1. kiki-snow
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    kiki-snow New Member

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    Style of writing and sentence structure.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kiki-snow, Jan 30, 2016.

    So I'm currently in the process of writing a high/epic fantasy series, within my novel I will be referencing ancient history, myths, legends etc.
    I have realized after looking at my work, that my sentences are very long and have a lot of commas in them. Now this may be due to the kinds of books I read, some examples being ASOIAF, Lord of the Rings, Beowulf and other epic fantasies. Is it bad to have long descriptive sentences that may go on and on about say an item of clothing, discussing materials and colors etc.
    People who have seen my drafts have commented on how it reminds them of George RR Martin's lengthy sentences, of course I take inspiration from aspects of his style, but this is my own thing, my own ideas, my own characters and settings and that is how I wish to describe events and characters.
    What I'm trying to ask is if I should change my style or if its OK.
    Thanks for looking.
     
  2. Tella
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    Tella Member

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    Coming from someone who themselves write in a more length-oriented sentence structure, I'd say that it is a matter of personal preference, and once that preference is engaged - proficient editing is at play, disregarding obvious things like grammar.

    It is quite prominent that nowadays readers, as well as editors, take more kindly to simple writing. A book like The Lord of the Rings, in my opinion, would have a harder time being accepted by a modern publisher without any pre-established fame, all for its excessive descriptions and overall number of words. The average reader - and I've heard it from my friends as well - prefers a more script-like form of novel design: "X said so and so, and did such and such..." So such readers would probably tell you to change. However...

    For those of us who do prefer the self-indulgent form of writing, as seen in the works of Tolkien and Martin, I'd say that when you go a far stretch to create a complex sentence, fill it with engaging content. There could be all sorts of things to make a sentence engaging: thought-provoking, concise to the point that it swells with sharp emotion, ironic and harsh, etc...

    Now that is a matter of both actual content and structure, but of these two only structure is dynamic. The words you use may remain the same, but where you place each is what makes a change. Even in the simplest of sentences there is variation that comes with nuance: "I'd say he is." vs. "He is, I'd say." And the same applies for complex sentences.

    Moreover, whatever style you choose, there still needs to be both long and short sentences from time to time. Imagine a novel where absolutely every sentence is three lines long. Then take it to the opposite, each is half a line. Both are quite awkward. Going the same line of thinking, when describing objects, people, etc.. some things deserve lesser description, while others deserve grand ones, but in no case I think that describing everything is gonna slide. It's up to your discretion.

    Of course, there will always be a chasm of opinions. Some would love and some would hate, and some would even find meaning where you might not have meant to place it. It's a storm. As a writer of an underappreciated style, though, do not be surprise that you'll have less followers. It's about norm.

    Overall I'd say, most people prefer simple, I prefer complex (usually), but you should write how you feel like writing. And no matter how you write, short or long, simple or sophisticated, just remember to edit each sentence to its maximal state, which only you know how should be.

    Great luck to you, fellow self-indulgent!
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2016
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  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi @kiki-snow ,

    If it's good enough for GRRM, it's good enough...

    But, you need to make sure that the sentence actually makes sense, and that the comma is part of good grammar, and not just THERE.

    Taking you post...

    The section I've bolded is actually an entire separate sentence that seems to have accidentally landed in there. It's as if you're writing how you're talking, suddenly thinking of something else and blurting it out before you forget it, and then going back to what you were saying before. If you remove the bolded section the sentence is fine.

    It that's just the way you write a forum post, that's one thing. If that's how you write your story, it's bad grammar, and very hard reading.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with @Shadowfax - there's nothing inherently wrong with long sentences, but they should be good long sentences. Again looking at your post (and, again, understanding that it might just be because you're jotting ideas down in a forum rather than polishing your fiction)...

    Your very first line is a comma splice (two independent clauses incorrectly joined with a comma). Instead of

    So I'm currently in the process of writing a high/epic fantasy series, within my novel I will be referencing ancient history, myths, legends etc.​

    try

    So I'm currently in the process of writing a high/epic fantasy series which references ancient history, myths, legends, etc.​

    Same content, simpler (and more "correct" format).

    Next sentence isn't grammatically problematic, but could be simplified - "after looking at my work" seems redundant, doesn't it?

    Then we have

    Now this may be due to the kinds of books I read, some examples being ASOIAF, Lord of the Rings, Beowulf and other epic fantasies.​

    Which again seems unnecessarily wordy. How about

    This may be due to the kinds of books I read--ASOIF, Lord of the Rings, and other epic fantasies. or
    This may be due to the kinds of books I read, like ASOIF, Lord of the Rings, and other epic fantasies. or
    This may be due to the kinds of books I read, such as ASOIF, Lord of the Rings, and other epic fantasies.​

    So, no, there's nothing wrong with long sentences, or long descriptive chunks (although as a reader, I'll be skimming them). But it's important to make sure that you're writing as clearly as you can and that every word is doing a job.
     
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  5. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am all for being descriptive, and having long sentences. But when a writer goes overboard with their descriptions of things, it irks me. There should be just enough for me to imagine it, not some lengthy spiel that never seems to end. Unless it is something so freaking fantastical that it needs a hearty amount of depiction, otherwise be concise and move on. Not everything needs to be described at length, unless it is complex enough to warrant it. :p
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I will be etching the above in stone and placing it squarely in the center of the rest of the stonework of which my hearth is built. :agreed:
     
  7. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    My philosophy is to be maximalist when writing and minimalist when editing. I write whatever I want to say, and then I edit to say it in as few words as possible without detracting from the message of the sentence, paragraph, etc. This seems to strike a balance between transparent and opaque writing.
     
  8. Holden LaPadula
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    Holden LaPadula Member

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    My rule of thumb is actually quite simple: As long as your sentences vary in length, you are golden. Take the following groups of sentences...

    Following the burial, Jennifer appeared quite sad. Afterward she thought, "Everybody thinks I am depressed." At the dinner table, Jennifer tossed her dinner around her mouth like a sharp toothpick.

    Every sentence is structured the same way. In your case, if EVERY sentence is long with several commas, it will sound repetitive and awkward like my example. All in all, as long as you have your long sentences followed by shorter, more concise sentences, I think you're fine!
     
  9. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's an oversimplification.

    Following the burial, Jennifer appeared quite sad. Her demeanour, never calm, was particularly agitated, in the manner of one who has made the unfortunate error of placing his, or her, posterior upon the nest of a colony of formicids, with the probably inevitable result of constant irritation of the nether regions. At the dinner table, Jennifer tossed her dinner around her mouth like a sharp toothpick.

    I've varied the length, but would you want to read a whole book like that?
     
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  10. Holden LaPadula
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    Holden LaPadula Member

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    It's an oversimplification, as I exaggerated in order to make a point, but that point is still valid: Varied sentence length and structure is extremely important when considering style, also when considering the content (short sentences can be great for important or abrupt moments; long sentences are ideal for descriptions). Balance is best! Don't write like a robot but don't write erratically, as shadowfax kindly pointed out!
     

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