September 14, 2011

Sentence Construction

Posted in Harmony tagged at 11:15 am by Rebecca Hein

In music, especially in the most beautiful folk tunes, a melody moves from one important note to another, with “passing tones” to get you between them. The main notes are always part of the underlying harmonic structure, and you can feel the music moving from one chord to another. Typically in a simple, beautiful tune there are few passing notes. Just enough to get you to the next important note.

In the best sentences, the important words in that sentence are like the main notes in a melody: they have more weight than the other words, and signal important moments. The words used to get from one important word to another are the “passing words.”

Where writers get tangled up is in the passing words—they use too many, which in turn slows the sentence down, and makes a cumbersome transition from one important word to another. But if you can get your “passing words” few and fleet—taking up as little space as possible in the sentence, then the words flow like a simple, beautiful melody, the sentence is in good proportion, and the reader knows what’s most significant in the narrative.


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