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Sentence Modeling with the Masters

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Sentence Modeling with the Masters

Stamp of Mark Twain
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You can learn a lot about writing by studying the work of your favorite authors, journalists, and bloggers. When you come across a sentence you especially like, try writing your own sentence in the same pattern. This process is called "sentence modeling."

  1. Find a sentence that you especially like.
  2. Master: Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.
    —Anne Lamott, from Bird by Bird

  3. Select a subject for your writing.
  4. Subject: Music

  5. Follow the author's pattern as you write about your own subject.
  6. Model: Music is the voice of the dreamer, the language of the heart.

  7. Build your sentence one small section at a time.
  8. Master: The old house was the same, droopy and sick, but as we stared down the street we thought we saw an inside shutter move. Flick.
    —Harper Lee, from To Kill a Mockingbird

    Model: The old baseball diamond looked as it had for years, beaten and brown, but each time we took that field we felt a familiar feeling. Joy.

Use sentence modeling to experiment with style, but don't overdo it. You don't want to adopt someone else's style completely.

Your Turn Model the following sentences using topics of your own choosing.

  1. Grown-ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets.
    —Roald Dahl, from Danny, the Champion of the World
  2. He goes out onto his baseball field, spins around second base, and looks back at the academy.
    —John McPhee from The Headmaster
  3. Mistakes, mistakes, it's all I seem capable of at times.
    —Markus Zusak, from The Book Thief
  4. Jeff couldn’t see the musician clearly, just a figure on a chair on the stage, holding what looked like a misshapen guitar.
    —Cynthia Voigt from A Solitary Blue
  5. Good books, good friends, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
    —Mark Twain from Life on the Mississippi

From page 105 in Writers Express

From the blog post "Sentence Modeling"

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