This week we are going to get very, very practical. I’d like to talk about a mistake creative writers make all the time. Every time they sit down to work. It is a mistake I am finding throughout my current manuscript and one I am actively editing for every day.
A character has fallen and scraped himself badly. Here is the sentence.
Blood rose in thin slivers, reddening the stinging rash on my side.
As a reader you might read that and not find anything wrong with it. The case is easily made that there isn’t anything wrong with it. It is visceral enough and gives a good image. But wait, here is the sentence again.
The stinging rash on my side reddened, blood rising in thin slivers.
Now the sentence pops, right? The image is no longer good but great. That is because there is a part of this sentence that is called the penultimate phrase – blood rising in thin slivers. In order to give the reader the best experience possible, you should always strive to end the sentence with the penultimate phrase, the most surprising detail.
Start re-reading your favorite sentences. Start messing around with the placement of the phrases. See the power drain out of them? That is why they all give you the penultimate phrase last. It’s not magic, it’s craft.