Sentence Beginnings

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Robin
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Sentence Beginnings

Post by Robin » June 1st, 2010, 2:53 pm

I just read through 2 paragraphs that all began with "I" "he" or "We". The other 50+ pages have lots of variation, but these 2 paragraphs are giving me a run for my money!

How do you vary your sentence beginnings? What are some creative techniques?
Robin
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Mark
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by Mark » June 1st, 2010, 3:07 pm

I'm having the worst time of this right now, but I'm still in first draft mode so I'm ignoring it until the rewrites.

I just picked up the book I have on the table and flipped to a random page. 30-40% of the sentences begin with the character's name, or 'he'. I think it's like the 'said' tag in dialogue. Each use stands out when you're reading your own work, but to the reader they're almost invisible.

Curious to see what others have to say on this.

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polymath
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by polymath » June 1st, 2010, 3:50 pm

Consider evaluating for syntax variations. What's a sentence's or a paragraph's core subject? What's the core object? Who or what's perfoming an action, the predicate of a sentence? Who or what is best for first position?

I went to the think store. I met Jane there. I talked with her about blue and apple and silver thinks.
"They're out of lavender thinks," Jane said.
"Well," I said, "what do you need lavender thinks for?"
"I don't know," she said, "I just felt like lavender."
"Surely they've got another truckload of thinks coming."


Authorial "I" directing action, not taking into account core subjects.

I went to the think store. Jane met me there. We talked about blue and apple and silver thinks. She said they're out of lavender thinks. I asked her what she needed lavender thinks for.
"I just felt like lavender."
"Surely they've got truckloads of other thinks coming."
Last edited by polymath on June 1st, 2010, 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mira
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by Mira » June 1st, 2010, 6:17 pm

I have trouble with this, too. Most of my sentences start with the word: 'I'.

I don't have any magic solution, except I think it's good not to worry about this in early drafts. I read a book once that said the creative writing brain and the editing brain are different entities. It can block the creative process if you bring the editing brain in too early.

But when you're ready to edit - I think you just have to work with sentence structure. But I also think Mark has a point, it may not be a problem, unless it is really noticable. If you were doing it through your entire MS that might be the case, but a paragraph or two may make no difference, really.....

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Holly
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by Holly » June 1st, 2010, 8:29 pm

Robin wrote:I just read through 2 paragraphs that all began with "I" "he" or "We". The other 50+ pages have lots of variation, but these 2 paragraphs are giving me a run for my money!

How do you vary your sentence beginnings? What are some creative techniques?
Take out the filter of "I saw, I heard" and just tell what is happening.

Example:

I went to the woods yesterday. I heard the birds sing and saw the sun shine through the trees.

Yesterday I went to the woods. Birds sang and the sun shone through the trees.

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polymath
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by polymath » June 2nd, 2010, 10:27 am

Other less mechanical methods for revising around repetitive sentence beginnings. Are there unrealized causation gaps between the sentences that could begin with different subjects or pronouns? Are parallel ideas separated into sentences that could be conflated into one? Sentences that can be excised? Could dialogue or action or thought depiction fit in between?

I went to the think store. [causation missing] Jane met me there. [causation missing] We talked about blue and apple and silver thinks. She said they're out of lavender thinks. I asked her what she needed lavender thinks for.
"I just felt like lavender."
"Surely they've got truckloads of other thinks coming."


I went to the think store. [My supply of negatron thinks ran short.] Jane met me there. [She was just browsing.] We talked about blue and apple and silver thinks. She said they're out of lavender thinks. I asked her what she needed lavender thinks for.
"I just felt like lavender."
"Surely they've got truckloads of other thinks coming."


I met Jane at the think store. I ran out of negatron thinks and she was just browsing. She said they're out of lavender thinks. I asked her what she needed lavender thinks for. Jane was on an anything-lavender kick.
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by GeeGee55 » June 2nd, 2010, 11:10 am

Hi, Robin:

A textbook I found helpful is Beyond the Conventions, Studies in Prose Writing by Jeanne Gunner. It's mostly for developing essays, but it also includes sections on sentence structure and style, as well as sentence focus. Recursive style vs. Linear style is also discussed. Even more helpful, there are examples from essays and some short stories. I found a used copy at a second-hand bookstore. I find I now think of sentence structure as I write; it's one of the pleasures of creating, making a really good sentence.

Good luck to you with the revision.

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cheekychook
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by cheekychook » June 2nd, 2010, 2:28 pm

If you're only doing this in these two paragraphs try to figure out what it is that makes those paragraphs (or the story contained in them) different from the others. There has to be a reason why you wound up with all the I/he/we's. Are you trying to tell that part too fast? I tend to start listing "she did this, she did that" when I''m trying to move the character through a bunch of actions too quickly. In that case it helps to interject a sentence or two about the environment---the scent in the room, the look on someone's face, the lighting---anything that takes away from the laundry-list feeling of she-she-she actions. If that's not the problem then try to mix up the words....instead of "I was aggravated to no end" turn it into "Aggravation was the last thing I needed"or "His reaction aggravated me beyond reason". Not great examples, but you get the idea. If it's still stumping you either take a break from it for a while or give it to someone else to read. Good luck!
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Tzalaran
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by Tzalaran » June 2nd, 2010, 10:31 pm

Writing in first person will do this in parts, mostly because of what cheekychook said. You are trying to move the character through too many things and get to the next major scene or part. Revising them just takes careful study, and creative ways of addressing the same points while removing the i.

Holly is spot on with the filter comment. 75% of the Is removed from my draft were filtering information, and removing them allows you to be more immersive for the reader. It stops being the character telling you the story and starts reading like you are living the story.

When drafting, don't let this trip you up. write i every other word during the draft if you need to because writing is revising. You will not get the final piece without a starting point. (the word that kills me now is 'and'...) When revising, don't be afraid to put a section behind you and come back to it after a few weeks. Sometimes that is really what is needed to see where you're going wrong and correct it. hope this helps.
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Robin
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Re: Sentence Beginnings

Post by Robin » June 7th, 2010, 10:42 pm

Thanks so much, you guys! All of these suggestions have been more than helpful.
Robin
"A glass slipper is only a shoe. Dreamers who only dream never have their dreams come true."

http://www.RobynLucas.com/

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