“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.” - Hemingway’s first sentence of A Farewell to Arms (1929)
We should never lose sight that stories are constructed with words and sentences. Good writing not only conveys an image, advances the story, but also has elements of poetry and symmetry. In the above sentence, Hemingway offers us not only the beginning of a story, but alliteration (late, lived, looked), consonance at the end of words (summer, year river), and repetition (in a house in a village). Having been involved in theater and the spoken word for so many years, the selection of words are important to me, not just by what they mean, but also by how they sound and their relation to other words in a sentence. I try to think of the words to my stories as being spoken. After all, a finely designed sentence and the texture of words offers another dimension to the reading. The words take flight. They are active. The listener will bathe in a cascade of refreshing words.
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I read time and again many authors have the habit of keeping books that inspire them close at hand while writing their own book. It seems it's an open secret: read books that will jump start the way you want to use words and structure sentences and that will help you move your writing in the direction you want.
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One of the best ways to edit yourself is to read the text aloud, stopping to make notations when something doesn’t sound right. Also, always have a good dictionary and thesaurus on hand, for as Mark Twain said, 'The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.'
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