How to Write a Concise, Powerful Sentence

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Someone on Quora asked, “How can you learn to write a sentence in a concise form that will include an emotional hook?

It’s a clumsy question, but its intent was clear. They wanted to write with greater power. They wanted their writing to be more pointed, on target and direct. They wanted to write prose that punched you in the face.

Here’s how I answered.

There was a page in Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time (Hem’s first book of short stories) that was so powerful, so emotionally charged, that I read the page ten times in a row to try to understand how he did it. I felt like a little kid watching a magician pull rabbits out of a hat right in front of my face. My mind was struggling to comprehend, how there could be so much tension in this scene (the story was “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife”) when in point of fact there were no words that said, “He was so pissed” or “He was furious.” Yet you could feel the fury, feel the emotional tension. You felt that at any moment this guy was going to explode and someone was going to get killed.

SO, MY RECOMMENDATION is to read Hemingway’s In Our Time two or three times in a row. Pick a story that makes you moves you emotionally, then analyze it.

20+ years ago I assembled a page of quotes for writers on my original website that is still full of helpful advice. You can read it here: Quotes for writers

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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