Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Sentence and Paragraph Makeovers
LIVENING YOUR SENTENCES
Face it. Some sentences are more boring than others, pretty plain and ordinary. And if you use adverbs, they can be a lazy or unimaginative way of telling the reader what's going on. Instead, try using more active verbs and shoot for lively phrasings. Consider these examples:
Before: "Get out of my room!" he said angrily.
After: He brandished his fist in her face. "Get out of my room!"
Before: Lila and May walked in the park, talking cheerfully.
After: Lila and May walked in the park, chattering like squirrels on caffeine.
Before: Jim looked curiously at the package, wondering what was inside.
After: Jim squinted at the package. What was inside--that book he'd been wanting?
Before The Makeover
High above the crashing emerald waves of the wild, frothing sea, Rianna stood on the grassy bluff. Her thick ebony hair flailed in the wind like whipping banners as her blue-green eyes scanned the waves for a glimpse of her father's huge merchant ship. She saw no tiny scrap of sail on the horizon, no sign of a wooden hull. The wind caught at her full skirt, wrapping like a protective cocoon around her little brother who stood beside her. He shivered, his dark eyes somber, his body small and thin like the reeds that grew by the inland rivers.
1. Adjective infestation! Every single noun does NOT need to have one to three adjectives describing it. The waves are crashing and emerald, the sea is wild and frothing, etc. Do we really need to know Rianna's eyes are blue-green--especially since her brother's eyes are described, too? That detail can be worked in more naturally, later.
2. Similes galore. There are three similes here--about banners, cocoon, and reeds. It's best not saturate your paragraphs with them. You could omit one or two, turn one into a metaphor to break up the monotony, or change a simile to say "as" instead of "like" to switch things up.
3. Redundancies. Saying the sea is both crashing and wild is overkill, and a "tiny scrap of sail" is redundant in that a scrap IS something tiny. Likewise, the hair doesn't need to be both flailing and whipping. A cocoon is inherently protective, so that word could be eliminated. "The waves" are repeated in the first two sentences. "Inland" in the last sentence tells us nothing--is there such thing as a river that isn't inland?
4. Miscellaneous: Technically, the second to last sentence says the WIND wrapped like a cocoon around her brother, not the skirt doing the wrapping. Wind is the subject of the sentence, the thing doing the action. A simple adding of "it" makes the intent more clear.
After the Makeover
High above the crashing waves of the sea, Rianna stood on the grassy bluff. Her hair flailed in the wind like ebony banners as she scanned the horizon for her father's merchant ship. She saw no scrap of sail, no sign of a wooden hull. The wind caught at her skirt, wrapping it around her brother who stood beside her. He shivered, his dark eyes somber, his body as thin as the reeds that grew by the rivers.
Adjectives omitted: 13!
Words omitted: 22!
The result is a cleaner, easier-to-read paragraph. Just imagine if you did this to an entire manuscript--it would be much tighter and streamlined. (Example sentences and paragraph borrowed from one of my early blogposts.)
If you are a writer, do you also dabble in artwork or any other creative things?
When you revise are you able to slash similes, adverbs, and adjectives without mercy?
Do you catch yourself using redundancies or unnecessary words, like "tiny scrap" or "inland rivers"?