there is no such thing as writing the perfect sentence, perfectly, the first time. At least I find it difficult to think that someone could. ‘Course, there’s that whole thing about monkeys and typewriters and Shakespeare, but then that would be a perfect sentence that has already been written, wouldn’t it?
We have tried as a critique group to be more than just a collection of writers who look at other writing and comment. We’ve become a support group, a therapy group, and most importantly, friends. Best friends! Two years ago we took an entire year to go through Ursula Le Guin’s book, Steering The Craft. It was an amazing activity. One exercise every month, giving us a window on writing the narrative, giving life to the story. Debbie started a story in an exercise and now it’s a book.
A while back, Sandra suggested the Great Course book, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft. We all agreed. Taught, well, lectured by Brooks Landon PhD, Director of the General Education Literature Program, University of Iowa, the course is a 24 lecture series about sentences. Syntactical strategies. Propositional context. A thing in motion.
We each have the DVD of the lectures and the Course Guidebook.
The first lecture was about a Sequence of Words. I like words. I love to roll them around in my mouth. Put various emphasis on various syllables. Listen to them in sentences. And, as much as I like words I am always fascinated by the way we use words to describe. Ever watch a show on cheer-leading? You may just think of the splits, or the pyramid. But no. There’s the Arabian, the cradle, the front-drop, the layout, the sponge toss. You get the idea, a whole language unto itself.
Dr. Landon speaks about sentences the same way. Sentences, he writes, are shaped by context and purpose, and there are an infinite number of them. Good. I’d hate to think I’m using a re-tread sentences. But, I suppose, it’s possible. Cumulative sentences. Loose syntax. Periodic syntax. Elegant versus Effective. Rhetorical versus grammatical. Base clauses and modifying/subordinate clauses. And where do you put them? Should the base clause be first, middle or last? And, what is sentence a supposed to be doing, right there in the middle of that paragraph! Yes! That one!
Today we are working on Propositions and Meaning. As I finished my exercise over the last week I need to add, I am as fascinated by the sentences and language used to describe sentences and the language as I am by the information I am getting. What I’m waiting for is where does style come into this? It is just another name for the elusive voice?