Improve your Prose by Varying Sentence Length

Whatever you’re writing, there’s one sure-fire way to make your prose more engaging:

Vary the length of your sentences.

Rather than explain why this is important, I’m going to give an example:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

 

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important. – 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing, by Gary Provost

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Dialogue Tags and the Hidden Power of ‘said’:

Writers hate to repeat what’s been done before. This is particularly apparent when it comes to dialogue tags (those things that come after a line of dialogue and let you know who spoke):

“The bit after the dialogue is called a dialogue tag,” he explained.

What’s wrong with the above sentence? The answer is simple: the dialogue tag (‘he explained’) adds no value. It’s obvious that whoever’s speaking is explaining something, which makes it redundant to tell readers that things are getting explained (and as discussed before, redundancies are bad). You don’t need ‘explained’ – you just need ‘said.’

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Choosing your Tense and Point-of-View – Part 2

Yesterday we looked at the different tenses and point-of-views (POVs). This week I’m taking some time to evaluate the pros and cons of each tense and POV. If you haven’t read part 1 of this article, check that out before reading any further. 


Again, let’s start with the Point of Views (POVs), using ‘John’ as our main character. I’ve given the most time to first person and third person limited, as these are the two most common POVs:

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Choosing your Tense and Point-of-View – Part 1

Your story’s point-of-view and tense has a huge impact on your novel’s structure and feel. Done well, your POV and tense will work seamlessly together to create an engaging tale with compelling characters. Done poorly, the reader can be left feeling disjunct from what’s happening. This article is a short introduction to the main POV’s and tenses, as well as tips for using them.

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