Mario’s Tips on Writing III: Short and Long Sentences

The Long and Short of It.  Art by SYoshiko.

The Long and Short of It. Art by SYoshiko.

This is the third in a continuing series of writing tips by Mario Lowthar, published short story author.  He’s told me that he’s published again, recently.  I really need to get going on my writing.  🙂  Here is Part I and and Part II.

Short Sentences

I love short sentences that punch home a point and get the reader’s attention. Because too often sentences are composed of multiple thoughts and images, conveying as much information to the reader as possible utilizing the fewest words possible, and because of this a short sentence is just perfect for accentuating the point. They really are. And because a reader’s attention span is short, and they can only process so much information, and there are bits of information they have to get in order to follow the story, a well-placed short sentence is also great for being that little nugget, that little jewel of information you want the reader to remember. So don’t forget. Or overuse.

Long Sentences

I love long sentences that are written well. They make me feel that I’m in good hands. Secret to a great long sentence is they don’t change subject. Here are two examples from Glimmer Train.

From ‘Morth’ by Marc Basch, describing Guy and Morth, two restless teens, escaping work:

‘To Guy he looked comically hunched over, doing ten things at once, moving his hands around the steering wheel and shifting gears, chin up, his narrow eyes pink from the weed and barely open. They were only just in the street when Guy noticed a Jeep stopped at a stop sign, brake lights red and bright as can be, and they rode right up to it, touching it, hitting it, and the Chevette’s hood crumpled, jolting both of them forward and back.’

That’s actually back-to-back long sentences. The first describes Morth driving stoned, the second  the car Morth hits. Possibly an extra ‘and’ in there, but spare language and loads of imagery. Nice.

Second example, from ‘Which Leaves Me’ by Lindsey Crittenden, describing the protagonist’s longing for the brother she already lost while she watches over her now dying father:

‘My brother and I played in a kingdom of childhood, a domain he burst out of while I stayed behind to memorialize, clutching the key to the room scattered with blocks, the sheeted-furniture fort, the way-back of the station wagon where our breath fogged the window as we made faces at the other cars and fell back in giggles onto each other’s limbs.’

Man, that’s writing. All kinds of imagery, but one subject. Ooh. By the way, in the examples, count the number of Words To Watch Out For, including adverbs (Basch 5, Crittenden 0).

So, there you go, more from Mario.  I’m working on him to put up his own blog because he has a lot to offer.  So far no luck though.  Something about being too busy, you know, actually writing.  🙂

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