Monday, November 2, 2009

Guest Post: Syntax Part 2 with Brittany Laneaux

Good morning all. Brittany is back with Part 2 of her miniseries on Syntax; click here for Part 1. Also, on her blog today she is discussing varying sentence types. Head over and check it out.

Syntax Part 2
So last time we saw that the structure of the sentence can dramatically change the meaning and implications of a story. This time we will see how syntax can be used to physically illustrate a point in the story that you want to convey. Form imitating Meaning…

Here is an example from The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner:

I slowed still more, my shadow pacing me, dragging its head through the weeds that hid the fence.

Faulkner uses the commas and the diction to slow the sentence down and emphasize the meaning. The character moves slowly and so does the sentence. How different would it be if Faulkner wrote “I slowed more still. My shadow was pacing me. It dragged its head through the weeds that hid the fence.” The syntax of this group of sentences does the exact opposite. It suggests anxiety and gives off a nervous feeling. Faulkner’s purpose was not to make the reader feel nervous, but rather sluggish, weighed down, and cautious. Your eyes should be dragging across the sentence in the same way that the shadow drags through the weeds.

Have you been able to include any sentences in your current WIP where form imitates meaning?


  1. I love this series you are doing! It stops and makes me think if there is a better way of getting my characters meaning across. Syntax is proving to be a valuable tool.

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  2. Thank you thank you. I'm enjoying Brittany's post as well. I'm heading over to your blog to check it our. Thanks so much.

  3. Awesome example sentence Britt, really freakin' cool, now I may have to pick up Faulkner.

  4. Great example! I hope to have some of this in my writing. I'm working on it.

  5. Loved that sentence. It really gets the point across thanx!!!

  6. It is an interesting skill set to know things like this. It is interesting reading .... not for my application but seeing how words can work for life in general.

  7. Sentence structure. It's not my focus, but I'd like to pay more attention to it. One thing at a time, you know!