can just imagine this guy typing away, hammering out a story for a radio program. He’s got an idea, it’s pretty sharp, it’s got a nice angle. All he needs is a hook. He thinks of something clever, clatters it out, looks over the roller, squinting through his cigarette smoke at what he’s knocked out. Three simple sentences.
Yeah, a good start. Reads fine.
Without looking back, he continues his story.
But something that reads fine might not sound fine. For it was that third sentence which, listening while doing a work-place audit some fifty years later, gave me pause.
As I write, there are only two of us left.
Okay, do you see it? No? Read it aloud. Now?
If you want, play with it a bit. Otherwise, here comes the spoilers.
There are two words in there, both distinctively the end of their sentence sections, “write” and “left”. Maybe your ear didn’t pick it up but mine sure did. “Write” sounds like “right” and suddenly you have a spoken sentence containing jarring opposites. Right and Left. And it’s just enough that your dramatic opener is more of a distraction than a hook.
You might night agree with what I’m saying here, but still – when you are writing, you need to at least be aware that written is not all that far off from spoken (especially now, with all the books-on-tape being produced). It’s tiny things like this that throw the reader, breaking them out of your imaginary setting, making them frown and blink and say “huh?”. Always keep this angle in mind while writing, that sentences should look and sound correctly, and that words (even ones in adjacent sentences) can clash, breaking your mood.
Keep that short thought in mind while writing your long book.
(Oh, and if you’d like to hear it for yourself, here’s the radio play, in full)