I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like we, as writers, do get so wrapped up in the actions, thoughts and relationships of our characters that we completely forget to dress it up. Sentences get so long-winded in action and thought that any descriptive narrative is just left in the dust. With this tutorial, we will remedy that. Hopefully.
You may ask: What am I to do? And I shall tell you: You just need to start small, using basic descriptive words and work up to more complicated and sophisticated sentence structures.
- Let’s start with a plain, basic sentence.
Ollie sat underneath the tree.
- Let’s replace Ollie with a pronoun and give the tree a species.
A boy sat underneath the willow tree.
- Ask yourself this. How old is the boy? Is he very young? Or is he more of a teen? Is the tree dying? Is it a young tree? Use words like “young” or “lively” to give your character (or any other living things in the scene) an age group and a starting point to visualizing your character for the reader. We’re just going to call the boy “young” for right now.
A young boy sat underneath the willow tree.
- Now we need some sort of action the boy (or the tree) could be doing. just sitting isn’t going to cut it. when adding more action to a sentence, it would range anywhere from a single word to an entire phrase. just make sure that when you add the action that it moves with the rest of the sentence in a coherent fashion and that there is proper punctuation to accommodate it. for our little example sentence, we’re going to add a phrase.
A young boy sat underneath the willow tree, watching a breeze.
- “Watching the breeze” sounded all nice and fluffy when we first put it, but after we’ve read it a few times it sounds sort sort of ridiculous. One can’t literally watch a breeze, right? Here we can just add an action for the breeze to be doing simultaneously with the action of the boy. The boy doesn’t even have to have any awareness of what the breeze is doing at all. So, we will just change a few words around and add something for the breeze to do.
A young boy sat underneath the willow tree, as a breeze flitted through the bulrushes.
- Now that you are starting to get the hand of this, we can just skip a bunch of the steps and get to the end part, where we have a lovely and descriptive sentence worthy of opening your post. Below, as you can see, we added a few more choice words, replaced some things and moved some phrases around.
As a gentle breeze flitted through the bulrushes, a young boy sat contemplating underneath the ancient willow tree.
1. Words-to-Use.com — A different kind of thesaurus.
2. OneLook.com — One quick dictionary search tool.
3. Vocabulary.com — The quickest, most intelligent way to improve your vocabulary.
4. ZenPen.io — A minimalist writing zone where you can block out all distractions.
5. 750words.com — Write three new pages every day.
6. Readability-Score.com — Get scored on your writing’s readability.
7. YouShouldWrite.com — Get a new writing prompt every time you visit.
8. WriterKata.com — Improve your writing with repetitive exercises.
9. IWL.me — A tool that analyzes your writing and tells you which famous authors you most write like.
10. HemingwayApp.com — Simplify your writing.
11. FakeNameGenerator.com — Generate fake names for your characters.
12. Storyline.io — Collaborate on a story with others by submitting a paragraph.
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There are two ways to eat a cake.
You can eat it in small pieces.
Or gobble the whole thing down.
Most of us would like to gobble, whether it comes to cake or learning
And like cake, learning needs to be tackled in small portions. Small portions not only help you learn, but help you learn a lot faster. Here are three core reasons why:
1) The sleep factor
2) The tiredness factor
3) The mistake factor.
Let’s start with the sleep factor
When you learn something, the brain tries to make sense of it. And then it goes about doing whatever it’s supposed to do. Then you go to bed. You might get just 6 hours of sleep, but in that time your brain is processing parts of your day. And if you’ve learned a new skill, there’s a good chance it’s doing just that—processing your new skill.
My niece, Marsha is just 8 (at the time of writing this article)
And she comes across to my office to learn to implement a concept called Bal-Vis-X. It’s a combination of skills that make students sharper and smarter than ever before. But here’s what happens during our exercise.
At first, Marsha struggles with a new exercise (there are over 300 exercises in the entire program). And we don’t force the issue. She just goes home and goes to sleep. Then she comes back for the next session. In between those two sessions, nothing has changed. The only difference is the sleep factor. Yet, almost immediately you can see the difference.
And the same applies to your learning
You can learn just about anything. And then it’s time to sleep. The very next day there will be a difference. Whether you will be able to discern the difference or not isn’t relevant, there will be a difference, nonetheless.
Over weeks and months you’ll be able to see a chunky difference. And sleep, believe it or not, plays a massive role. So yes, turning off that stupid TV (yes, stupid) will make you a lot smarter. But then, can’t bulk learning make you smarter? Surely the brain can absorb a lot more information at one go. Yes it can, but there’s a problem called tiredness that steps right in.
2) The tiredness factor
Bulk learning is plainly ineffective when compared with daily learning—and you don’t need a research scientist to tell you that. If you’re flirting with a new skill, the brain is under tremendous pressure. It’s trying to absorb what’s being written, work out the context and—because it’s a skill—apply it to your job or your life. Think about the amount of glucose that sucks up from your body. Now multiply that learning over 3 hours, or a day, and what you’ll find are drop outs.
It would seem that you’ve heard it all, and yet unless you have a phenomenal ability, there’s a chance you lost little chunks past the first ten minutes of instruction. As the learning advances, you start losing bigger chunks.
Now admittedly this depends on your level of skill. Let’s say you already know a lot about Photoshop, and you’re sitting in a Photoshop seminar, your brain doesn’t strain too much. But the moment some new features come up, your brain has to do a fair bit of work. The more facts you have to remember the more tired it gets and dropouts are inevitable. It’s only when you see the work of others, working on the same exercise, that you realise how many subtleties you’ve missed.
When you do daily learning, you get to re-examine what you’ve learned—and what you’ve missed. And this brings us to the third part: The mistake factor.
3) The mistake factor
If you do something every day, you learn from new mistakes every day. If you bulk your learning the mistakes are all a blur. But daily mistakes get highlighted. And not just your mistakes, but in a group, the mistakes of the entire group. There’s more than a good chance that a group of just 5-7 people will make as many as 5-15 mistakes in a single day. This is because everyone interprets information differently, and executes differently.
So you get to learn—and more importantly, revise what you know. And what you don’t know. Bulk learning is not as efficient, because the mistakes are made en masse, and the teacher may not be overly keen to point out 35 mistakes in one day. Over a week, 35 mistakes are just 5 mistakes a day. Every mistake gets its own spotlight and hence you get the chance to eliminate those mistakes systematically.
And yet most of us believe in bulk learning
And this is because we’re in a hurry. Yet, the best way to learn something, is to slow things down considerably. It takes most people about 2-3 years to become extremely proficient at a skill like writing or drawing. Yet with the right teacher and the right system this can be shortened to just 6-8 months. And that’s because the pace slows down considerably. You detect and fix more errors. And what is talent, but the systematic reduction of errors?
You’ve done the gobble-gobble learning and you know the results.
Now try the daily learning. Better still, try it in a group.
And prepare to be amazed.