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.
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, the rules for good writing are fundamentally the same.
1. Express, not impress.
Good writing is not about the number of words you’ve produced, the quality of the adjectives you’ve written or the size of your font–it’s about the number of lives you’ve touched! It’s whether or not your reader understands you. It’s about expression, not impression.
2. Simple sentences work best.
– The only possible option in order to accelerate the growth of the food industry is to focus on the fact that the target market of this business demands convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.
– Better: The food industry can grow faster if food trucks focus on convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.
3. Active, rather than passive.
– The offering price was established by the real estate vendor and the negotiation process was initiated by the real estate buyer.
– Better: The real estate vendor set the offering price, and the real estate buyer started negotiating.
4. Know who your target audience is.
Who are you writing for? Who do you expect to read your article, your book, or your blog post? Will they care about what you’re talking about? Will they understand the message that you’re trying to get across? Good writing isn’t generic; it’s specific because it’s targeted towards a group of people with something common binding them.
5. Read it aloud.
Reading your works out loud allows you to notice something that you might not have noticed if you were just reading it silently. Go on, read them out loud now. Also, try to listen to your work objectively as you read it. Are you making sense? Or are you simply stringing a couple of words together just to fill a gap?
6. Avoid using jargon as much as possible.
Not everyone in your audience will know what a “bull market” is. Not everyone knows that “pyrexia” is basically the same thing as “a fever”. And surely you can come up with a better term for high blood pressure than “hypertension”?
7. In terms of words, size matters.
Please, don’t strain yourself by browsing the Internet, looking for complicated and fancy-sounding words. Less is always more.
– The man gave a me look so sharp that I sincerely believed it could pierce my heart and see my innermost fears.
– Better: The man glared at me.
8. Being positive is better than being negative–even in writing!
– I did not think that the unbelievable would not occur.
– Better: I thought the unbelievable would happen.
9. Set aside time for revising and rewriting–after you’ve written the whole content.
I’m not suggesting that you should edit each time you’ve finished a paragraph–that would just be tedious. What I’m telling is that you should first give yourself some time to finish the content prior to editing. Write away. Don’t edit yet. Don’t focus on the grammar yet. Don’t worry about the syntax, the synonym, the antonym or the order that you’re using.
Write for yourself, but mostly, write for your target audience. Write the message clearly and don’t be afraid to express your thoughts. Don’t censor yourself yet. Let the words flow. Don’t erase what you’ve written yet.
Right now, it’s all about expression, about art and about your imagination.
All the editing and the fixing will come later.
10. Write. All the time.
Good writing is simply always writing. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re scared. Write when you don’t feel like writing.