What a terrific writers’ workshop: Mary-Jane Holmes on “Creating Powerful Prose” for GWG, the Geneva Writers’ Group, held on 19 October 2019 at the Geneva Press Club!Did you know that at a microlevel you can control your reader? That sentence structure can create magic in your writing? That syntax is to be used as a strategy? That grammar can convey extra meaning?We learnt, of course, about compression, concision and brevity. About the perfect word as the key to economy. About the vital elements of conflict, character, specificity, credibility.But did you know you can mark time with consonants? That syntax can create the tactile sensation of a precise moment? Instill motion into the fabric of your sentence?Under Mary-Jane’s magical wand grammar morphed from a thingamajig of necessity into a breathing, wriggly creature alive with possibilities to help the writer achieve the desired effect:Mimicry! Positioning of words and images. Using sentence length to convey drama or emotion. Tone and pitch. Alliteration and assonance. Flow and pace and pulse. Sound and musicality.Mary-Jane led us through a treasure trove of tools to convey intended meaning, feeling, momentum: alter the reader’s pulse.It was exhilarating to take a close look at multiple striking examples, from E.M. Forster, Hemingway, James Joyce to, among others, Tim O’Brien, James Thurber and Virginia Woolf. Try our hand, writing, e. g., a ten-minute-long single sentence.The photo shows us hunched over our notebooks frantically scribbling, or listening with upturned faces, in a state of rapt attention, with Mary-Jane – garlanded for a moment by the United Nations’ and the City-of-Geneva flags – laying out the importance of syntactic symbolism.Synchronous thunder rumbled its approval. Mary-Jane said: “Sentences must quiver in the light like leaves, distinct in their similarity.”May then the autumns leaves, turning golden around us, convey our joyous appreciation to Mary-Jane for a day of initiation into the art of Creating Powerful Prose, a day filled with learning and wonder!

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