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.
“Actually” “like” “so” “that” “some”
Filler words used to adjust the tone of your sentence are acceptable – in moderation.
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
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
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
Prowriting Aid provides you with 20 different reports that are used to check for writing for common writing mistakes, and it is very effective.
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.
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