Foreword, March!

shakespeareForeword, preface, prologue. We’ve all seen one or the other of these at the front of a book, and many people think they are the same thing. They’re certainly very similar, but there are definite distinctions between them. Do you know what they are?

A foreword is a short introductory statement, especially when written by someone other than the author. It’s not unusual to see the writer of the foreword lauding the author of the main work, or telling a bit about how the work came about or how it came to his/her attention. Note that the definition describes it as a short introductory statement. Usually a foreword is a few paragraphs and less than a page.

The opposite of a foreword is an afterword: a concluding section or commentary or a closing statement.

A preface, conversely, is a preliminary statement by the book’s author or editor, usually setting down its purpose and scope, expressing acknowledgement of assistance from others, etc. Very often we will see an acknowledgment page used for this purpose instead.

A prologue is described as a preliminary discourse, an introductory part of a poem, novel or play. It can be an introductory speech calling attention to the theme of a play, as Shakespeare often did. In Romeo and Juliet, the prologue is as follows: Continue reading “Foreword, March!”

In Defense of Short Sentences

short elfBack 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”

Approaches to Building Suspense

gardenia Creating “Page-Turner Novels” was and still is my writing goal. In reviews, readers have complimented me for creating a good story and holding their  attention. (That is very satisfying.)

As I continue to improve my writing craft I have read several books. One that I would recommend is The Marshall Plan for NOVEL WRITING by Evan Marshall. He provides some excellent tools which helped me understand viewpoint writing and the proper sequence within the novel. I use a form of that now to plan my novels and to record the actual chapter detail and story progress. Here is what I do: Continue reading “Approaches to Building Suspense”

Narrative Voice: Breaking the Rules

Guest post
by Mark Hamner

As I worked to complete my third book, Cinder’s Reach, I encountered a situation which led me to think about narrative voice rules and if it’s ever okay to break them. I believe that most of the time the answer is no, but there may be some situations in which it’s not as cut-and-dried.

For those perhaps new to writing, narrative voice can be thought of as the general perspective of the story. The narrative voice goes hand-in-hand with the narrative point of view. Some common narrative voices are first-person character voice (“I wonder what Jennifer is thinking”), third-person limited voice (“Mike had no idea what Jennifer was thinking”), and third-person omniscient voice (“Mike was confused; Jennifer was furious.”)

My Echo Chronicles series is written in third-person omniscient voice. As you know, that means I follow the characters in a “He said,” “He went,” “He thought,” manner, and I give my readers insight into the thoughts and feeling of more than one character. My story does, of course, have a protagonist, and his is the main point of view and narrative voice, but I do drop into others as well. I have four main characters, and all four have lent their voices to the story at various times. This worked well for me through my first two books, but I hit a snag in the third. Continue reading “Narrative Voice: Breaking the Rules”

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