Friday, January 21, 2011

Sentence Lengths

Common wisdom in writing is that when you want to convey rapid action sequences, switch to short sentences. Sometimes I'll adhere to this, but other times, I actually find the opposite is more effective: using long, almost run-on (but still grammatically correct) sentences to convey the action.

To me, it's a matter of breath control. Every time you have a short sentence, you get to stop at each period. Dot. Dot. Dot. Now, each pause is placed in a staccato, rapidfire fashion ... but it is a pause. Whereas with a longer sentence, you almost "run out of breath" as clause piles on clause.

Obviously, it's tricky to build these sentences so they're easy to read and don't force a reader to double back to the beginning, but it can be done. Also, of course, like any technique, this can be overused.

To me, the best way to explain "short sentences for conflict" versus "long sentences for conflict" is the difference between a whole bunch of things happening in rapid succession and a whole bunch of things that seem to be happening all at once. Short sentences will give you an event-event-event gauntlet. Long sentences will give you an EVENTS! melee.

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