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  • Writer's pictureStuart Wakefield

Crafting the Perfect Sentence: A Guide



Writing is more than just getting information across; it's about making an impact with every sentence. For creative writers, especially new writers, understanding the craft of sentence construction is crucial. Let’s examine the key qualities that distinguish great sentences from plain old sentences.




1. Clarity


Clarity is paramount. Your sentences should communicate ideas clearly and straightforwardly, avoiding any ambiguity unless you do so with intention—for stylistic purposes. Clarity aids comprehension and ensures that your readers aren't alienated by overly complex language.


Good Example: "The sun set in a blaze of orange and pink, sinking slowly behind the hills."


Avoid: "It was getting dark, kind of orange, sort of pinkish too, over there where things go down at night."


Tip: Keep your subject and verb close together, and use active voice to maintain clarity.


2. Economy of Language


Economy of language expresses your thoughts in as few words as possible without sacrificing clarity or literary quality. This principle helps in making sentences punchy and impactful.


Good Example: "Rain drummed on the roof."


Avoid: "The sound of rain hitting against the surface of the roof went on and on repetitively."


Tip: Remove redundant words and phrases that do not add meaning or emphasis.


3. Rhythm and Sound


The musicality of writing strengthens its readability and enjoyment. Pay attention to the rhythm, sound, and the overall musicality of sentences—make your prose more engaging.


Good Example: "The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, the furrow followed free."


Avoid: "The breeze was fair and blew, and white foam was flying, and the furrow that followed was free."


Tip: Read sentences aloud to check their flow and adjust for smoother sound patterns.


4. Imagery and Sensory Detail


Imagery involves using descriptive language to create vivid pictures in the reader's mind. By appealing to the senses, you enhance the emotional and—you guessed it—sensory connection to the story.


Good Example: "He could smell the forest floor beneath him, damp and rich with fallen leaves."


Avoid: "He was in the forest and it was wet and smelled like dirt."


Tip: Use specific details that appeal to the senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing) to bring scenes to life.


5. Emotional Resonance


An emotionally resonant sentence can tug at a reader's heartstrings and makes your writing memorable and moving. The key is to evoke feelings through the context, word choice, and the characters’ experiences.


Good Example: "She whispered a prayer for her son, lost to war but never forgotten."


Avoid: "She was sad because her son died in the war and she missed him."


Tip: Use strong verbs and precise nouns to convey emotions directly and powerfully.


6. Originality


Originality in sentence construction shows creativity and sets your writing apart from others. This involves finding fresh ways to say something, using innovative metaphors, or adding unique twists to familiar scenes.


Good Example: "Memory is a mirror that scandalously lies."


Avoid: "Memories do not always reflect the truth."


Tip: Experiment with metaphors and similes to introduce originality into your descriptions.


7. Structural Innovation


Experimenting with the structure of sentences adds both interest and emphasis. This can involve playing with syntax, using unconventional punctuation, or crafting sentences in a way that breaks from standard patterns.


Good Example: "Fireworks: light, then sound."


Avoid: "First, there was the light from the fireworks and then came the sound."


Tip: Don’t be afraid to break conventional grammar rules occasionally for stylistic effect.


8. Evocative Language


Choosing the right words to evoke a specific atmosphere or mood is crucial, and evocative language helps to build the world of your story and deepen the thematic elements.


Good Example: "A thin mist hung over the city like a forgotten myth."


Avoid: "It was foggy over the city."


Tip: Select words that carry emotional weight or specific connotations to deepen the impact of your scenes.


Your Turn!


Here are some practical writing exercises designed to help you enhance your sentence-crafting skills:


Clarity


Take a paragraph from a piece you feel is overly complex. Simplify it to make the meaning clear without changing the overall message. Aim to reduce the word count by at least 30%.


Economy of Language


Write a descriptive passage about a busy market scene. Then, rewrite the same passage using at least 50% fewer words while retaining the vivid imagery and information.


Rhythm and Sound


Create a sentence about rain using alliteration and assonance. Focus on the sound of the rain and how it interacts with different surfaces (e.g., a window, a tin roof, a muddy field).


Imagery and Sensory Detail


Write a single sentence that describes a sunset. Include at least three sensory details (e.g., sight, smell, sound) to make the scene as vivid as possible.


Emotional Resonance


Revise a sentence from an old story or create a new one that describes a character experiencing joy or sorrow. Use strong verbs and precise nouns to heighten the emotional impact.


Originality


Take a cliché (e.g., "quiet as a mouse") and write five original alternatives that convey the same idea, but in fresh, inventive ways.


Structural Innovation


Write a story opening using only fragments or a series of three-word sentences. Focus on creating mood and setting the scene with minimal words and unconventional structure.


Evocative Language


Choose a setting (e.g., an abandoned house, a bustling city street) and write a paragraph that evokes a specific mood (e.g., eeriness, excitement). Use language that contributes to the atmosphere you want to create.


Extra Credit


Write a brief scene (200-300 words) involving a character making a tough decision. In this scene, incorporate clarity, economy of language, emotional resonance, and evocative language. After writing, read the scene aloud to ensure it also incorporates rhythm and sound effectively.


I've designed these exercises to challenge different aspects of your writing, and I encourage you to think critically about how you construct sentences and how each element contributes to the overall effectiveness of your writing.


Final Thoughts


Great sentences are the building blocks of well-written stories. They engage the reader, evoke emotions, and they create vivid imagery. By focusing on clarity, economy, rhythm, imagery, emotional resonance, originality, structural innovation, and evocative language, you can enhance both the readability and the beauty of your writing. Keep these tips in mind as you craft each sentence and watch your writing improve!

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