19 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 564, Sentence Length Q and A
Announcement: Ancient Light is delayed due to the economy. You can read more about it at http://www.ancientlight.com. Ancient Light includes the second edition of Aegypt plus Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness. I’ll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way.
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don’t confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
All novels have five discrete parts:
1. The initial scene (the beginning)
2. The rising action
3. The climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
The theme statement of my 26th novel, working title, Shape, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.
Here is the cover proposal for Escape from Freedom. Escape is my 25th novel.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I’m on my first editing run-through of Shape.
I’m an advocate of using the/a scene input/output method to drive the rising action–in fact, to write any novel.
- Scene input (easy)
- Scene output (a little harder)
- Scene setting (basic stuff)
- Creativity (creative elements of the scene)
- Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
- Release (climax of creative elements)
I can immediately discern three ways to invoke creativity:
- History extrapolation
- Technological extrapolation
- Intellectual extrapolation
Creativity is like an extrapolation of what has been. It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect). Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.
One of my blog readers posed these questions. I’ll use the next few weeks to answer them.
- Conflict/tension between characters
- Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)
- Change, complexity of relationship, and relation to issues/theme
- Evolving vs static character
- Language and style
- Verbal, gesture, action
- Words employed
- Sentence length
- Type of grammar
- Field of reference or allusion
- Tone – how tone is created through diction, rhythm, sentence construction, sound effects, images created by similes, syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence, the inflections of the silent or spoken voice, etc.
- Mannerism suggest by speech
- Distinct manner of writing or speaking you employ, and why (like Pinter’s style includes gaps, silences, non-sequitors, and fragments while Chekhov’s includes ‘apparent’ inconclusiveness).
Moving on to 8. 8. Sentence length
Sentence length can be addressed from a very complex standpoint. I think it is a little simpler than that. The first point in sentence length is this—no run-ons. Whatever you do or learn as a writer, learn the proper from of grammar for a sentence and for an independent clause. An independent clause has a noun and a verb. A sentence likewise. The point is to either use a comma and conjunction or a semi-colon to separate independent clauses. The semi-colon is pretty much defunct in modern fiction. Instead, in fiction, we use the double dash (em dash) or an ellipsis. The double dash is most appropriate and is used in fiction in place of a semi-colon. That doesn’t mean a semi-colon is out of place—it just means a double dash is preferred.
The reason the double dash is preferred is because it lends a longer natural break in the writing than a semi-colon. The semi-colon is supposed to provide a break in the text—a breath, if you like. The double dash gives a natural breath or break between the independent clauses. You can see a similar break…when an ellipsis is used. The ellipsis is considered to confer an even longer break than the double dash and is preferable when indicating that longer breath.
My ultimate point is this—you must understand the grammar of the sentence, and for novel writing, the grammar of the independent clause. To many this is basic stuff. For the barely educated, this is new. Modern schools have given up on grammar and especially complex grammar for fiction or technical writing. You must understand grammar before you have any hope as an author. If you don’t understand the grammar of the sentence, you will not be able to make the complex sentences required to write fiction. Note, the problem isn’t the short sentences (or it usually isn’t). Most can write: Dick loves Jane or Jane hits Dick. Short sentences are necessary, but more than that, the identification of the parts of speech in every sentence, and the development of complex, multi-clause, sentences is necessary to fiction writing. If you don’t believe me, take a look at some of the first sentences or paragraphs of many early Twentieth Century novels. The Once and Future King for example.
The first step in understanding sentence length is to understand how to write good sentences.