BAH-da-da-DAHHhhh! BAH-da-da-DAHHHhhhh! BAH-da-da-DAHHHhhhh, BAH-da-da-DAHHHhhhh, BAH-da-da-DAHHHhhhh! Even if you’re not a classical music fan, you know the iconic opening from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. Ludwig van Beethoven is the ultimate pin-up boy for one of the most important of all creative techniques: dynamics.
Dynamics is the use of unexpected juxtapositions. It generates the kind of excitement and energy that only variety and the unexpected can impart. The 5th is famous for its juxtapositions of loud and soft. But dynamics also means juxtaposing long and short, fast and slow. Without it, music can put an audience into a coma.
And so can writing. Here are a few dynamic juxtapositions you can use to keep your writing unpredictable and exciting:
- Focus on one thing per sentence. Don’t cram multiple descriptions into a single sentence: “Gouty, aching Sir Reginald trundled down the circuitous, weed-choked footpath en route to the ancient, crumbling wreck that was once the proud stately mansion built by his great-grandfather the Duke of Frickenham.” Break it up, please! “Gouty, aching Sir Reginal groaned as he set forth on the path. It was choked with weeds and toe-catching roots. But at the end—if he made it all the way—he would find the treasure he’d sought all these years: the unsurpassable mansion built by his great-grandfather, the Duke of Frickenham. The legendary estate would be his!”
- Watch out for redundant word usage. Grammatically incorrect? No. Coma-inducing? Yes! “Dick Morehouse stopped at his house for more food. He’d stopped here before for food, so he knew more food could be found here. But where was the food in the house housed?” Most redundancies are more subtle than this, but if you look for them, like ants in the pantry, you’ll find them!
- Use a mix of short and long sentences. Nothing will put your reader into a stupor faster than strings of sentences of the same length. But don’t be random about it, think character and situation: “Jenny ran! Faster than she’d ever run before, faster than she’d ever thought possible. “Adrenalin? Good,” she thought, “because right now I need all the chemical superpower I can get!” Her feet burned as if they were on fire, but the alternative was unthinkable. Except that now she was thinking about it, about what the man with the butcher knife would do if he caught her, and as she did the fire vanished and her feet turned to turbines. Damn the pain! She was the Flash, she was Thor, she was Wonder Woman, she was Ripley facing the Alien, she was…on the edge of a cliff!”
Make it dynamic!
Just for fun: