Reminder, and About “Soft as a Breeze”

In today’s Journal

* Bradbury Challenge Reminder
* About “Soft as a breeze”
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Bradbury Challenge Reminder

Today is Sunday. You who are in or want to join the challenge, please be sure to get your story info in to me before the Journal goes live on Monday.

Setting a personal deadline earlier in the week is the easiest way to ensure that.

Remember, the whole point of the challenge is to have fun and grow as a writer even as you expand your IP inventory. (grin)

About “Soft as a Breeze”

Other than when I use an example from my fiction to explain a craft concept in my nonfiction books, I seldom talk specifics about my fiction writing. Today I’m going to break that discipline.

I teach a lot of rules or guidelines about the writing craft here in the Journal and in my books on writing.

For example, the writer should

  • Hit the Enter key (start a new paragraph) each time a new character speaks or acts, or each time the same character does something different.
  • Very seldom (if ever) use very long paragraphs. Readers generally find them tedious and boring.
  • Break longer sentences into shorter ones whenever you’re able to do so.

The general rule is that very short sentences evoke a sense of drama, and longer sentences convey more emotion. The less-punctuated those longer sentences are, the faster the reader reads them and the more strongly they convey the emotion.

That said, overusing shorter sentences can render a stilted, plodding, overly dramatic reading experience and water-down the drama. And overusing longer sentences can render a boring reading experience.

But in the hands of a capable writer, words, sentence lengths, pacing, and even paragraph lengths are only tools. So you have choices.

Those choices are in how you deal with the nuances of the writing craft and the language itself.

One thing I seldom talk about is that it’s perfectly all right to break the rules: IF you know them in the first place, and IF you break them intentionally in order to create a certain effect in the reader.

After all, your job as a writer is to evoke emotion in the reader: unbridled joy or sadness, laughter or tears, or even terror. Or even a physical reaction, like an increased heart rate.

“Soft as a Breeze,” a free short story that went live on Friday here, is one of my very early short stories. I wrote it back when I was still teaching live seminars, and I wrote it primarily to illustrate the techniques I’ll talk about in this post.

And yes, in case you couldn’t tell, I wrote this story into the dark. I basically sat in a darkened corner in a bar and listened as a haggard older guy told a story to the narrator.

As I wrote recently in the Journal, you’re telling the characters’ story, but how it appears on the page is up to you.

In this story, I intentionally broke a lot of the “rules” that I mentioned above and that I still teach today. Mostly I did that to illustrate the emotion-conveying power of longer, lightly punctuated sentences.

Sometimes clashing TWO techniques is the perfect way to create a particular effect.

In this story, the two main techniques I used are

  1. slow, should-be-boredom-evoking longer paragraphs, but those paragraphs are
  2. chock full of very long but fast-reading, less-punctuated, emotion-evoking sentences.

The paragraphs almost seem to burst at the seams.

The longer paragraphs force the reader to slow his reading.

Yet the very long sentences INSIDE those slow paragraphs force the reader to read very quickly. He has no choice because of the lack of punctuation in the sentences.

So what does the poor reader do?

Exactly what I want him to do.

That combination of long, slower paragraphs and long, emotional sentences punctuated now and again with short, terse sentences or sentence fragments can physically increase the reader’s heartrate.

The story is delivered in three sections:

The first section is long. It takes up the first 14 paragraphs.

In that section, the tension builds slowly, but it’s always boiling just beneath the surface. That section wraps with a brief intermission that begins with “He downed a shot….”

The second section is delivered in only three massive paragraphs filled with long, lightly punctuated sentences.

Where I added a short sentence or sentence fragment (like in the first paragraph of that section after the colon: “just you” followed by “You know what that’s about, my friend?”) I did so to give the reader a very short break from the tension before plunging him into it again.

Those might be the most intense, powerful three paragraphs I’ve ever written.

Finally, the third section is delivered in only three paragraphs too, and they’re all short by comparison. In those, I allow the reader to pull back from the story and the tension. I let him down easy so he can go on about his life.

To get the full impact of the technique, I suggest you read the whole story first for pleasure (if you can call it pleasure). Then go back and re-read that second section, the paragraph that begins with “Then he resumed” and the next two paragraphs.

Of course, this clashing of techniques won’t work in every story. But something similar can be effective in high-action scenes, stream-of-consciousness in spoken or unspoken dialgogue, etc.

And yes, I still get a little emotional when I read that story again.

Comments and questions are welcome.

No writing yesterday. I wasted the day pursuing a stupid idea.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

World’s first book with ‘NO-AI’ warranty set to transform global publishing industry Um, no. See my comment on the post.

The Numbers

The Journal………………………………950

Writing of Julia Stilson (tentative title)

Day 1…… 3523 words. To date…… 3523
Day 2…… 3201 words. To date…… 6724

Fiction for May…………………….….… 6724
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 310509
Fiction since October 1………………… 613565
Nonfiction for May……………………… 5300
Nonfiction for 2024…………………… 159640
2024 consumable words……………… 470149

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 8
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 90
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing are lies, and they will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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