What can the creative writer-oriented definition of sentence structure do for you? This applies to all you non-fiction writers too, whether you’re bloggers, book writers or business writers.
If you want readers to be engaged with what you produce, you need to pay attention to the how. The mechanics.
And the mechanics most definitely include sentence structure.
As promised in Tuesday’s Definition, “We’re all done with our grammatical vegetables now.” The grammar Nazi part of the lesson is over, and we’re moving into how you can use your sentence structure to invigorate your written copy.
That’s the goal behind today’s Challenge, which goes like this:
Make your sentences flow together more interestingly.
If you want to make your fiction or non-fiction manuscript flow to editorial perfection, then you need to get past any grade school habits of starting each and every sentence out the same way.
There’s more to sentence beginnings than nouns, pronouns and articles. “Sabrina is a faerie. She has green and yellow wings. The wings are beautiful.” is informative but hardly engaging.
To spice it up, add in other parts of speech like you would if you were saying it out loud. Make it a narrative: a (one-sided) conversation.
What does a narrative look like? It varies, of course, but if it’s going to be engaging, it’ll typically:
Switch up sentence lengths
Play around with sentence beginnings
Arrange each sentence to maximize its effect on listeners’ or readers’ emotions.
“Sabrina is a faerie. She has green and yellow wings. The wings are beautiful.” breaks every single one of those suggested rules, hence the reason why it’s boring. It reads a lot better like this:
Sabrina is a faerie with beautiful green and yellow wings.
That’s a much better introduction for this character, thanks to an added preposition (with), conjunction (and), and the formation of a complex sentence out of three simple sentences.
And if I wanted to spice it up further, I could add details like these:
Born a winged Scottish princess, she was sent into protective exile after the HPAC murdered her parents. The sadistic group, short for Human Preservation and Advancement Committee, believes that the only good faerie is a dead faerie. Or at least one who’s caged up in a medical lab.
Since that’s a fate Sabrina wants to avoid, she’s ready to go to great lengths to stay out of their way. And failure is not an option. According to her, that is. The HPAC, of course, has very different plans.
That paragraph played up sentence structure to the max, both from a creative writer and grammar Nazi perspective. It did use a single simple sentence among the mostly complex ones, and it even threw in a stand-alone dependent clause without a single ounce of shame.
In the same way, it broke the grammar rule about how you supposedly shouldn’t start a sentence with a conjunction (and, but, or, etc.). Plus, verbs lead thoughts right alongside pronouns, nouns and adverbs and articles. The whole thing is varied, which makes the content far less likely to be boring.
You non-fiction writers might be scratching your heads about now, wondering how faeries – with or without beautiful green and yellow wings – can help you create better sentences. But the same principle applies here to whatever your subject matter.
Try it out for yourself.