As a critique partner, one of our jobs is to mark the sentences or phrases that stop us in our tracks and pull us out of the story. In most cases, those are big No-No’s that should be stricken from the manuscript.
As a reader and aspiring author, I strongly believe it’s still important to highlight sentences that stop you in your tracks, but they should be the ones that you appreciate for their wit, humor, how they intrigued you to read more, or how they described something perfectly. Be sure to log them into a journal, a note pad, or scratch paper that you can look at after you’ve gathered 10 or so. My suggestion would be to gather them from different sources, at least 3 or 4 different books.
Simply because once you look at that list again, you’ll start to see a pattern. You should be able to pick out what precisely attracted your attention. It could be the cadence of the sentence, the use of metaphor or simile; whatever it was that gave you pause.
Create writing exercises based on those phrases. Describe a character in a similar manner, but with your own voice to it. Start a chapter using the same type of sentence cadence. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you copy anyone. I’m saying that by recognizing what you like about other author’s voice, you can refine your own.
Here are examples of a few that I grabbed:
- Now that… was a cure for constipation
- She has Little Sister Radar. She knows exactly when I’m busy, and that’s when she pounces.
- Poor Reeves. She looked as comfortable as if she was standing naked in front of her history class giving a report on the Salem Witch Trials using her own body as a visual aid to all of the tortures.
- …understanding took root and grew limbs…
- The sharpness of my sympathy almost cut my heart into shreds
- He said that we needed to get to know each other better, so he started to throw out details as if they were bullets…and I was the target.
- The virus was a knife to my face, carving away at my cheeks, sharpening my chin, thinning my nose.
- I didn’t need him to buy my lies. I just needed him to rent them for a while.
Can you see a pattern to what I’ve picked out? Even if you don’t, that’s ok, I do. ; ) Now start your own list!