Sunday, July 29, 2012

Writing for Detail and Rhythm:

Take a look at the two writing samples that follow.  The seond is a better version of the first.  Can you tell why?

First sample:

“The old, wizened man walked merrily down the gravel driveway.  He was the town dwarf and was known to everyone in the neighborhood as the go-to guy.  When anyone had a problem, James would lend a helping hand, whether it be a bit of cash or sage advice.  All the townsfolk loved James McCabe, and he loved them.  But he didn’t like me.”

Here’s the same example re-written for detail and rhythm:

“James McCabe, the wrinkled dwarf of Mysteria, Wisconsin, whistled Lady Gaga songs and nodded to each passing weary widow, texting teen, and amorous adult.  To mothers consoling crowd-weary babies, he tossed tootsie roll pops.  To beggars in restless sleep at the town’s bandshell, he stashed a five dollar bill between their fingers.  To me, however, he offered nothing but scorn.  McCabe hated me.

1.  Edit out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.  Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, particularly adverbs ending in “ly.”

2. Use good, descriptive nouns, not abstract nouns that do not allow the reader to “see” pictures: “James McCabe, wrinkled dwarf, Mysteria, WI, Lady Gaga, widow, mothers, tootsie roll pops.”

3.  Write of  local color and culture: “Lady Gaga songs,  texting teens.”

4.  Use good active verbs, and avoid using forms of “to be,” such as “am, is, are, was, were, had been, have been,” etc.  In this example, I used “whistled, nodded, passed, tossed, stashed, offered, hated.”

5.  Edit out clichés and worn-out expressions: “go-to guy, sage advice.”

5.  Create adjectives using a hyphen and describing two states, like “crowd-weary.”  This makes writing compact. Powerful, and poetic.

6. Use figures of speech, like metaphor, similes, alliteration, etc.  Know what a figure of speech is, first.  Alliteration in “weary widows, texting teens, and amorous adults.”

For rhythmic prose:

1. Vary sentence structure.  Know what a simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence is and use each one so that your prose has a musical quality.

2.  Use short simple sentences for being rigid, shocking, funny, and abrupt. Use compound for narrating.  Use complex for combining several thoughts or actions in which one action should be subordinated or made lesser than the main action.

3.  Use repetition to enforce a point.  Notice the sentences beginning with “To” in the example above.

4.  Be conscious of the rhythm of your prose.  Vary sentence length and type and choose your sentence structure according to points of emphasis and importance.  Pace your writing, and make it have a “beat,” as in a musical beat.

5. Use qualifiers when writing: ‘however, on the other hand, by the way, nevertheless, etc.”

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