The pace of the story is dictated by the sentence length. Not just the words used. This thought occurred to me as I sat reviewing something that I had written. Here’s the context. The good guy in a story is an a jam. He has to extricate himself from a difficult situation. He has to throw off his trail a man who is following him some distance away by assaulting him when he least expects it. Here we go then:
” The man stood in the street corner waiting for the right moment since he knew he could not afford to lose any more time- that most precious commodity which can never be got back for love or for money-as the baddie would show up at any moment now. He had never done this before but he had to hit him on his head as he turned the street corner”
Not too much wrong with the words but the sentence is long and slows the pace, don’t you think?
Isn’t this much snappier?
” He stood in the street corner. Waiting for the right moment. Looking at his watch. Here he comes. Hit him. Now!”
I am not sure whether this form of sentence formation has a word for it at all. Perhaps it does. I simply call it ” Stepping Down”. The name stems from the progressive reduction in the number of words in the sentence.
In the example above, I have ” stepped down” from 6 words through 5, 4, 3, 2 to 1 word to bring in a sense of urgency.
Needless to say, this method will be used with care and not too frequently. If used correctly, it can add some zip to your story!
Your thought and suggestions are welcome!
3 thoughts on “Sentence Length- “Stepping Down””
That’s an interesting approach, and one I’ve not seen before–or at least never noticed before. I think I’d need to see it within the context of a story before determining its effectiveness for me as a reader. In this example, the switch in tense from past to present, mixed with the use of sentence fragments and the apparent change in the point of view, is a bit confusing. The idea is definitely worth trying, as the shorter sentences do increase the pace and add interest.
May be it should be something like ” He stood in the street corner. Waited for the right moment. Looked at his watch. Here he came. Hit him. Done!”
Hey, I think this strategy really works. Good job!