions, short sentences can be more effective. They hurry the description along.
She sashayed into the room. Like a Diva. Tall. Slim. Fair. Beautiful. Hair that rippled like water. Skin like satin.
Shorter sentences also add tension. The abruptness of single word sentences can be quite impactful. Shorter sentences give a feeling of pace. They literally speed the story to the finish line.
I ran. The men sprinted behind me. Gaining speed. Closing the distance between us. Their hot breath fanned my neck.
Even for dialogues short sentences are more effective. It’s crisp and crunchy, much like potato chips.
“Listen to me. Go away. I want to be alone,” she said. “With my thoughts…”
I have noticed that great writing has a generous mix of long sentences interspersed with shorter ones. This keeps the fluidity of the pace. Paragraphs of long sentences can turn off readers. But when short sentences are mixed in, the attention doesn’t waver.
I have a confession to make. I am the wrong person to give any advice on sentences. At one time I wrote sentences that were so long that you could wrap your index finger around it two times over. My editor’s suggestion was “ keep the sentences shorter, please.” I am still working on that aspect of my writing. Hopefully, I am getting better. I am sure my two crit partners will be able to make out the change.
Do you notice the sentence structures while you read books or do your eyes just soak in the story without paying attention to the way a writer has created her sentences? When it comes to writing your own stories, do you ponder over the sentences? Or are sentences just a way to get the words across? What’s your sentence style? Please share. If any of you want to share examples, it will be a great way for us to learn.