Friday, June 3, 2016

WOW. Superb one-sentence writing seminar for fiction writers from Brooks Landon

[Skip all the stuff in small type if you want. On the other hand, if you'd like some background to what Landon shares below, this may be helpful. A "cumulative sentence" is a sentence that adds modifying phrases to a main clause as it goes along and isn't afraid to unfold its meanings at length. Good fiction doesn't rely solely on cumulative sentences -- short sentences are important, too -- but skipping cumulative sentences altogether leaves the reader with an empty husk of a book. The key is to vary sentence length. This relatively short sentence, for instance, helps you keep up. As does this one. The last sentence of this paragraph, by contrast, is much longer. Now, then. In the cumulative sentence reproduced in big bold type below, the main clause is labeled (1); the subordinate modifying phrases are labeled (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), and (8), while the subordinate modifying phrases that also serve as coordinate modifying phrases, due to a repeated structural element (in this case, beginning the phrase with a verb ending in -ing), are labeled (9).]

[This sentence from Landon is pure gold. I have read it dozens of times. It's a template for great writing.]

[Here we go. A one-sentence writing seminar for fiction writers.]

(1:) Cumulative sentences can take any number of forms, (2 and 9:) detailing both frozen or static scenes and moving processes, (3:) their insistent rhythm always asking for another modifying phrase, (4 and 9:) allowing us to achieve ever-greater degrees of specificity and precision, (5:) a process of focusing the sentence in much the same way a movie camera can focus and refocus on a scene, (6 and 9:) zooming in for a close-up to reveal almost microscopic detail, (7 and 9:) panning back to offer a wide-angle panorama, (8 and 9:) offering new angles or perspectives from which to examine a scene or consider data. 

-- Brooks Landon, BUILDING GREAT SENTENCES