Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sentence length and narrative drive

It is the first day of spring, the festival of Naw Ruz for those who celebrate it, the vernal equinox and the end of the Baha'i fast.

It is also a very sunny day and I am fresh back from leading a writing workshop in Leicester. I do love the writing workshops. It is a chance to listen to some new and really fine writing. I particularly enjoyed today a chapter from a novelisation of the life of a real individual during the Second World War. Superbly written, tense and fascinating.

In this particular chapter, the author had made good use of changes in sentence length to emphasise changes in tension. Short sentences and chopped up grammar for high tension. Longer lines, more fully written, with more clauses for lower tension. It was extremely effective. But it struck me as I listened to it, that even in the tensest sections, you do need occasional longer lines to break up the rhythm.

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