Friday, May 23, 2008

The Ten-Point Revision Strategy - #9 Shorten as Tension Increases

This little tip is a must for thriller writers.

Shorten as Tension Increases.

By shorten, I mean shorten the length of sentences, shorten the length of words used, shorten the paragraphs. Essentially, shorten anything that can be shortened.

This is a neat tip, because it's not just referring to the act of writing, but how that writing looks and is read on the printed page. Shortening the sentences as the tension is mounting creates a staccato feeling for the reader, a bop, bop, beat that automatically makes them read faster. Using shorter words and shorter paragraphs, intensifies this effect, so as you story is moving faster, so is the reader's eye and hopefully the reader's heart.

Here's a quick example from Robert Dugoni's best-selling The Jury Master. In this scene, our hero arrives home to find his house ransacked, his cat Bud running across the kitchen.

"Sloane looked down at the broken plate at his feet, which a moment earlier had been on the leaning stack amid the contents of his cupboards. Bud had apparently been standing on the stack, licking at a puddle of syrup that had overflowed the counter. That explained the shattered glass. It didn't explain the destruction. That thought came simultaneously with the sound.

Soft footsteps behind him.

Too slow to turn, Sloane felt something hard slam against the back of his head."

Notice the pacing. Two fairly long sentences, establishing scene, placing the hero. Then it gets fast. Shorter sentences. A one sentence paragraph, then POW, the violent conclusion.

Reading this passage, you can't help but get swept up in the pacing as the tension builds.

Shorten as the Tension increases. As I'm doing now.

To get back to writing.

My book.


Steph said...

Very good advice, that. So good that I don't even have anything to add to it. :)

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It's called The Oddville Press. We're still getting off the ground so our website is completely finished yet. Still, you should check us out if you're interested--or better yet, submit something!

Thanks a bunch. I've bookmarked your blog and will definitely be coming back. :)

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