Andrew Terech: 5 Quick Tips to Write Better Sentences #Guest #Blog Victim Souls #Spotlight #Giveaway
5 Quick Tips to Write Better SentencesWhen I first started writing I didn’t have an academic background in English, and I was not what one would consider well read. I did what anyone in my position who wants to be a writer would do. I started writing. What came out looked good to me at the time, but it lacked a lot of fundamental components.
I joined a writing workshop in Phoenix, where I communed with other writers (some with editor credentials) weekly to read my writing and get constructive feedback. Since then, I’ve become exponentially more skilled at sentence construction. I only wish that as a beginning writer someone would have pulled me aside and given me a crash course on some of the most basic concepts that we as writers encounter in almost every sentence we write.
This post will point out 5 rudimentary challenges in a simple way that I hope can benefit any new writer who comes upon it. Now, most editors or grammar masters could write dissertations on the topics I’m going to cover, but the point of this blog is to give some very simple, clear guidance that will make you a better writer instantly.
- Passive vs. Active voice
Avoiding passive phrasing will enhance your description of animated, moving things. Always try to avoid using helping verbs (is, was, to be) when describing an active thing.
Active: A red glow lit up the sky as the sun set into the clouds.
Passive: The sky was red because the sun beamed through clouds.
That being said, there is a place for passive phrasing. If something just is and it’s not moving or doing anything then don’t try to use flowery language to make it seem active.
Passive: The chair was in the middle of the office.
Active: The chair sat in the middle of the office.
Congratulations to me! I wrote a sentence without a helping verb! Have you ever seen a chair sit? Unless you’re writing a sequel to Beauty and the Beast, the chair is where it is. Don’t give it an action just to avoid helping verbs. They have their place if you know when to use them.
This is one that gets under my skin when I see it. Don’t tell us what something “seems” to be, tell us what it is! Unless, you’re emphasizing the fact that the character’s interpretation is relevant, nothing should seem to be anything.
Wrong: The red sky seemed like something out of a post-apocalyptic world.
Better: The red sky loomed over me with an ominous presence that evoked images of a post-apocalyptic world.
One correct usage of seem: The red glow in the sky seemed harmless at first, but as it spread so did its ominous presence.
In the third example, I’m using “seem” in a way that emphasizes the characters misinterpretation, which is a more effective (still not the best) use of the word.
- I saw…
Correct: The car sped by, nearly running over an elderly man in the crosswalk.
Incorrect: I saw the car speed by as it nearly ran over an elderly man in the crosswalk.
Example: The man quickly jumped out of the way as the car rapidly sped through the intersection.
So how do I get across the “quickly jumped” and “rapidly sped” without the pesky adverbs? Pick better verbs that describe the action and insinuate “quickly” and “rapidly” without saying it.
Example: The man darted out of the way as the car barreled through the intersection.
- Dialogue tags
Example: “Watch out!” I screamed.
Fix: I lunged off the bench. “Watch out!”
Example: “Your eyes are beautiful,” I said.
Fix: I took a drag from my cigarette and gazed at her. “Your eyes are beautiful.”
And if you do a good enough job, you can write characters that have unique enough personalities that you won’t need to tag the dialogue for the reader to know who’s speaking.
“Enough of this bullshit. I’m gonna have your head on a goddamn platter for this.”
“Why… I… I am so sorry sir. I am forever sorry for what I have done to you.”Hopefully this helps. Feel free to visit my website (http://www.
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Number of pages: 386
Word Count: 91,000
Cover Artist: Brianna Strawn
Sometimes, only bad guys can beat the Devil…
The plan is simple: get the money and deliver the car. What could possibly go wrong?
Things start to go south when Sam Drake realizes that his brother Johnny is hiding something, a secret about Sam’s troubled childhood that goes beyond his most feverish nightmares…
Then Johnny’s girlfriend, Ash, starts sending Sam the kind of mixed signals that can only lead to big trouble…
As the trio of small time crooks falls deeper into an abyss of betrayal and violence, they will discover that the greatest danger they face is not of this world.
With everything he believes about himself and the world around him shattered, Sam will become the unlikely champion in a battle with true evil, a fight to save a soul that has already been forfeited to darkness.
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The silver barrel of the Colt .45 glimmered in Johnny’s hand. The obese clerk behind the counter held his arms up, eyes darting to each of our faces. His brown-stained, white t-shirt clung to his sweaty man tits. Moisture dripped off his scraggly goatee onto his protruding gut. The ceiling fan above him worked hard, trying to cool down the un-air-conditioned, Arizona shit-hole that smelled like armpits and rotting cheese. A large bullet hole from Johnny’s warning shot sat two feet from the clerk’s head, along with the standard wall of cigarettes and liquor bottles acting as a reminder of the poor bastard’s purpose in life.
Johnny’s smirking mouth twitched with excitement. He had a scary look in his eyes—a man possessed with rage.
Ash clung to him, her blond hair draped over his shoulder. Her hand gently palmed his shaved head as she leaned toward the side of his face.
