The Three Magical Methods
by Deborah Owen
Have you felt your heart pound with fear during horror movies? Have you throbbed with passion during a love scene? Were you nervous when the slasher was about to knife a woman in the shower? That’s because the writer of the book or movie was controlling you. You can control your readers like that, too. You can control their heartbeat, and even the speed at which they read.
You may ask why you would want to control their reading speed. The answer is that fast scenes pull the reader into the action, but unending fast scenes exhilarate the reader’s emotions and tire them. The reader has a need for slow scenes to rest them mentally and emotionally. During the slow scenes they will reassess the anxiety of the previous scene and reflect back on the theme.
Let’s look at some samples of how you can control the reader’s speed:
“We bounced up the stairs two at a time, slipped into my room unnoticed, and closed the door without making a sound.”
- That sentence is fast because it has alliteration. (Alliteration is the succeeding sound of the same letter, or sounds that appear to be the same letter.) Note the words “bounced”, “stairs”, “slipped”, “unnoticed”, “closed” and “sound”. All have the S sound. Also notice the T alliteration in “stairs”, “two”, “at”, “time”, “into”, and “unnoticed”. (Note: The words “bounced” and “slipped” have a T sound in the -ed, but no T is there.) This is double alliteration, and it increases the speed even more.
- Another way to speed up a scene is with action verbs, such as: “The roller coaster zipped and whirled at lightening speed,” or “The skater swished by in a rush.”
- One way to slow a scene is by using words with Ws and Ls, like this:
“Katy wrinkled her nose and rolled over on her pillow.”
Here’s another slow one:
“A little lady watched from the crowd, and glanced momentarily at her watch.”
Note the four Ls in the last sentence and the three Ws. That’s double alliteration, so it should make the sentence flow fast, right? Not in this case. The lulling sounds of the Ws and Ls overpower the alliteration to make it a slow sentence.
Let’s look at this sentence again, and apply what we know at this point:
“The roller coaster zipped and whirled at lightening speed.”
This sentence has one W and four Ls, but it’s a fast sentence in spite of that. Why? Just as the Ws and Ls can overpower alliteration, soothing words with Ws and Ls must submit to high action words. When you write your own blogs, articles or stories, these are the skills you must learn.
- Alliteration speeds up a sentence.
- Normally, the use of Ws and Ls will slow down the reading of a sentence, especially when the two letters are used together
- The slowing technique of Ws and Ls will override the speed of alliteration and will slow the sentence if the two techniques are used together
- When action words are present in a sentence using Ws and Ls, the action words will prevail and will speed up the reading
Pick up a book and analyze some sentences for structure and speed. Write a 500-word story and practice using sentences that will speed readers up and slow them down.
What tips and tricks do you use in your writing? Share them with us. (And don’t forget to “like” our page, please.)
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