Variations are good

Warehouse 13

My sweetheart and I watched Warehouse 13 again. You know, the show. You haven’t seen it yet? Man, it’s a must for sci-fi fans. Anyway, that’s not the point. When we watched the last episode of the last season, I realized I had bought a Warehouse 13 e-book at some point, and it’s been sitting in my Kindle library ever since. It was time to read it!

It seems to create the atmosphere of the series well, and the characters are nicely recognizable from the show. The artifacts around which the plot of the book revolves also fit among those that are collected and put on the shelf in the TV show.

However, there is something I noticed.

It was not obvious at first. The second time I saw it as a stylistic literary device. The third time, it was looking suspicious. After the third time, it had become boring, even a little annoying.

It is that the descriptions are always the same. Always. Every single time. I mean, they describe different things, but they feel the same. The author uses the same sentences: subject, predicate, maybe place, maybe an adverb. He describes things in the same style every single time.

Here’s an example, a quote from the book:

“She continued on her way, exchanging more greetings with old friends and neighbours. Old Mrs. Lozenko was out walking her dog. Dr. Stevens, the dentist, was picking up his dry cleaning. The Brubaker twins were racing their bikes on the sidewalk. Claire and Janice, who ran the coffee shop, were pushing a baby stroller. Deputy Joe was checking the parking meters. Dave, the UPS guy, was dropping off a package at the thrift store. Crazy Vic was sleeping it off on the bench. Leena smiled at them all. She petted the dog.”

You see what I mean?

B-o-r-i-n-g!

At least for a while. Then it gets annoying. I think it’s just laziness by the writer. Let’s see what would have happened if he had varied the length of the sentences!

“She continued on his way, exchanging more greetings with old friends and neighbors. The elderly Mrs. Lozenko came by, walking her dog. Leena smiled at the lady, and scratched Spykie by her ear, which was rewarded with a satisfied, joyful bark. Dr. Stevens trotted out of the dry cleaners, carrying the distinctive smell of cleaning detergents, his suit wrapped in nylon on his arm. He waved before climbing into his Buick, which was shining immaculately, as always. A suspicious noise came from behind Leena. She spun around. The Brubacker twins sped down the pavement on their bikes at a frantic pace, ringing their bells wildly to alarm passers-by. By the time Leena called after them to be careful, they were three shops away. Leena heard someone calling her by name. Claire and Janice, who ran the Coffee Time café, waved from across the street. Claire pushed a baby stroller, and Leena could see the little Audrey’s tiny pink-socked feet kicking. Cute baby. Moving on, she ran into Joe, the deputy chief of police, grunting under his thick moustache as he checked the parking meters. Leena said hello, and the reply could be taken as a good afternoon. Joe spotted Dave, the UPS guy, walking with long strides, a package under his arm, toward the thrift store. Joe followed him with narrowed eyes until he disappeared into the entrance, then returned to his parking meters and his growling. Leena’s path led past the park, as always. What was that pile on one bench? Ah, just Vic, who everyone referred to as Crazy Vic. He was probably just sleeping off his drunkenness.”

Doesn’t that make the picture more vivid? The variation in the length of sentences adds a lot to the text.

In fact, I’ve done more than play with sentence length. I have added little details, seemingly insignificant little things, which not only add colour to the scene but also help to shape the side characters.

Actually, there is a third thing: known in writing circles as “show, don’t tell”. Isn’t it more illustrative if, instead of “Dr. Stevens, the dentist, was picking up his dry cleaning.” we read, “Dr. Stevens trotted out of the dry cleaners, carrying the distinctive smell of cleaning detergents, his suit wrapped in nylon on his arm. He waved before climbing into his Buick, which was shining immaculately, as always.” Instead of telling what happens, I show the event so the reader can better visualize it.

So, I want you to promise not to bore the reader by making your sentences the same length all the time!

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