Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writing Wednesday: Nuts&Bolts Stuff

Okay folks, it's time to understand sentence constructions. We often get tied into a patter of two or three of our favorites, maybe offering up something different now and again when the green squiggle of grammar grumpiness shows up.

I learned 20 different sentence patterns and how to combine them in 10 different ways from a great book I highly recommend: The Art of Styling Sentences by K.D. Sullivan

The most common sentence constructions I've seen in fiction writing are:

Jimmy walked to the store. (Simple)

Walking to the store, Jimmy whistled. (Beginning with a gerund)

Jimmy, while whistling, walked to the store. (Parenthetical asides.)

Those three can become monotonous and beginning with a gerund is a construction that should be used as sparingly as possible as it lends itself well to telling, rather than showing. So today, we're gonna learn about prepositional phrases!! Ooo goody!:) No, really, this will be fun, if you don't let the grammar grumpies ruin the experience.

Just remember, PRE-positions. That's it, not hard at all, right?

So here are the rules:

The "pre" means it comes before the object. It's always got a buddy with it because it has to show the relationship between the word it modifies and itself:

All through the house, not a creature stirred.

So the prepositional phrase here: all through the house—modifies where its buddy, the creatures, didn't stir. Where didn't they stir? In the house of course!

Let's try another:

All across the country, Joe is an excellent mechanic.

Hmm… Something seems odd with that one, doesn't it?

Sure, maybe Joe is a traveling mechanic, but the sentence doesn't seem to match. This PREposition isn't really Joe's buddy. Now, if we make them buddies, see what happens:

Despite missing three fingers on his left hand, Joe is an excellent mechanic.

Now we've got a relationship going! The relationship between the PREpositional phrase and Joe here is obvious: Joe is overcoming a difficulty to meet and exceed the demands of his career.

So give it a whirl, begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase and share it in the comments. This is a great construction to switch starting a sentence with a gerund. After all, every solid writer needs a strong toolbox!



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