The sentence. It’s the building block of all books. Without it, we may have a poem, a song, a movie, a painting, an interpretative dance. But we sure as scuttlebutt don’t have a book. Most of us learn how to write (and diagram!) sentences in grade school. Out of the many potential pitfalls of writing a story, surely the simple sentence isn’t likely to be one of them. But what if I said you’ve been writing sentences wrong all your life?
And I’m not talking grammar here, folks. You can have a perfectly parsed, perfectly punctuated sentence that would have that grade school teacher of yours blushing for pride—and it can still be wrong as wrong for your novel. (I’m also not talking motivation-reaction units, or MRUs, which I’ve addressed elsewhere.)
Why We’re All Writing Sentences Wrong
So what’s with this pandemic of poor sentences? Why are even the best diagrammers amongst us at risk?
Basically, it all comes down to this: we totally take the sentence for granted. The very fact that we’ve all been writing more-or-less grammatically correct sentences for most of our lives means we don’t even think about what we’re doing. Subject? Check. Predicate? Check. Period at the end? Check. Done.
That may be good enough for your latest email to the bank. But it’s not good enough for an author.