Good morning and welcome to Monday Blogs. Today, we’re talking about how to vary your sentence lengths.
As authors, we are often tempted to write the story as it appears in our head. However, we all tend to get into a bad habit. We’ll do a long series of short sentences, from five to ten words. We’re looking for wording that attracts attention, tells the reader it’s a tense moment. This means, of course, shorter sentences that may seem choppy but add to the tension of the scene. Or we might be sailing along, in a perfect moment, and are regaling the reader with long, description filled sentences.
“What’s the harm in this?” you ask.
“Quite a bit,” I respond.
First of all, the most important reason to vary your sentence length is that you are engaging your reader. Sentences that are the exact same number of words for a paragraph or more create an effect where the reader may become bored or even worse, fall asleep. This type of action will lead them to think your story is not worth reading, even if your beta readers or critique group said you have the best book in the world.
A cautionary note here: your beta readers or critique group should never say this. If they are, it’s time to find new people to look at your story with a critical eye.
The next reason to vary sentence length, especially if you’re staying exclusively with short sentences, is that your reader will lose their breath. That’s right. Short sentences trigger the “it’s a frantic moment” part of the brain. A reader’s breathing becomes faster. They’re anticipating a big bang and are seriously disappointed when they don’t get one and you move on to using longer sentences in a huge group.
Finally, we should always write our stories how we speak. What does that mean? Listen not just to how you speak but also how others around you speak. Far too many authors craft a story around rules they’ve been told are important. Instead of going with “short sentences for upcoming action and long sentences for milder moments” set your story to the tune of how people speak. We don’t always talk in a staccato tone, sounding ready to lead the charge. Nor do we speak continuously in long sentences that leave us panting for breath. Our conversations are a mixture. Our best learning processes can come from simply looking around and seeing what other do. So is getting characters for our stories but that’s another blog for another day.
About K.C. Sprayberry
Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her
She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond. game when plotting a new story.
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