All right, boys and girls, it’s time once again for your friendly, neighborhood grammar police report. Today we’re going to talk about Pronoun Confusion, those times when we have multiple characters of the same sex in a single scene, and how we keep track of them.
One of the chronic issues that we as authors have to be aware of is the fact that we have all the details of our stories in our brains, while our readers only have as much as we’ve given them. When I’m writing, I’m actually watching a movie in my head. I see my characters move, I hear them speak, and of course I know their motives and feelings. Having all this information sometimes translates into complacency; I know what my characters are doing, so it should be obvious to the reader, right? No, not always. Continue reading “Pronoun Confusion: Who Is the Sentence About?”
Back in broadcast journalism school, I was taught that the shorter and simpler the sentence structure, the better. Subject-verb-object ruled the day. Semicolons were verboten. I was told to count the words in my sentences to make sure I had no more than twenty words in each. (I’ve since heard the new rule is ten words per sentence. Yikes.) It made sense to keep sentence structure simple because we were writing for the ear – and a pretty distracted ear at that, given that the audience is probably either getting the kids off to school or driving to work in rush-hour traffic, with the radio as background noise.
Now that I write fiction, my sentence structure has gotten a little more involved. Narrative passages replete with adjectives and adverbs are fine (although I still try to go easy on the adverbs, preferring active verbs instead). I might even throw in a modifying clause here and there. But I find that short, punchy, subject-verb-object sentences still have their place.
It all has to do with what you’re trying to accomplish in the scene you’re writing. A complex sentence takes longer to read; a paragraph full of complex sentences, even longer. If what you’re after is lyrical prose that makes your reader stop to savor every nuance, then complex sentences will suit you just fine.
But if you want to move the action along, the use of short sentences will help your reader race through to the end. Like this: Continue reading “In Defense of Short Sentences”