Friday, November 4, 2011

Powerful Sentences

One sentence can make or break a story for many readers. I'm no different. I have decided to like or dislike quite a number of books based on one sentence that either yanks me in further or pushes me away. These sentences can come in many different forms. They can be short or long. They can appear at the beginning of a book or at the end. They can be simple and blunt or exquisitely detailed with imagery and metaphors.

When great sentences come at the beginnings of books, they often let the reader know that we are about to be taken to a completely different world. In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the story begins with, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." OK, something is living in a hole in the ground, and it's called a hobbit. I'm intrigued. In M.T. Anderson's Feed, Titus, our narrator and point of view character, begins by saying, "We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck." It's a simple sentence, spelled out in the language that we currently use, but he's talking about hanging out on the moon. Awesome. These sentences give us just a glimpse of the worlds we will encounter, but they create an excitement that helps the reader jump out of the starting gate.

However, sentences can do much more than create excitement for interesting new worlds. A sentence can also give us a great deal of information. It can set the tone for the entire story. It can clue us in to how the narrator or characters think and feel. It can give us the knowledge we need moving forward, so that we will be able to infer and empathize, or not, right along with the storyteller.

I'm trying to open up my senses. I'm trying to delve deeper, both in my writing and my critical reading, to see just how powerful a single sentence can be. Then, hopefully, I'll be able to write my own.

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