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Archive for March, 2010

Inspirational Writing

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

For the at least the 12th time, I am reading Anne Frank’s Diary. For some reason, the first time I read this work, I fell instantly in love with her writing style.

This young girl, who died at 15, left behind the one of the only first hand accounts of the experience of the Jews during World War Two. From her, we learn of the hardships that families faced while trying to save themselves.
She wrote as though she was addressing a dear and near friend. She calls her journal “Kitty” and treats Kitty as her best friend. Anne also writes in the first person and does it successfully.

I have seen very few writers, many who have been writing for years, accomplish writing in the first person without losing the interest of their audience.

Granted Anne’s diary was not one that was meant to have an audience. At first Anne was writing for herself. Later she switched to writing for a potential audience, but the reader would never know the difference.

Her ability to draw her readers into her world seems to be tied to her ability to make her reader feel like they are her best friend and that she is actually carrying on a conversation with them. I think that more writers need to take note of Anne’s style and write as though they are telling a long, oral story to their friends and worry less about grammar, spelling, etc.

Just get your story out and worry about the fine details later. Don’t spend hours dwelling on names, character descriptions and the like. Worry more about telling your story. You can name your characters later. The actions your characters take and the things they say may be able to help you decide on a name for them after the story has been going for a while.

I am slowly working on writing a personal story about a little known pain condition that I have struggled with for the past 10 years. I am currently writing in the first person and I know that this first attempt will fail to capture the intended audience. Perhaps I will take a page out of Anne’s book, so to speak, and try to write in a more interesting way. I want my readers to feel as though they have found a new friend, a source of comfort as they find a person who can truly relate to them, as Anne does with her audience.

Most Paragraph Rules are Wrong for Stories

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Many English teachers teach their students to write paragraphs the same way:  use 5-8 sentences, and always lead with a topic sentence.

The technique works, but it’s wrong.  At least, it’s not quite right.  It also leads to many boring essays and stories.

From time to time, I’m asked if you can have a one sentence paragraph.

Of course you can.

In fact, you can have one word paragraphs.  Who says so?


The real trick to writing a good paragraph isn’t whether you follow a template.  It’s whether you can write paragraphs that are cohesive, coherent, and clear.

Here are the rules you should follow:

1. Each paragraph should focus on one topic

Finding good places to separate your paragraphs can be difficult.  However, there are some things you can do.

One trick I use is to identify when I need a new paragraph is to determine when I’m talking about more than one topic.  If there’s more than one topic, I split a paragraph apart.  Generally, this means my paragraphs are 2-4 sentences long, not 6-8 sentences.

2.  Shorter is better

People don’t like to read long paragraphs.  It’s hard to read, and big blocks of text are intimidating to a reader.

Instead, keep your paragraphs short, especially for long stories or content written for the Internet.  Making your work easy to read is the first step to getting your message across quickly.

3. Vary paragraph length

Most people already know to vary their sentence length to make their paragraphs more interesting.  However, many also don’t think about varying their paragraph length.

A one-sentence paragraph between two longer ones makes a bigger impact.  Especially if you can summarize the impact in a few words.

Short paragraphs work.

See how simple the above paragraph is?  This technique can be effective in improving the impact of stories, persuasive essays, or even just a letter to a colleague.  Summarize your impact in as few words as possible, and surround it with text that explains it further.

Simple concept.  Big impact.

Using these tips will help you write more engaging material for your readers.  Experiment with these ideas, and see how they can help you write more effectively.

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