I tend to write short sentences. When the action heats up, my sentences get even shorter. Fragmented. It is a device authors use to control pacing.
Even my opening lines skew short. I’ve already shared one chapter that opened with a single word.
Authors strive to anchor new chapters with information that orients readers. How much time has passed since the end of the previous chapter? Where are we? Can we hint at the character’s well-being or mood? Is there a way to foreshadow how the chapter is going to play out? Not all of this is accomplished in the first line, of course. But the first few paragraphs must establish the new setting or the author risks disorienting her readers—which pops them right out of the storyworld you want them to enjoy.
Occasionally I write a longer line. I enjoy long lines (when I don’t have to stand in them). They serve a purpose that is often overlooked. Cadence.
Long sentences provide opportunities for authors to meander as they full explore a thought or exploit the lyricism of an emotion. Complex sentences slow the narrative. Punctuation makes us pause, encourages us to take a breath, contemplate a description, and truly enjoy the words on the page.
Each sentence length offers benefits and pitfalls. Too many short sentences and the prose becomes choppy. Too many complex sentences can bog down the narrative. Variety spices more than life. It adds zest to our prose as well.
Plus sometimes it’s fun to cut loose and let the words flow.
Chapter 14 ~
Mer woke up the next morning tired, sore, and hungry—a grumpy trifecta that could only be remedied by an all-you-can-eat buffet, a deep tissue massage by a woman named Helga, and going back to bed—none of which figured into her plans for the day.