She whispered something in his ear.
Butterflies sliced the inside of my stomach with razor wings. This wasn’t the way we did things. We were escalating. Normally, I kept everyone cool, levelheaded. All control had gone out the window.
Simple Bob behind the counter sobbed, looking terrified. Part of me felt pity for the guy, but it was too late to turn back. “I don’t wanna be a part of no trouble, now,” he said. “Why don’t y’all take what ya need and go? Please, I got a family.” He glared at Ash. Four kids.”
Johnny cackled. “Family? You hear this guy, Sammy? He’s got a fuckin’ family.” Johnny gestured toward me. “That’s my family over there. My little brother. I practically raised the pecker. Parents were killed… come to think of it—by a fat, drunk piece of shit like you. So don’t talk to me about family.”
I glanced at the clock above the entrance—eight minutes had passed. “Johnny, come on man.”
Ash sneered at me. “Not now. This is grown up time. Go grab us some food or something.” Her dismissive tone dug into my nerves.
“Go fuck yourself!” I spat. The last thing I needed was that crazy bitch feeding Johnny’s frenzy.
“Quit it, bro. I got this,” Johnny said.
As usual he sided with the short jean shorts and tight, red tank top—a little cleavage and ass were all it took for him to forget about his own brother. “Get the cash and let’s go,” I said. “Stop messing around.”
Johnny glanced at me. “You think you could do better?”
I froze, unable to come up with a response, probably because I knew I couldn’t. Johnny took care of the hold-up. I collected the goods and kept us on point. That was our system, and it worked. Ash, on the other hand, was new to the mix. All she managed to do was waste time and get Johnny more amped than a rabid pit bull on cocaine. How he decided that was helpful, I have no idea. Things ran smooth before she stuck her pretty ass in the mix. Now instead of in-and-out with hands full of cash, we were wasting time scaring some poor, fat slob half to death. And for what, I wondered, shits and giggles?
I glanced back at the clock. Ten minutes in, and we were still dicking around. I started to tell Johnny our time was running out. From the corner of my eye, the clerk reached beneath the counter.
“Hey!” Ash shouted before I could react.
Johnny swung his arm, smacking the butt of the gun across the fat bastard’s face. “What did I tell you? Huh!”
The clerk stumbled back. The weight of his body slammed into the wall of cigarettes and cigars. He slid to the floor as dozens of boxes rained down around him.
My heart pounded. I took several deep breaths. We’d never had a close call like that before.
Ash pulled out her butterfly knife and flipped it open. “We need to deal with him.”
Johnny clenched his jaw as he leaned over the counter, pointing the gun. “Get up! Now!”
The blubbering man slowly rose up, his hands in the air, snot dripping from the pubes on his chin.
“What’s your name, buddy?” Johnny asked, switching to a calmer tone.
With a big smile on his face, Johnny slammed his fist on the counter. “Tony! That’s a strong name. Like Tony fucking Soprano.”
Tony jumped and backed into the wall behind him again. His flabby arm knocked down a couple liquor bottles. He flinched as the glass shattered on the tile floor. I reminded myself to at least swipe some good booze when we were done.
Johnny grabbed the knife from Ash’s hand and gave her the gun. “Hold this for me, baby.”
I glanced at the clock—twelve minutes. “Bro, we’re coming up on fifteen. Forget him. You don’t have to do this.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re fine! And for the record,” he twirled the blade in his hand, “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want!”
I’d had it with Johnny’s unchecked arrogance. He always screwed with people, but he didn’t hurt anyone unless he had to. Tony may have been a liability, but if we’d stuck to the plan it wouldn’t have come to this.
Ash put her arm around Johnny, resting the gun on his shoulder, conveniently pointing it at my face.
I took a step toward the counter, out of the line of fire. No way I trusted that bitch with a gun in her hand.
She flashed a smile in my direction.
“Put your hand out on the table.” Johnny said.
Tony extended his shaking arm. Johnny grabbed his wrist, pulled him forward, and slammed his hand onto the counter.
Tony yelped. “Please.”
My heart raced as my brother hovered the knife over Tony’s hand. “Come on bro…”
Johnny’s finger shot up, motioning me to be quiet. “Tony. I’m going to teach you a little lesson in trust.”
About the Author:
Andrew’s a horror fiction writer who is also a massive fan of the genre. He’s been writing short stories and working on his novel for over 5 years. He has several short stories published, as well as some editing credits. He moderates a writing workshop in Phoenix, AZ where he’s been exposed to many different forms of fiction, which have broadened his influences. He aims to write stories that creep out his readers, while offering well-developed, rich characters they can sink their teeth into. He’s also a fan of experimenting with form and structure to create something uniquely my own.
Andrew grew up on Long Island in New York, and has lived in Arizona for the past 7 years. His professional background is in psychology where he’s carved out a nice career for himself. However, writing has always been his passion.
Currently, he’s hard at work, developing additional content to publish. He hopes to find an audience that loves the genre, and is up for a good scare.
5 Special Editions only available in print that contains the short story- open to US Shipping