Controlled, balanced sentences can draw the reader in, providing a sense of order to complex ideas. Descriptive sentences can entice the reader into a well-conceived world of words, all the while leaving the reader unaware of the mechanics that make the description so compelling.
Short sentences demand attention. They are abrupt.
Fragments? Even more direct. No verbs. Rule breakers.
Words matter, too. If you doubt the power of words, just pick up the Bible. In the beginning was the Word. God spoke us into existence.
What can you write into existence? Can you create worlds?
Here is how a few authors have written worlds into existence.
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.” Toni Morrison
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” William Gibson
“For brave Macbeth–well he deserves that name–
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;” Shakespeare
Don’t worry. I am not going to have you write a novel or play. I do want you, however, to understand how your word choice shapes the perception of your work.
Let’s try an experiment with verbs often found in academic and formal writing.
Next let’s take some of these phrasal verbs, write a sentence or two, and find more precise replacements.
Finally, I’d like you to work with a partner to examine the pieces of fiction you wrote yesterday. During this collaboration, you need to:
- find a total of four sentences featuring imprecise, common, or weak verbs
- choose a more powerful verb from this list (make the sure the verb fits your meaning)
- edit the sentences