Whether or not you read the last post, I highly suggest you go (re)read it now. It is an important example.
The answer really is to write short sentences. It’s a little more than that though. The habit of Steven King’s use of one word chapters was a little excessive. You. Can’t. Just. Write. Like this. And. Get. Great. Results.
I’d like to take you back to my story for a moment. Let’s return and look at Dragons of Wellsdeep pages 8 and 9.
If you look at page 8, we start off in Moonhunter’s thoughts. The second paragraph has Moonhunter being fired upon. Except for the second-to-last sentence in the paragraph, they are all relatively short sentences or are divided by commas, which gives a feeling of a break.
The third paragraph has the sentences stretching out a bit more. It kind of feels all short and anxious, followed by a bigger span in order to breathe. Then we have Balthier’s and Moonhunter’s action and dialogue sequence. See how it starts off long and starts to get shorter as they go along. I’m increasing the page here with the white space of the page.
Now, in the last post, did you feel the intensity of it? Maybe a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more? I set up the great question, then slammed with the answer.
Bam! I have you.
It’s those short, punchy sentences where action has to take place. It locks you in. But you also have to have those longer sentences where the reader feels the space to breathe. You’re probably starting to feel a bit of the hypnotic spell here with post. At least I hope you are.
Now look at page 9 and see the sentences vary in length depending upon the emotional impact I want for the action scene.
Now, go write great action!
Want to know how to write really good action scenes?
Write short sentences.
Page 28 has a lot of things to change. Mostly, I think there’s a lot better ways to show this information rather than telling it. It’s going to expand the material greatly when I get to rewrite it.
Page 29 has less to fix, mostly because it’s dialogue, but there are still some things I can do better.
I also just noticed a spelling error I hadn’t seen before. I misspelled Moonhunter’s name on page 29, paragraph 8, by adding an extra “e” on the end. Does that make it French? “Moon-hun-tier”? I wonder how many other things I have missed.
I actually like page 26 a lot. I didn’t have too much to say in the way of edit comments. I do have a couple things to check. You’ll notice that one of my notes is to “check compendium.” What’s that all about?
When I was reading about screenplay writing – I dare not say “studying” because I don’t think I went that deep – I learned that a lot of tv shows keep “bibles.” This is a list of characters, traits, habits, gestures, episodes – essentially everything a new writer would need to know when he/she started writing for the show. It was at time when I was working on my Sacred Knight story and I knew there would be a lot of characters and information. My character, Steigan, has a birthmark on one of his palms and I could never remember which side it was on. I finally made a decision that it was in his sword hand – a link between him, his sword, and his magic. But then one day I encountered a picture I had flipped just to make the composition better. Now his sword was in his left hand instead of his right. Really confusing! I had to go back to my compendium of notes just to get it straightened out in my head again. The side effect of this was that I now had my subconscious working on why he was carrying his sword in his left hand, and sure enough, it spit out the answer. Yeah, flipping that picture actually moved the story into the realm where the story is now. But that’s getting too far off course. The important thing is that you need to have a central place where you write down details that you will someday need to reference. I call this my “compendium.”
I have a compendium for Sacred Knight and I have one started for Dragons of Wellsdeep, both of which I keep in Celtx. I have a compendium for The Loki Adventures in Evernote because at this point I don’t need something as robust as Celtx, though I will probably need to convert soon when I start writing true episodic adventures. I have lots of notebooks in Evernote which serve as beginning compendiums for several other stories.
So, when I say, “check compendium,” I hope that I have my information already in the compendium and don’t have to go searching back through the story for the details. In this case that is fairly easy because I know it was in the prologue or in the first chapter when I established the names for the weapons.
Page 27 doesn’t look too disastrous, but I do have some areas to expand, places where I can show information rather than telling. I am on the fence about whether or not I want Balthier’s statement to be separate from the following paragraph or not. I think if I merge it all into one now, I’m going to need to break up that awfully long paragraph.
Well, that’s all I have for now.
Until next time, happy writing!