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Writing Powerful Sentences – #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

I fell in love with reading, and writing from the eloquent sentences written by authors like Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, and Margaret Atwood. A well written sentence paints an image in my mind, and I am become absorbed in the story. My own life no longer exists. If I have any writing goal – it is to write so beautifully that people quote me. Not only is this a goal for myself, I also want to help you create sentences that are over-shared through facebook meme’s.

Simple and Direct

When I started writing I thought it was necessary to write complex sentences, riddled with metaphors, and imagery. My past-self makes me laugh on a regular basis. That isn’t to say I’ve mastered this art form – but I’ve improved a great deal from paying attention to the simple, and direct rule.

 

“The curves of your lips rewrite history.”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

A large part of editing involves cutting out unnecessary sentences that don’t move your story forward. The same should be done within the sentences themselves. Read your sentence aloud, could you have made your point in fewer words? Cut out the filler words in your sentences to make them stronger.

Examples:
“Actually”    “like”  “so”    “that”   “some”

Filler words used to adjust the tone of your sentence are acceptable – in moderation.

 

quote, life, rain, dance, motivation, self improvement
Photo by Anthony Garand

Confidence

If you believe what you are writing, then write with confidence. Phrases like – “I think…”, “Maybe…”, and “I don’t know” – take the power out of your words. People that inspire speak, and write with authority. We tend to use weak phrases when we are afraid to make a concrete statement. Don’t do this – write strong, and powerful sentences that demand your reader’s attention.

 

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

Passive Voice

My worst habit! A passive voice within your writing causes the same issue as writing without authority – it sounds weak, and afraid. A teacher taught me to tag, “By Zombies”, to the end of a sentence to detect a passive voice.

“Derek was walking home when he was attacked (by zombies)” ← Passive voice

“The attack occurred when Derek took a shortcut home (by zombies)” ← Makes no sense, therefore it’s an active voice.

 

You’re sentences must connect to one another

Why am I even telling you this? It’s not as easy as it sounds, even top authors rewrite their sentences that have no rhythm. Finish writing about one topic before you jump to another – your character can’t go from walking, to suddenly talking to another person in a room. When did the character get to the room, and where did this other person come from?

 

“You call yourself a free spirit, a ‘wild thing,’ and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

 

walking, path, road, legs, feet, yellow line
Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Sentence length should vary

Short, medium, and long.

Too many short sentences in a row will seem disjointed, and choppy. Long sentence after long sentence can lose your reader – they will go back and reread, trying to comprehend where the story is going. Nobody likes listening to someone talking so much it’s impossible to get a word in, and it’s equally as irritating to talk to someone who answers your questions with short, choppy answers. It stands to reason that we would be attracted to a similar writing style.

Varying sentence length keeps the attention of your readers the same way a feature wall in your living room draws the eye.

How you start your sentences should also change, do not use the same words too often. Your story will begin to sound repetitive. Repetition always makes me zone out.

 

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka On The Shore

*Affiliate Link

 

Prowriting Aid provides you with 20 different reports that are used to check for writing for common writing mistakes, and it is very effective.

editing, writing, prewriting, aid

Their desktop app is supported for Windows and Mac, I’ve been using it on a Mac – it’s a life saver. I’m so bad when it comes to writing in a passive voice, but Prowriting Aid is like having my teacher standing over my back, and correcting my work – only it doesn’t cause anxiety.

I hope this post has inspired you, go out and write something beautiful to share with the world! Comment below with something beautiful you have written, I would love to read it.

 

*This post contain affiliate links, for more information please see the Affiliate Disclosure.

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25 comments

  1. JJ Burry

    Excellent points! It’s important to make our sentences stronger.

    I like your use of “by zombies” for locating passive voice, but it’s not 100% effective. Passive voice means that you are placing the object of the sentence (the receiver of the action) in the subject’s place at the beginning. Adding “by zombies” is a way to tack on a subject at the end of one is missing, so it would have to come after the verb.

    The rodents were removed (by zombies) by the extermination team. — passive

    The extermination team removed (by zombies) the rodents. — active

    I apologize for letting the English Teacher in me out, but I love usage and tricks for remembering rules!!

    Great post!

    1. JJ Burry

      Your examples are correct. I am not implying that they aren’t. However, “by zombies” should come after the verb to be the most effective. 😉

    2. Crystal

      You are very correct about that, and I could have explained that better. Fortunately your comment takes care of that for me!

      1. JJ Burry

        Lol! I can’t wait to read more tricks! I never did learn the ‘by zombies’ trick, so it was fun to see!

  2. S.E. White

    Super helpful post, thank you! I love the idea of adding “by zombies”, haha

    1. Crystal

      May as well make it fun 🙂

  3. ChrysFey

    Short, simple sentences can sure carry a punch. And I enjoy varying the lengths of my sentences. It adds variety and spices things up for readers.

    1. Crystal

      I agree, variety is the spice of life!

    1. Crystal

      Same here, I find myself making less and less mistakes everyday.

  4. Megan Morgan

    Sentences of course are the base of every story–but how they’re put together is magic! I love when the words are so well crafted I forget I’m even reading.

    1. Crystal

      Exactly! That is why I appreciate well crafted words so much, I want to be immersed in what I am reading 🙂

  5. Joan Curtis

    I hate reading long sentences that I get lost in. Faulkner is the worst! Ha! But he’s remembered. Don’t know if he’d survive today. Clear, short, distinct sentences are perfect. But, some characters ramble because that’s their style. I have an ADD character in my WIP who does that. She goes from one topic to the next in her dialogue. Fortunately, the other characters stop her.

    Thanks for this and I agree with passive vs. active voice. Just say simply Zombies attached Derek when he took a shortcut home? Just saying…

    1. Crystal

      There are moments where long sentences, and perhaps a lot of them are effective. I don’t hate on them! 🙂 It makes perfect sense to have a character with ADD have long, rambling sentences. I look forward to reading that piece of yours.

  6. Iola

    I think a lot of new writers confuse “long” with “strong” when it comes to sentences, and write sentences that may be beautiful and may even be grammatically correct, but are so long they become confusing.

    Or they decide (consciously or unconsciously) that the subject-verb-object is a repetitive sentence structure, so shake it up to the point the reader doesn’t know what’s happening.

    1. Crystal

      I agree, and while long sentences can be beautiful – it becomes arduous to read a text that is primarily long sentences lol.

  7. Erika Beebe

    I haven’t heard of the app but now I am really excited! Thank you 🙂

    1. Crystal

      Oh good! I’m glad to see someone as excited as I was to find this gem. It’s very effective.

  8. raimeygallant

    I’m so hyper aware of sentence connectivity, that I sometimes wonder if this hinders me in the first draft stage. Maybe I would write faster if I wasn’t so darned focused on getting it write the first go-round, when we all know, this is impossible. 🙂 Great post!

    1. Crystal

      I am too! I also have a bad habit of getting bogged down by wanting to edit while I go – naughty! Thank you lady 🙂

  9. raimeygallant

    P.S. Do you have a Facebook page? If so, can you send me the link? I like to tag people when I share their posts on Facebook. 🙂

    1. Crystal

      Oh my! Thank you, I do have a Facebook page. You can find the link at the very top of my website next to follow me: 🙂

  10. Victoria Marie Lees

    Hi, Crystal! This is my first time here. I’ll follow you blog and connect with you online. What an excellent post. Thank you so much for sharing this with Author Toolbox followers. All best to you.
    http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

  11. jpcallenwrites

    I love adding “by zombies” to check for passive voice!

    1. Crystal

      It makes editing a little more fun 🙂

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