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3 Tips to Improve Sentence Structure

The best way to make your book interesting – after having a good, solid plot and characters – is to improve your sentence structure.

Lately books are all the same. The sentences are short. They’re sweet. They all start with a subject.

For example,

I watched him leave. The pain of his loss squeezed my heart, burned my skin. I wanted him back. But my pride rooted me to the floor.

When every sentence begins with the exact same part of speech, it gets boring to read. It’s easy to read, but it’s boring. So if you want to write a novel that stands out, and doesn’t come across as simple, keep reading.

3 Tips to Vary Sentence Structure

1. Adverbial Opener

–Describes the verb.

When I was a child, the world was a simple place.

2. Adjectival Opener

–Describes the subject.

Chivalrous to a fault, I refused to let her open the door and did it for her.

3. Prepositional Opener

–Begins with a preposition

With the force of a mighty wind, he destroyed the sand castle.

Adverbial Opener

Don’t just open with an adverb, like ‘lately’ or ‘really.’ Stretch yourself and describe the setting with a phrase. Instead of putting two thoughts into two sentences, combine them. Place and time are good material for this.

For example, combine these two sentences,

1. The trees grew thickly behind the house

2. The trees were like my thoughts, and 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: When I was thirteen and emotional, I decided to run away from home.

Adjectival Opener

Freeing you to create free-flowing visuals, adjectival openers can be a wonderful tool. A good indication that you’re using an adjectival opener is when the first word ends in ING, although it’s not always the case. Just make sure it’s modifying the subject. Again, a good way to use an adjectival modifier is to combine thoughts.

For example, combine these two sentences,

1. She floated by like a cloud.

2. I was terrified by her beauty.

1&2: FloatING past me like a cloud, I was terrified of her beauty.

Or these,

1. I felt lazy.

2. I decided to watch tv.

1&2: FeelING lazy, I decided to watch tv.

Or,

1. I was brave in the face of monsters.

2. I stood up to him.

1&2: Brave in the face of monsters, I stood up to him.

Prepositional Opener

As with any sentence variable, prepositional openers can be very useful. But these have the most potential. There are tons of prepositions, which means tons of different sentence openers for you!

Combine these sentences,

1. We looked to the sky.

2. The elephant floated like a dark gray cloud.

1&2: Above the three ring circus, the elephant floated like a dark gray cloud.

Or,

1. She mourned the loss of her gray kitten for a while.

2. But Mandy tried to get on with life after that.

1&2: After mourning the loss of her gray kitten, Mandy tried to get on with her life.

Next article, I’ll talk about how to make your sentences longer inside and at the end, and when it’s a good idea to do it.