I’m trying to put together few very important things (VIT) about story-writing. Although I’m mainly concerned about story-writing, these simple rules may also be applied to any writing in English.
Before I start I should express my gratitude to one book – The Elements of Style, written by William Strunk Jr., in 1918. You may download the original copy of the book from this link: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37134
This article may be regarded as an extension of that book.
It starts with control and ends with control.
You must learn to control everything in life. We love our freedom, but, we can’t harm anybody. Right? Think every word as an animate being. Treat them as your friends; not your slaves. The process is: one word, one sentence, one paragraph and finally one story. It starts with ‘one word’. So, be careful while you choose your words. You are free to select any word; it’s your freedom; but, if you opt for a wrong word you actually hurt it.
Every animate being passes messages from one to other. Making these messages meaningful depends on your choices of words.
A wrong choice may hurt the words. While it bleeds, silently, the whole story becomes a bloody muddle!
Clarity in thinking is essential. You must know what you’re going to write. It’s impossible to tidy away all bits and pieces before you write a long story like “War and Peace”, I don’t mean that; even it’s impossible for any short story; but, there should be a basic idea about what you’re going to do.
While you write, a story usually develops. It evolves and takes turns on its own. So you must wait for those magic moments and give it enough time to grow. Sometimes there are dead lines you need to meet but you should refuse to be hurried into a decision; however, if you do, there is a chance of a bad result.
The best way to write a story, unless you are pressed for time, is: take your time.
Characters have their own lives. They often try to dictate you. Sometimes they guide you. Listen to your hearts; and, have control.
You must follow the grammatical rules. But, in some special cases, you are in liberty to bend or stretch the rules. When you play by rules, it’s safe. Always. In your life, it’s true, and it’s proper in your story-writing-endeavor as well.
I love simplicity. You may not. It’s your choice. I always prefer – one subject, one predicate and one sentence; but, it doesn’t hurt if you opt for complex and compound sentences as well. However, do it judiciously.
All you need to do is: do it carefully and as simply as possible so that a reader can understand and feel your story.
From this part we’re approaching ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk Jr. I pick up selected parts from that book that will help you to have an idea about what can be done or what can be avoided to make your story-writing endeavor fruitful.
5) Parenthetic expressions and commas.
Example: The best way to write a story, unless you are pressed for time, is to take time.
There are lots of debates about the usages and the natures of parenthetic expressions. Parenthesis is a remark which is added to a sentence, often to provide an explanation or additional information, and which is separated from the main part of the sentence by commas, brackets (SYMBOL) or dashes:
In some cases we can omit it. And in cases of conjunctions usually commas follow it.
The above sentence can be written this way also:
The best way to write a story is to take time; however, there are moments when you are pressed for time; so, in such cases you need to give it time as much as possible.
The main sentence is: the best way to write a story is to take time. Now we’re adding any remark before, after or in-between to test the reactions.
Although our modern life is hectic and often we don’t have enough time to cogitate, it’s always better to take time to write a story.
Consider another example of the same sentence.
Conjunctions may play a vital role: It’s best to take time to write, and keeping that in mind it’s good to take up a job which is not time-consuming.
6) Possessive singular of noun
Ram’s book. Try to avoid writing – the book of Ram. When consonant is ended with ‘s’, you can write – Charles’ book.
Pronominal possessives are – hers, his, its, theirs, yours.
7) There are two types of relative clauses. Restrictive and non-restrictive,
Restrictive clauses are those which serve to identify or define the antecedent noun.
Ex: Ram who best meets these requirements will obtain the place.
Non-restrictive clauses do not serve or define the predecessor noun.
Ex: Vicky, who had at first been reluctant, became interested.
There is always a main clause of a sentence. Now all we need to decide how to enclose the clauses – dependent and independent, supplementary or complementary. We can keep adding them by commas, conjunctions, semicolons, etc.
8) Conjunction, co-ordinate clause and use of a comma before it.
We’re planning to go to the market, but it depends on weather,
A co-ordinate clause always maintains a type of certainty. Without that support you’re not certain about the main clause. In the main clause we always encounter some kind of difficulties and in the coordinating clause we get some clues about solving it.
As a child he couldn’t walk, and that had a grim effect on his mind.
We can separate this sentence into two parts.
When he was a child he couldn’t walk. The inability had a grim effect on his mind.
9) Independent clauses and use of commas
Independent clause is a complete sentence. When two such clauses have a relationship, the proper mark of punctuation is semicolon. Don’t use comma.
‘The Vulture is a Patient Bird’ is a good story; you can’t stop reading it midway.
It’s equally right to write the above as two sentences. You can use period in place of semicolon.
‘The Vulture is a Patient Bird’ is a good story. You can’t stop reading it midway.
You can tweak it by inserting a conjunction; but, in that case, it’s better to use a comma.
‘The Vulture is a Patient Bird’ is a good story, for you can’t stop reading it midway.
Note: the first one is better; because, it’s more fast and forceful.
Note: sometimes, the second clause is preceded by adverbs: accordingly, besides, then, therefore, thus. In such cases, semicolon is required.
Note: if sentences are too short and one action follows another in quick succession, you can use commas.
He entered, ran past the room, found the girl dead.
10) Participial phrase
A participle is a verbal ending in -ing (present) or -ed, -en, -d, -t, -n, or -ne (past) that functions as an adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun.
A participial phrase consists of a participle plus modifier(s), object(s), and/or complement(s).
Participles and participial phrases must be placed as close to the nouns or pronouns they modify as possible, and those nouns or pronouns must be clearly stated.
A participial phrase is set off with commas when it:
a) comes at the beginning of a sentence
b) interrupts a sentence as a nonessential element
c) comes at the end of a sentence and is separated from the word it modifies.
Let us see some examples.
Removing his coat, Sanjib rushed to the table. Having been a writer, Sanjib knew the importance of writing everyday.
In both cases, the participial phrase functions as an adjective modifying Sanjib.
Now watch this example:
Walking down the road, he saw a man.
He saw a man, walking down the road.
In the first case, the word ‘walking’ refers to the subject; and, in the second case, the word refers to the object. It changes the meaning.
Participle is different. It’s a verbal that acts as an adjective and most often ends in ‘ing’ or ‘ed’.
Crying, he hugged his friend.
The crying friend had pain in his abdomen.
Shaken, he left the place.
This can be extended and more elements can be added. I would love to get some tips from you.