This week I am covering Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools. Today, I want to look at some sentence structure basics that impact pace, meaning & connotation.
Subject/Verb Dichotomy - First the noun, then the action. What follows is the subordinate clause to create a "right-branching sentence."
Ex: Jodi ran, her heart pounded in her veins as she threw branches from her path.
The action is in the first two words; what follows comprises what the writer wants the reader to feel about the 'run'.
Ex: Jodi ran in measured steps to the beat of a song pulsing in her ears and to her feet as they glanced the pavement.
Alignment & Emphasis - Clark suggests the placement of strong elements at the beginning & the end with the weaker bits sprinkled in the middle.
Ex: Jodi ran, her heart palpitated as she mounted the steps & entered her son's school.
Yep, her little heart is a-racin', but placing the emphasis on the son & his school at the end brings new meaning, urgency & level of feeling. The action sets the tone; the ending stretches the tension. The middle gives the connective information that helps the reader identify with Jodi's emotional state.
Activation - Active verbs = action performed by subject.
Passive verbs = the action happening to the subject.
Connective verb = a form of to be.
Ex: Jodi ran.
Ex: The grocery cart ran into Jodi.
Ex: That grocery cart will hit Jodi if she doesn't get off her phone in time.
Sheesh, poor Jodi ran a marathon of emotional & other crises. I do freely admit that these sentences leave chunks to be desired, but I hope, ** (fingers crossed), that I got the meaning across the ether.