A Life Of Fiction XLV

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

On ‘mangling’ the English language (pt 1): When I write, I like to play around with words, and to try to use them in ways that they have not been used before, while still getting across my meaning. I know that a sentence has to have such niceties as verbs. But, sometimes, for literary effects, I like to throw away the rulebook of the English language.

In the last post (XLIV) I gave an example from Shadows and Ghosts. That example did not have any verbs. I wanted to keep things short, as I have said. Short and snappy.

But, occasionally, I have gone the other way, having sentences which continue and continue and continue, bursting forth like water from a broken dam. Ones which run on for half a page, full of verbs and nouns.

Interestingly, I understand that the Iroquois languages are more verb-based than English.

Structure of novels is one thing which I have tried to play around with, as well, but perhaps that is a subject for a different post. here I will concentrate on messing around with the structure of sentences and paragraphs – what many people will, no doubt, decry as bad grammar and syntax.

There are various ways in which a sentence can be presented. It may just be the difference between she said and said she.

He was born on the First of March, 1991. That is a sentence taken from the beginning of The Next Prophet. The sentence is in what I consider to be the standard structure. But there are several other ways that those words could be arranged.

On the First of March, 1991, he was born. Different, but a reader will still understand what you mean.

On the First of March, 1991, born he was. Now you sound like Yoda. I think that is to be avoided, unless you are writing a script for George Lucas.

For the most part I try to keep my sentences short. But, again, it depends on the sort of effect which you are trying to achieve. A lot of early English novels had quite long sentences. For example, in the novel Robinson Crusoe there is one sentence, I think, which runs on for around a page. Sometimes, if you want to try to evoke such a style of writing, you have to try to write in the same way, without it descending into some sort of a pastiche (although a pastiche is fine, if that is what you’re aiming for).

I also like to play around with the structure of words. Here is an extract from The Dead to show what I mean:

A desperately sunny day for the move, shirt armpits dyed black by the summer heat. Too lazy a day even for the clouds to move; yet humans do, proving old mad dog quotes. Temper(ature)s rise. Sweat droplets fall.

Okay, so perhaps it is a little arch to combine the word tempers with temperatures in such a way. But why not? Rising temperatures can often put people in a bad mood, leading to rising tempers. Temper(ature)s rise coveys all that in only two words.

You can do stuff with words like saying that time draaaaaags; although something like that is pretty obvious, and has been used by far greater authors than I. I cannot claim that something like that is my idea.

Or you can say that something is large or small. Again, something like that is obvious, and has been done before. There is little which is truly original. But, if used in the correct manner, it can be visually arresting on the page.

There are not that many words which lend themselves to being treated in the above manner. Nor is the above something which you could read out loud.

The above leads to considerations of the layout of words on a page. It helps here, I think, that I have written a lot of poetry, and read a lot, and I am used to the use of space. You want something which is different, which is visual, which aids and abets the telling of the story.

In one of my earliest completed novels, The Impossibilities, I might lay out words something like this:


   Only myself.

      A myriad other selves.


You don’t want to overuse something like that, though. But it can be used to break up a long page of interminable paragraphs. (I’m not sure how well this appears on WordPress. It is supposed to look staggered).

In Shadows and Ghosts I got even more creative:

Wait for the shift.








Through realities.

Again, it is not something which you want to use too much. I’m not sure whether I would like to read an entire novel written like that. I don’t think that I would like to read one, either. And I only use such tricks occasionally, when I feel that it is needed. The vast majority of my novels are written and laid out normally.

I will continue with similar matters in my next post.


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