Thursday, June 12, 2014

How To Make A Simple Sentence Interesting

As an artist, it is not only necessary to have heroes whom to emulate, but it is also necessary to have the critical thinking to analyze what it is that makes them outstanding. In other words, one should always be asking oneself how our heroes did what they did, and why it worked.
One of the many techniques used by my own hero - George RR Martin - is the use of specific words for his sentences, each one of which adds flavour to the sentence individually and to the narrative as a whole.
How does this technique work? Well, let's look at an example:

The boy was eating a bowl of cereal when the phone rang.

This is a plain sentence in every sense. It has a subject (the boy), an action (eating) and an object (cereal). It also has a subordinate clause with its own subject (phone) and action (rang). Notice this 'simple' sentence has no adjectives or adverbs.
Now let's replace.
Instead of the generic noun 'boy' I will call him 'James.'
Instead of the action 'eating' I will write 'spooning' - because cereals are eaten with spoons.
Instead of the generic term 'cereal,' I will use the specific name brand 'Corn Flakes.'
Now we have:

James was spooning a bowl of Corn Flakes.

See? I've not changed the elements of the sentence - I have only specified them. Furthermore, allow me to replace 'phone' with 'Smartphone' and 'ring' with 'buzz.'

The Smartphone buzzed.

We have all heard a Smartphone buzz - which is particularly loud when a Smartphone is laying on a table, as in, sitting next to the bowl from which its owner is eating, yeah?
Now I've not only specified an image, but evoked in you (the reader) the memory of a similar event which you yourself have witnessed.
Compare the two:

The boy was eating a bowl of cereal when the phone rang.

James was spooning a bowl of Corn Flakes when the Smartphone buzzed.

As I mentioned before, there were no adjectives or adverbs in the original 'simple' sentence. Notice that I did not need to add these to my 'interesting' sentence to make it more descriptive. That is the key of this technique: the elements of the sentence remain the same, and so the sentence remains short and tight.
Now you can use the same technique and replace the elements of the sentence with different specific words, creating a slightly different scenery from the same basic sentence:

Magdalena was slurping [ from ] a bowl of Raisin Brands when the Nokia chirped.

Kevin was gulping [ down ] a bowl of Lucky Charms when the Blackberry whistled.

Now, if I wanted to transplant this sentence to the realms of Westeros, I would do it like so:

Jon was spooning a bowl of porridge when the raven arrived.

Now you try it!


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