The quality of sentences in fiction are crucial for conveying meaning, shaping character, providing momentum for the story, establishing voice not in dialogue, stimulating images, transferring ideas, providing rhythmic structure for reading ease and pleasure.
Approach this with determination: look to improve . . .
Ideas succinctly expressed
Only one main idea, with subordinated ideas only that are directly related to main idea, per sentence
Every word, and sentence, needs a purpose
Avoidance of passive constructions
Varying sentence types for emphasis and interest.
Then submit you work for comment (not required).
Basics for review (Adapted slightly from Guide to Grammar and Writing, Capital Community College Foundation)
Simple (one independent clause):
We drove from Connecticut to Tennessee in one day.
Compound (more than one independent clause):
We were exhausted, but we arrived in time for my father’s birthday party.
Complex (one independent clause and at least one dependent clause):
Although he is now 79 years old, he still claims to be 65.
Compound-complex (more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause):
After it was all over, my dad claimed he knew we were planning something, but we think he was really surprised.
Periodic sentences begin with modifying phrases and clauses, sometimes piling them on, and then end with an independent clause, period.
Cumulative sentences, on the other hand, begin with the independent clause and then finish with a flurry of modifying constructions.
EXAMPLES from literature
Example 1. Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar. Rhythm.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
Example 2. Anton Chekhov. “Misery” Imagery.
The twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses’ backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to shake it off. . . . His little mare is white and motionless too. Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.
Example 3. Ernest Hemingway: “Hills Like White Elephants” Setting.
THE HILLS ACROSS the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.
A downhome essential practice drill. Rewrite the following sentences. Improve flow, accuracy, conciseness, readability without loosing the core purpose. Change content ad lib. Make your remodeled sentences your own. (REMEMBER: submit your work for comment if you would like reactions and suggestions. It helps to expand value of this segment. Thanks.)
Exercise 1. Sentence rewrite.
Reanna had promised to take the girl—her granddaughter—on a big trip when she turned ten, but that year there was a crisis (the girl’s father, Reanna’s son, lost his mind) as well as a raging interest in redoing the Baptist church basement rec room, and so that year, and several years following it, had passed.
Although she knew that the girl, Leanna, her granddaughter, would never raise the question, Reanna finally felt compelled to raise it herself, when the girl was fifteen.
“How about that trip I promised you?” she asked in the girl’s in her rehab facility, after a visit that had filled Reanna with excitement and dismay . . . excitement at what her treatment wrought, dismay at the rapid passage of time.
Exercise 2. Sentence rewrite.
The monument would undoubtedly transmogrify, at a certain angle and in a certain light, the prow-like profile of a significantly androgynous face, ample lips pursed, pointed chin thrust forward, blind eyes seeking.
In direct sunlight, the profile would sink back into the stone and become a telling abstraction, delighting all in the considerable crowd who had gathered to watch her start the beginning lines of her required sketch on the pad her mother had used decades before she died in childbirth.
Exercise 3. Sentence rewrite.
It is imperative, in trying to rectify a mistake, to analyze the errors, giving full attention as to how correction might be instigated without having to reveal the source (sources) of the mistake(s), and recording, for reference in the future, your thoughts in some logical and meaningful progression, without wasting time.
Exercise 4. Sentence rewrite.
I handed exact change to the acne-scarred teenage cashier and slung my bags over my shoulder and trudged out to the bus stop. On the bench, eating a bag of in-the-shell peanuts was Timothy O’Leary. I slid onto the seat next to him, stuffing my bags underneath the bench so that no one would trip over them and they wouldn’t get stolen. He held out the peanuts and shook the bag, a few loose shells falling out, inviting me to take one, but I declined, shaking my head. He shrugged and slumped back against the bench, and belched with foul breath reminiscent of a rarely cleaned doghouse.
Exercise 5. Sentence rewrite.
I was in the vegetable aisle, near the pyramid of cantaloupes, of the grocery store when I saw Hazel for the first time. She was reading the nutrition facts off the side of bottled asparagus. I was surprised to see her, because she looked like my younger sister, who didn’t exist. She was a fairy tale in my mind, something I’d always wanted and needed . . . a sister . . . to break the loneliness of being an only child in a divorced family.