I’m enjoying noticing the variety of lengths of sentences in many things I read. When I’m writing, I like to think of them as “Bond laughed” sentences. That’s because years ago, when the James Bond film “The Living Daylights” (known to my friends and family as “the one with the girl cellist in it”) came out, I kept reading that star Timothy Dalton was taking the movies back to what Ian Fleming’s stories had been.
The more I read that, the more I went to the library and looked for some of Fleming’s books. (It was easy — the movies at that point used the titles of the books.) In many difficult situations, Fleming wrote long, sweeping descriptions of the villain’s lair, the difficult plan he was enacting, and the horrible things James Bond was going to have to endure to get out of the trap.
Then there was another sentence: “Bond laughed.” Sometimes the next sentence described just what the laugh sounded like and how it helped 007 get his mind straight to outdo his opponent.
When I’m working on editing my novel, a post, or even a job application, I try to remember the impact of changing from a long description to that two-word, noun-verb sentence. It is a jolt I enjoy causing as much as I enjoy reading it.
I’m finding some of these short sentences in yet another of the books from my dad’s collection, Thomas Levenson’s “Einstein in Berlin.” It’s as much a study of the city as of the man, with his work explained in the context of what was happening in the city in the early years of the 20th century.
Now and then, Levenson describes what Einstein thought of a particular person or policy. After a long description of what a friendship was like, I’m likely to find “He was wrong.” (That’s a startling sentence in itself when it comes to Albert Einstein.) After several long sentences describing a theory — Einstein’s or someone else’s — I’ve found “It worked.” It’s a funny feeling, thinking of the post-World War II adventures of agent 007 when I’m reading a history with Albert Einstein as the main subject.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s lost a bit of the ability to watch for people’s reactions in this era of phone calls and Zoom conferences. But I do have to talk to people at times, and I’m getting back to more of it now that my home church has reopened. So I am trying to listen to my answers and watch reactions to get back in practice.
If someone says “May I ask you a question?,” I may just try “You did.” At least it gets a reaction quickly, the better to speed up my practice.
I love good details as much as the next person, if not more. But sometimes, a change of pace and fewer details brighten things up. Try it.