A single crowded sentence means giving up all the possible relations among shorter sentences — the friction, the tension, the static electricity that builds up between them.
— from Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
I love Hemingway for his sentences. I did not know this is why I love him. I would read his books and be unable to explain my
infatuation admiration. “His writing is lean,” I’d say. “It is tight. The words are simple but the implications are complex.”
“He says so much with so few words.”
There is story happening behind his words. And I don’t know how he does it.
The sentence I quoted above, from Klinkenborg’s small, concise book, gives a clue. When I practiced writing as a craft, my group once wrote pieces using only simple sentences: no conjunctions, no clauses. When we read our practice aloud, our works sounded like Hemingway. Lean. Simple. Direct.
The lack of transitions, the absence of explanations, the periods without ands or buts — these vacancies create tension. They credit the reader with the intelligence to make leaps in the spaces between the words, in the gaps between the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.
My homework tonight is to study the simple sentence. Next write, I will use them.
For the month of November, I will be participating in NaBloPoMo and plan to publish every day of the month. Usually, I will publish a 10-minute free write, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Follow along with the tag #NovemberDaily.
7 thoughts on “The tension between sentences”
Neat. Simple. True.
This is so interesting. I am going on Amazon to buy Klinkenborg’s book right now. I, too, fell in love with language at the feet of Hemingway.
Ooo! I must practice this. My sentences drag on and on…
One of the greatest blog posts I have read. I will finish writing the last two chapters of my WIP today. My second draft will look for the tension between sentences.
Thank you 🙂
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This is pretty neat — might incorporate this into my own writing.
I love exploring the effect structure has on writing, and you describe it so well here in relation to sentence structure. I too am inspired to play with splitting my (often long) sentences. To find the best place for it. Chasing simplicity and brevity. This very week. Defo. 😉
I had to share. Good stuff.
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