The Dynamic Sentence

Outtakes 313


The Dynamic Sentence

By Cait Collins



A couple of weeks ago I suggested we might diagram sentences. Well, it isn’t as easy on my computer as with a pencil and a piece of paper. Truth is diagramming a sentence isn’t as important as writing the dynamic sentence. We all know the different parts of speech and how to punctuate our work. The trick is combining the parts and making them sing.

One good, strong verb is worth more than a passive verb and a dozen adverbs. For example:

Jordan walked across the room and stared sadly into Merrilyn’s stormy gray eyes.


Jordan stormed across the living room. Yanking Merrilyn from the plush sofa, he lifted her up to meet his cold stare. “We’re through,” he spat. He released her allowing her to fall back on the couch, and then stomped out the door.

Changing the verb from a generic walk to an action verb not only sets a mood, it gives definition to the character. We know Jordan’s angry and believes Merrilyn is at fault. If we want more drama, we can create a series of short sentences to ramp up the tension.

“I don’t know,” Merrilyn stated. “I was never involved in Gray’s activities. And if you think I’m going to stand here and take your bull, think again. You jerk. It’s not about you. It’s about my kids and their safety.”

To slow the action, use longer, more complex sentences. Just remember variety is necessary to keep the reader interested in the work. Page after page of complex sentences soon become numbing and difficult to follow. Similarly, a page of fast action can exhaust the reader. Varying the sentence lengths balances the story and makes for an easier read.

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