1. Magnatolia

    Magnatolia Active Member

    Jan 11, 2014
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    Reversing the sentence order

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Magnatolia, May 4, 2014.

    Hey guys,

    Wanted to share something that I thought was a great technique. That's of reversing the sentence order. I'll try and come up with an example:

    1. Clair arrived at the house and noticed that the front door was wide open. She stepped into the kitchen cautiously and noticed the pantry as empty. God, what have I done? (why/who) She crept upstairs and opened the beside drawer. Shit. The gun’s gone. The closet was empty too. (who)

    2. Clair went into the bedroom and checked the drawer. Empty. Damn it, the gun’s gone (why/who/where). He opened the closet. They were empty. (what/who) She ran downstairs to the kitchen.She crossed her fingers that he hadn’t taken all the food. She opened the pantry. Clean circles marked where cans had once stood. (big who) Clair stepped back and clasped her hands on her head. What have I done?

    Not the greatest example. The one I read was much better. By not putting the sentences into a linear chronological order, it creates more tension. In the second one I've rearranged the order back to front. Obviously if she was arriving back at the house the first one would need a rewrite though.

    The second one instantly makes the reader ask mental questions, such as is the gun thief still in the house, who stole it. Then they wonder, hang on a second, someones taken the clothes. Does Clair know this person? She suspected the food would be taken, again not really sure if it's an inside job, or they were just robbed. Then she shows guilt and blames herself. Why???

    The first one does have a why/who. Did she leave the door open? It's kind of assumed that's what she meant, although you can use it as a red herring. Someone stole the gun, so now we wonder who they were. But there's no more tension. We figure since she didn't see anyone in the house they've obviously left.

    That's just my take. Something for me to take note of in my writing.
  2. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Jan 28, 2014
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    How you use this would depend on what's important to the character and to you as the author. You can go on the principle of "first things first" (which can render the second and third things anticlimactical). Or you can proceed on the principle of Build. Per your example, door's open. What the--? Pantry's empty. Oh-oh! Closets are empty. Oh gosh! Gun's gone. O god o god o god!!!

    For your scenario I prefer Build. Food can be replaced. Clothing, too. An irate ex-husband (I presume) out there with the family gun is a lot more, um, life-affecting.

    Having her look for the gun first would depend on why she wants to know. Does she want it to defend herself? (Leading me to ask, is she the Nervous Nelly type who automatically assumes an open front door means an intruder? If she does, why doesn't she just get the hell out and call the cops?) Or has someone she knows threatened to take it and she wants to check right away if he has? So no, "gun first" did not make me ask questions. The fact she made a beeline for the bedroom made me assume she knew who might take it and why.

    The food in the pantry is the least important factor here, to my mind. The only reason you might save it is if the ex is a little crazy, with survivalist tendencies,and she's afraid he's taken everything to go live in the woods and she's afraid he'll hurt himself.

    That, or unless he's threatened to trap her in the house with no food, no changes of clothes, no (fill in the blank) until she starves.

    Otherwise, after the missing gun all the rest is just confirmation.

    Don't mean to over-analyze your example, but it's what I had to work with. Frankly, I didn't get your why/whos and so on. :confused: Do they refer to what the sentences say or to questions they're supposed to raise? A lot of them are whats, actually. You might want to explain this system more fully.

    Could you cite the one you read, with proper attribution and all? That might help. As set out, I'm not sure it's workable as a system. Or necessary. Just write the events in the order they need to be to make the impact you intend.
    Last edited: May 4, 2014
    mammamaia and GingerCoffee like this.
  3. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    That's not really reversing 'sentence' order. It's more you are just playing with the order of events. I like what @Catrin Lewis points out, consider the significance of the events in relation to the story you are telling.
    mammamaia and Catrin Lewis like this.
  4. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    ditto that...

    it's also not reversing how the sentences are placed, either... it's only leaving out her entering the house and having her do the same things in a different sequence...

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