A Lesson by Tracie D'Angelo

Getting your sentences to work for you.


     Storytelling is supposed to be entertaining. Your mission, should you choose to except it, is to take your reader on a mind trip. You have to carefully place each word and phrase so that your whole work flows smoothly. It's a little like playing Tetris with ideas. In keeping with the Tetris theme, if all your sentences begin and end the same way, then the ideas stack up and crash. BUT, if different phrases are interlocked skillfully, then you can start building levels. 

     Let's take an example about a dog burying a bone.

     The family gave Spot a giant steak bone after dinner. Spot was happy to have it. Spot picked up the bone and ran outside. The sun was shining. Spot found a nice place under the roses. Spot buried his bone. Spot laid under the tree to dream about his bone.

     This paragraph is very reminscent of a story written by a young child in elementary school. The sentences are short and basically have the same structure. Most of them start with "Spot" and since the sentences are so short and choppy the reading doesn't flow.

     Now try this:

     Steak bones were Spot's favorite and tonight was his lucky night. Lying on a plate, in front of his food bowl, was a bone like he'd never seen. Spot grabbed the bone and ran out into the yard. The warm sun was shining on Spot's head and sparkled in his eyes as he found a final resting place for his bone under a rose bush. After the bone was successfully buried, Spot laid down to dream about the day he would resurrect it and enjoy hours of exquisite gnawing.

    I took the same principle paragraph and added some descriptive words and detail. I changed up how the sentences started a bit so it's not a paragraph of "Spot"s. I combined some sentences into longer sentences that were of similar thought and fit those together with short sentences. I think its a more enjoyable read.

     Remember, when writing, to combine similar ideas into a long, well written sentence to maintain a flow. Short, choppy sentences break thought processes, but are needed occasionally to link or fit the longer sentences into a well structured paragraph. Watch how you begin your sentences. Try not to start with the same word every time and watch those adverbs (words ending in "ly"). They sound good and add texture, but are very noticeable and shouldn't be overused. 

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Tracie D'Angelo
Tracie D'Angelo

Annapolis, MD

I'm a 45 year old mom of 2 teens in Maryland (US). I work as an asst. librarian at our local elementary school. I also review books and write the blog for a local book store. I've just revamped my own..