Finer points of voice

Part of the problem in talking about voice is that voice is interwoven with a writer’s personal style. Several points on the list need to be taken loosely, since what is effective can cover a broad range.

Paragraph and sentence lengths are varied in accordance with pace.

Monotonous sentence structures are a hallmark of novice writing. When I see sentences that are all pretty much the same length and meter and structure, I can presume the writer has just not practiced the craft for very long. Hemingway is known for his terse sentences, but he could pull off a lengthy sentence when the scene called for it. Variety of sentence structure will improve your story’s flow. Whether you prefer short sentences like Hemingway’s or long Faulknerian rambles is a matter of personal style, but either way, occasionally incorporate a dash of the other to keep readers engaged. Continue reading

When passive voice is permissible

Writers and editors often pass on things they’ve learned — usually at the knee of some mentor they highly respect — in the form of seemingly inviolable rules: As it was said to me, I say to you, Thou shalt not use the passive voice.

break editor's pencil

magdaloubser • istockpho.to/XoW5Oi

I am not saying “you have to know the rules before you can break them.” I’m heartily sick of that old bromide. I am saying you have to know the difference between a real rule and a non-rule. Continue reading