The Rhythm of Words

A lot of writers, when they write, just write. That’s all that’s truly important at the beginning, getting the words out onto paper. But the flow of your words and sentences is actually a tool that can be used to help set the tone of the scene. Sometimes your words can be used to twist the reader’s emotions.

I’m going to break this up into two sections: word choice and sentence length.

Word Choice

The words you choose can directly influence your setting and tone. Simplistic words used in a complex setting sells your work short, whereas “five dollar words” (such as sesquipedalian) are out of place in some works. Do you want to break the tension of your story because the reader has to go find a dictionary?

Likewise, the number and type of adjectives you use can have an impact. Flow-y, whimsical words may work in a romance or children’s story, but they would seem out of place in a thriller or a mystery. You can create a bleak landscape for your characters through your words alone.

Sentence Length

Sentence length can directly influence your reader. For example, short sentences up tension. This has been a tool of thriller and mystery writers for years. Short sentences cause readers to read faster, speeding up the pace of your narrative, making the reader feel like everything is happening at once and oh God isn’t it exciting.

On the other hand, long sentences let a reader slow down, bask in their surroundings, have a nice bit of respite.

Admittedly, you do have to have some variety in your sentence length, but these are skills you can utilize when necessary.

Writers, do you have any additional thoughts on these two? Any tricks you like to remember in your own writing?

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