for writers and readers….


cockeralI am away from my desk this week so I thought I would share again an exercise I posted last September which feels like a very long time ago.

Varying the length of a sentence is very simple device that can add flavour and texture to your writing. It can also add to the atmosphere you want to create. Short words, short sentences and short paragraphs can give the sensation of speed.

Brevity can also convey powerful emotion. Think of the difference between She died last Tuesday evening after a long illness and the succinct She’s dead.

Here’s your mission should you wish to accept it:

1) Describe a room, real or imaginary in just one sentence using as many words as you can – count the words afterwards, see how many you can fit in while still making sense and obeying the usual rules of English.

 Tip: lists can be useful and before you start think about the words we use to link parts of a sentence such as: although, unless, so, but, while, because…

Here’s an example of the kind of thing I have in mind. (It’s 56 words long, but you can probably do much better – if in need of inspiration pick up any Dickens’ novel. He’ll show you the way.)

Example: long

The gilt picture frames that decorated the walls of the guest bedroom were set on fire by the early morning sunlight shining through the stained glass window and brought the collection of oil paintings to new, vibrant life while transforming the swathes of muslin draping the four poster bed into an opal waterfall of translucent colour.

Now describe the same room but this time no sentence can be more than six words – it can have fewer words, but not more.

Example: short

The light shone through stained glass. The oil paintings came alive. Dawn set the picture frames alight. Ancient gilt turned into gold. Muslin turned into water.

Do exactly the same – one long sentence followed by a paragraph of very short sentences – but this time write about:

  • someone recently bereaved

  • a man running away from an angry mob

  • A dull Monday afternoon in a care home

I would love to hear how you get on.

 Related articles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on April 15, 2013 by in Muse and tagged , .
%d bloggers like this: