What’s This All About?
The power of where you put your words.
Why Bother With This?
The basic premise is that you can squeeze a little more emotional impact into your words by just putting them into key positions in a sentence or on a page.
It adds that extra oomph in your work that people may like, but may not consciously be aware of. It can never hurt to give your manuscript more emotional punch. However, power positions can also give your work resonance so that a reader is left with a lingering impression long after they put your work down.
How Does This Dang Contraption Work?
Well first let’s look at where power positions generally are courtesy of Elizabeth Lyon:
- The first and last words (anywhere)
- The first and last sentences.
- The first and last paragraphs (in sections or in chapter)
- The first and last pages (in chapters, short stories, and novels)
- The first and last chapters (in a novel)
Me First: The First Position
The First Position is the hook position, as in it has the power to draw readers in. To get the most bang out of your words, don’t squander it on empty ones like “There was”, “It”, “A”, “The”, and similar words. Too many of those can be repetitive and boring. Instead, the first position is more ideal for the big idea word.
Example a recent project:
Petals of red, orange, and yellow curled back to drink in the rays of the post-dawn sun like the paws of a cat at rest.
Here the petals are the focus of the sentence so they are pushed to the front. I could’ve started with the colors. Or I could started with the sun. Or an article like “the”. But if I had, it would take away from the effect I was going for and ruined the impact. This is the type of thing that you may want to think about when you’re writing.
The Last Of Us: The Last Position In A Sentence
The Last Position, I feel is at times more important than the first because it has two purposes: to clinch the meaning of the sentence or paragraph and to create suspense and curiosity that leads into the next hook.
I pay a lot more attention to the last positions of sentences than the first positions of sentences because creating that lasting impression in a chapter, sentence, or the end of a whole novel is crucial. This is the last chance you get to make on a reader, so again, you don’t want to waste it on little empty words.
Here’s another example:
Beneath their sandals, the sands stirred in silence.
Here we have silence in the last position. Meaning that the lasting impression that the reader is of total quiet. It ties up the sentence but also leaves it on a suspenseful note. Not every sentence ending can realistically leave a sentence with tension, but if you can your work will be all the more powerful for it.
One Word Sentences and Fragments
These are admittedly one of my favorites to use for impact. Short fragments and incomplete fragments, when used cleverly, force the reader to stop on every word. Their briefness drives up the pace, making them ideal for action scenes. Or dialogue such as below:
Also bear in mind that they are much easier for a reader to digest than a long winding sentence. They are visual relief for our eyes. For this reason, we tend not to skip dialogue, action scenes, or short paragraphs. In addition, with less words on the page, the more likely your word is to be in a power position.
And in a one word sentence, a word occupies both the first and last position which means it has twice the power. Do not waste the opportunity on weak words.