Monday, January 3, 2011

Non Sequiturs on My Mind

Found as /nonseqs in pieces I critique (not to be confused with /NSs, which suggest a new sentence), I go crazy when I find them in my own writing. Having completed my seventeenth novel, I should be good enough by now to keep them from wandering into my narrative--don't ya think?

I don't understand how nonseqs emerge. The written word should flow naturally from the author's mind, a single topic fulfilled within a single paragraph. When the topic is saturated and your character moves on, the author should be astute enough to move to the next paragraph, while including an appropriate transition to ensure the reader doesn't stumble, or say, "Huh?"

Every sentence must logically follow its preceding sentence, as every clause, paragraph, scene and chapter should logically flow from its preceding construct. Each should cascade like sparkling ice-melt down a crevasse, connected to the last shelf by an overhang.

Here are some guidelines I recommend for maintaining flow.

  1. Every clause within a sentence must tightly couple—period.
  2. One topic per sentence—period.
  3. One topic per paragraph—period.
  4. One topic per dialog—interrupt with direction if the character must wander.
  5. Everything (topics, descriptions, actions, emotions, directions, tags…) must smoothly transition to the next, or you create a blind step for your reader to stumble over.
  6. If a sentence hangs alone—it probably doesn't belong in the scene or passage, or you've understated/under explained, or told instead of showed.
  7. If element A flows to B, then returns to A—RW, pushing B behind the last clause of A.
  8. Description works best in longer sentences—back-to-back descriptive sentences gag the reader.
  9. Action works best in shorter sentences—don't confuse rising tension with action.
  10. Three staccato action sentences are platinum. Four is gold. Five is tarnished pewter.
  11. Descriptives must couple with action—unless you're going for irony.

Do you have any additions to this list?

Write Every Day!


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