Victory! Victory! My battle with uncooperative electronic items is over, and my tablet is now fully charged and functional (there’s no rule that says I can’t be over dramatic if I want to). So let’s have a look at another of the exercises in ‘Back to Creative Writing School’ by Bridget Whelan.
Entitled ‘Size Matters’ the section I am currently perusing discusses the importance of sentence length in a novel. It can convey tone, action, and atmosphere.
The exercise is to describe a room in a single sentence with as many words as possible while still obeying the rules of written English.
Crest-flanked wooden doors open into a wide hall of history; the masters stare from great portraits down on row after row of boisterous or hungover students sat at long wooden tables, their eyes directed upon the Senior Common Room or out to the green town, its cobbled streets and ancient arched bridges hidden among the living trees, only the venerable house of worship, home of Prince Bishops in earlier days, visible, it’s towers a reminder of earthly and spiritual power long past.
83 words. Hmm.
The next part of the exercise is to describe the same room using sentences of no more than six words.
The doors swing open. The hall is flooded with light. High windows are separated by portraiture. Former Masters glower down at us. In the early morning before lectures. In the evening at tea. Always there, our constant, tireless guardians. Unlike we students, who’re hungover. Or not. Not all university students drink. There’s a great window and balcony. It’s at the far end. What a view! Only trees and Durham Cathedral visible.
14 sentences to say the same thing.
I was writing, in both instances, about the dining hall at my college, Gray College, University of Durham. It’ll be ten years in June that I received my degree and I haven’t been back since. That room made an impression on me on my first day and it’s stayed with me since (even though all the things I learnt are slowly trickling away).