While diction determines word choice, syntax determines where the words are placed. Language without syntax are words strung together with no method to the madness–in other words, nonsense. Our normal syntax mimics what we have heard before. Unique syntax requires mixing up that order without creating nonsense.
Do you recall Yoda’s distinctive style of speaking in the Star Wars movie series? Simply take the predicate object or predicate adjective at the end of a sentence and move it to the front. Voila–Yoda speak. “But what is a predicate object and predicate adjective?” you ask mystified. Basically it is everything in a normal syntax that follows after the verb.
Learning how to use syntax to create a unique voice requires a fundamental knowledge of grammar. I recall creating lengthy diagrams parsing complex sentences in my junior high days. But, diagramming went out of vogue (probably due to lack of time) just like junior high schools did (due to lack of space). However, diagramming is still a good multi-sensory technique to learn how syntax relates to meaning.
Choosing unexpected types of sentence is another way to play with syntax. Most languages contain the following types: those that make a statement (declarative), those that ask a question (interrogative), those that command an action (imperative), and those that scream in your face (exclamatory). Beware, the syntax of different types of sentences can be the same. “You are writing a book” fits into any of those categories depending on how it is delivered. The correct punctuation is crucial in this case.
Constantly using exclamations will give your writing a steady screaming voice. Readers will realize you are “crying wolf” most of the time. But what effect does constant use of questions have? Have you ever attempted to have a conversation speaking only in questions? Did it quickly disintegrate into an accusatory exchange? Will that “bad attitude” remain if you try to write a conversation in that same way? Why don’t you try it and find out?
If your writing suffers from phrases that you have heard a thousand times before, try playing with syntax. Change the statement by rearranging the words. Place the predicate object (or predicate adjective) anywhere but at the end of the sentence. Rather than reiterating the obvious, ask a question. Play with a repetition for a poetic effect. Just avoid saying the same thing you have said a thousand times before!
Photo by Pollack man34 CC. by 3.0
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Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:
So what does Yoda have to do with creating the writer’s voice?