I'm swapping blogs today with the oh-so-awesome Janice Hardy, author of the imaginative Healing Wars Trilogy & Writing Mastermind of The Other Side Of The Story. Janice is one of the most knowledgeable writers I know, and her MG series is among my favorites. It's a pleasure to hand her the keys and duck out...if you like, after you finishing reading her wisdom today, maybe you'll follow me to Janice's secret lair where I divulge (are you ready for this?) The Key To Success. And now over to Janice...
Are You Just Making Lists? Smoothing the Flow of Your Prose
One pitfall of a first person point of view is that you sometimes end up with a lot of sentences in a row starting with I. This holds true for third person as well, but it seems a bit more noticeable in first. (Maybe because it makes the narrator feel self-centered and egotistical). But the "list-like paragraph" can occur in a variety of ways, and they all have the same result.
A monotonous rhythm that puts readers to sleep.
Good writing has a musical flow, drawing the reader into and through the paragraph and seamlessly handing them off to the next paragraph. Without that flow, you get this:
I ran down to the river to look for my little brother. I found him sitting on a rock, his feet dangling in the water. I yelled for him to come home, but he didn't seem to hear me. I went over and nudged him in the arm. He screamed and fell off the rock into the river. I just laughed.
The same rhythm, the same pace. The sentences are all roughly the same length as well, adding to that list-like feel. Before you think, "Well, that's just how first person is," let's look at it in third.
Fred ran down to the river to look for his little brother. He found him sitting on a rock, his feet dangling in the water. Fred yelled for him to come home, but he didn't seem to hear him. Fred went over and nudged him in the arm. He screamed and fell off the rock into the river. Fred just laughed.
It's just as bad, isn't it? And with both characters being male, you can't even use pronouns all the time to avoid repeating the name.
A little variety makes all the difference. Instead of just using description of action, try mixing in a little internalization, setting, mood, dialog, and reorganizing the sentence structures.
Where was that kid? Fred ran down to the river, scanning the bank where Georgie liked to play. A flash of a red Elmo t-shirt caught his eye and he veered toward it.
"Georgie! Time for dinner."