While I've heard many of these before, (use "say" as often as possible for a dialogue tag, avoid the word "was"), the advice on stresses and consonant sounds is new to me. I'll have to try revising with these things in mind.
- Value nouns and verbs over adjectives and especially adverbs.
- Value consonants over vowels.
- Value hard consonants (e.g. k) over soft consonants (e.g. g).
- Value words of one syllable over words of two syllables over words of three syllables, etc. Though precision is important, and sometimes the right word is the longer word.
- Each sentence should include more stressed syllables than unstressed syllables (a la Lish).
- A sentence with a masculine ending (stressed syllable) sounds stronger than one with a feminine ending (unstressed syllable).
- Avoid using the word was when possible. A lot of this has to do with using the right action verb.
- Avoid introductory clauses (e.g. Closing my eyes, I smiled) except when used as time or location markers (At five o’clock, When I got back from the store, In the supermarket).
- Using common words, or colloquial words, in new ways, is more interesting than using uncommon words in normal ways.
- Avoid “begin” or “start” or intermediate actions (e.g. I began to sing. He started walking. He got up from the couch and went to the door. Just write: I sing. He walked. He went to the door.)
- Value consonance and assonance over alliteration.
- In almost all instances, use “say” or “ask” instead of other dialogue tags.
Monday, February 2, 2015
People often talk about sentence level-revision in really vague terms. I write a lot of sentences that have strong action verbs and no unnecessary words, but still sound flat. I went searching and found this pretty interesting style guide on Necessary Fiction.