Monday, February 2, 2015

Sound Awarness in Sentence-Level Revision

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.
  • 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.
 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. 

My Publications

Fiction "The Blue of the Sky, the White of the Waves," Everyday Fiction : February 2018 ( read online ) "Alone in this Fai...