Image

How to Increase Drama by Lengthening Sentences

A paragraph with sentences that vary in length is far more powerful than sentences of all the same length.

For example,

Short: I watched him leave. The pain of his loss squeezed my heart. It burned my skin. I wanted him back. But my pride rooted me to the floor. I was too weak. I lost him.

Long: With longing, I watched him leave the room, and the pain of his loss squeezed my heart. It burned my skin because I wanted him back, but my pride rooted me to the floor. I was too weak to take the steps necessary to get him back, so he left and I lost him forever.

Compare those to this:

Combo: I watched him leave. The pain of his loss squeezed my heart. It burned my skin because I wanted him back, but my pride rooted me to the floor. I was too weak to chase after him, and lost him forever.

This paragraph begins with two short sentences, and then swells with a longer one that carries up through the emotion and out the other end, where the last sentence drives home the resolution.

When every sentence is the same length, it’s difficult to convey emotion in writing. Short, staccato sentences carry desperation and excitement, while long sentences convey melancholy or peace. But when put together, a wider range of emotions can easily be conveyed. Your writing will improve by leaps and bounds!

3 Tips to Vary Sentence Length

1. Combining Sentences

  • Combine 2 thoughts into one sentence and create a flow.

2. Clauses

  • Put a less important thought inside a longer one to extend the dramatic effect.

3. The Short Sentence

  • An occasional short sentence drives home a point, or increases the drama.

1. Combining Sentences

Two thoughts side by side can sometimes be combined into one sentence, which makes for easier reading and variety of structure.

For example, combine these two sentences,

1. She floated by like a cloud.

2. I was terrified by her beauty.

1&2: She floated past me like a cloud and I was terrified by her beauty.

Or these,

1. I decided monsters didn’t scare me. 

2. I was going to be brave.

1&2: I decided monsters didn’t scare me, and I was going to be brave.

How to Lengthen Sentences

By combining the sentences, the cause and effect is much more clear, and so is the sequence of events. It plays out easily, with a flowing rhythm.

2. Clauses

Sentences can also be made longer by the addition of a clause. Whether at the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence, a clause adds information that stretches the thought, and makes it more dramatic.

For example, combine these two sentences,

1. The trees grew thickly behind the house

2. I ran among them as I tried to get away from everything inside me.

1&2: Where the trees grew thickly behind the house, I ran to escape the thick, tangled thoughts inside my head. 

Or these,

1. I was thirteen and emotional.

2. That was when I decided to run away from home.

1&2:  I decided, because I was thirteen and emotional, to run away from home.

In both sentences, the first thought is not as important as the second, but it serves to paint a picture of the setting. It works better as a clause inside the second sentence, instead of on it’s own.

3. The Short Sentence

I am not opposed to short sentences by any means! They are a valuable tool and should be used when a short, dramatic statement will heighten the tension or drive home a point.

For example,

1. He loved me. I knew it now. Looking deep into his eyes, savoring the truth I already knew, but wanting to hear him say it, he whispered tenderly into my ear, “I love you.”

2. I felt like the room was closing in like the trash compactor on Star Wars. Something was coming, breathing down my neck, making the little hairs prickle and rise. Just behind me, a hoarse sigh. I whirled.

See how each short sentence is accompanied by a lot of detail, and longer sentences? This raises the stakes, and we know the short sentence is important. Everything leads up to it, or adds to it afterward.

Conclusion

Writing long and medium sentences is a good idea because it adds a rhythm and flow to your writing style. It heightens emotion and action, and draws the reader naturally into the story. But don’t forget the short sentence! It’s the best part, so use it sparingly.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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