style: rhythm and sentence length/variationPosted: October 2, 2008
To follow up the editing workshop on sentence length and variation. The point is that by looking AT our sentences, we can notice how we are (or are not) providing the kind of variation that creates an engaging rhythm. Overall, we begin to see that we control the rhythm of our writing just as a poet does, through our lines. I encourage you to continue to experiment with your style in this way. The Writing Center is offering a workshop Wednesday October 8 at 4.30 (in LFC) that focuses on the style of sentences.
In the example below from Victor, a very interesting passage. Notice the length of his sentences and the way he is creating complexity especially through the use of semi-colons. But notice also how little variation there is. In this case, Shelley very deftly crafts a tone and mood for Victor through the absence of variation. Unless you want Victor’s somberness, you should vary your sentences: not all simple; not all complex. One strategy for seeing this and editing for it–turn your prose into individual lines (as in a poem). Notice what it looks like–do you see variation?
These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour.
My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement.
Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realise.
One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.
Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed dams of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?
My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, and almost frantic, impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit.
Note: Citation Machine is a useful resource for dealing with citation format (in addition to your Writer’s Reference)