Nothing perks up a piece of prose – and a writer – more than playing around with sentence structures.
A fun exercise I especially enjoy is to take a sentence that feels totally alien and try to write my own sentence in exactly that same style. Why? To surprise myself. To kick myself out of my same old same old ho-hum sentence habits. To discover new rhythms.
“I’m playing with words” Virginia Woolf
Write THREE sentences in each of the following structures:
- prozeugma*: the meaning of the verb in a first clause is carried over and understood in the following clauses. You can keep it archaic or give it a contemporary twist. Surprise yourself!
Her beauty pierced mine eye, her speech mine woeful heart, her presence all the powers of my discourse. (Puttenham)*
- hypozeugma: a series of words or phrases all depend on the last verb or clause.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. (Shakespeare)*
- mesozeugma: the verb in the middle of the sentence controls all the subjects. This can be particularly fun to play with – full of surprises
First the door locked, and then his jaw.*
If you’ve more time to play, pick your favorite sentence and keep writing.
My ‘Rule of Three’
Why do I suggest writing THREE sentences for each example? As a teacher of creative movement, I notice that while the first attempt to ‘solve’ a creative problem often produces amazing ideas, it is on the third (or later) try that something really different emerges. Try it and see what you think. Let me know.
* Please note: the terms and examples I use come from Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric. A wonderful word toybox! You’ll find plenty more examples and explanations there.
Hope you enjoy this challenge as much as I do!