Sentences, Paragraphs, Scenes, Chapters
Following are some notes for a simple view of how it works for story:
are a simple structure. They contain a subject, a verb and an object. Someone does something to someone/thing. That’s basic sentence structure. Any more than that requires books and learning to get a grip on the complexities (some of us are still learning (moi!), especially about what order things go in to make good, logical sense to a reader [clarity]).
Read the words aloud to get the most defined understanding of how it fits/works. Does it sound the way it was meant to sound? Produce the right effect on the ears that hear those sounds?
Para/sentence structure should not be all the same. How have we built our sentence? Is it repetitive? Does it build? Length – variation; what type of rhythm/flow is required? Is the content and structure interwoven?
Rhythm is connected to length. Smooth flow, waxing eloquent; sharp, sudden (the long sounds, the short sounds).
Grammar helps pace/rhythm and is used to show the sense of movement of sections/paras.
Active v passive – do active; remember that drama is character in ACTION.
Cause and effect (separate them out) – ensure effect comes after cause. Don’t have someone leap up in the air before they hear the shot/creak/yell, etc.
Relevance is how ‘it’ contributes to sentence/para.
Redundancies – get rid of repetitiveness, unless they serve a specific purpose.
Feed movement, not stagnation (we want to progress), something always happening; movement of characters through the story.
Use a power position (begin/end of para/sentence).
Should be in character; different people use different words (an artist would use more colour words, a musician, a deaf person, a blind person – choose carefully, and be consistent).
Precise, specific (where it suits the character) – see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, taste it. Any other senses? Use them.
Use strong nouns and verbs to say what they’re supposed to say; to create a mind-picture – Walked = strutted, marched, staggered; building = factory, hospital, school). Be specific.
Get rid of words you don’t need (then, that – find your overused words and banish them).
Remove nothing/filler words (ie really, nice, next, then, pretty, good, bad).
Try to remove adverbs (‘ly’ words) – these are ‘tell’ words.
Remove redundancies (it’s worth saying this in as many different forms as possible).
Tags: use said, asked, replied (don’t distract the reader with the guffy tags).
Use fewer adjectives (and make sure the ones you use work); must contribute to noun.
Remove clichés (clichés are culturally connected, so for fantasy, create your own).
Check facial expressions and don’t go overboard – action does not equal only scowls, raised eyebrows, frowns, etc.
Check for overworked gestures (max 3 gestures per page – includes facial expression). ‘Character in Action’ does not mean only gestures and/or face movements.
Use precise, specific words – use all the senses to create the reality (instinct, hunch, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch/feel).
Paragraphs – Ensure We Leave No Sentence Behind
There’s an adage: ‘The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. The purpose of the second sentence is to get them to read the third sentence. And so on.’
So people focus on the first sentence, and/or the second, and their interest wanes after that. If any sentence in the structure isn’t doing a specific job to keep the flow moving in a specific direction, it doesn’t matter whether it’s there or not because no one will read it.
Every sentence matters. Always.
A single sentence that doesn’t move readers forward (with intent), axe it. It’s not meant to be there.
Good Paragraphs Are a Chain of Thought
Every sentence in a paragraph refers back to the one before it.
The first paragraph is the setup/introduction and sometimes the hook. It introduces the idea you want to put across. A new paragraph refers back to the last sentence of the paragraph before.
How do you know when to end a paragraph?
One paragraph makes one single point.
That might mean only one sentence is needed to make the point. Sometimes, it might need a few sentences. This is the introduction of complexity (complex sentences, rhythm, pace, structured movement, etc.).
Then move on. This para needs to relate back to the point that came before, move in a specific direction to make its own point (in the power position), and get to the end.
One para = one point.
A chapter can be one scene, it can be two, it can be several. The writer makes a choice about what a chapter is, if they have them. As long as each chapter holds to the principle of:
Each sentence has one subject (ie POV);
Each paragraph has one point (ie purpose);
Each scene (you know this one) has one (action) Event (in one place/setting, one moment in time) from one POV (character) [ie character in action] where something changes;
Each chapter has one ‘story’ – what this means is that a chapter has a setup, a response/attack, and a resolution (which may be a setup into the next chapter);
Each story has … see notes on Structure: one Main Character (heroic), one seriously bad Antagonist (the reverse image of the heroic MC), and one Goal (which is blocked by … obstacles).
And that’s my understanding of what they are: Sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, stories.