Compound Sentences

And Their Arch Nemesis, the Comma Splice

Have you ever had such a great idea that you just couldn’t stop raving about it? The words come pouring out of your mouth, with your voice barely able to keep up with your brain. The excitement bubbles up, and you couldn’t stop the verbal outpour even if you wanted to. Yeah, that’s a good feeling. That’s kind of how compound sentences work. You’ve got this one sentence that’s so great, and you know what would make it even better? Yes! A second sentence!

Okay, maybe there’s a little more to a compound sentence than just two sentences smashed together. Let’s explore these sentence structures a little more thoroughly. Here’s a fancy-shmancy definition of a compound sentence structure:

A compound sentence is a combination of two independent clauses, both of which focus on the same idea or topic. Each independent clause contains its own subject and predicate, and they’re usually joined by a coordinating conjunction. There are no dependent clauses within this sentence structure.

Whoa. That’s a lot of terminology. Don’t be intimidated, though! We can work through this together.

 

The Building Blocks of Compound Sentences

First, it’s important to know what an independent clause is. Basically, she’s a strong, independent clause who don’t need no man… Oh, wait. That’s not right. Let’s try that again.

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as its own complete sentence. But, it’s not your average group of words. There’s a specific type of words that need to show up in every independent clause. That’s where the subject and predicate come in. A subject is the noun of the sentence (who, or what, the sentence is all about), and the predicate is what the subject does. At its most basic, a predicate is a verb.

What do these independent clauses look like, though? Here are some examples to help you better understand. Pay close attention to the subject and predicate of each:

  • Abby loves her new puppy.
  • The high school football team is undefeated.
  • Write from the Heart Classes has the best writing coaches ever. (*wink wink*)
  • Independent clauses stand alone as complete sentences.

In contrast, a dependent clause is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate, but it doesn’t make a complete sentence. It’s completely dependent on an independent clause to become a complete and grammatically-correct sentence. That’s a lesson for another day, though. Just know that if it’s not an independent clause, it doesn’t belong in a compound sentence.

 

Strategies for Structuring Compound Sentences

Using a Semi-Colon

To turn these independent clauses into a compound sentence, we can use something as simple as a semi-colon. It’s like sentence glue. By placing it between each independent clause, we’ll create a grammatically correct compound sentence. Check out some examples:

  • I perused the pages of my Bible; inspiration soon crept into my consciousness.
  • Soda has a lot of sugar; you should avoid consuming too much.
  • There’s nothing like a fresh notebook and new pen; having them makes me want to write something.
  • I’m getting so old; why can’t time slow down?

Notice that these sentences all have another element from our definition: each independent clause within the compound sentence focuses on the same topic or idea. You wouldn’t want a compound sentence where the clauses weren’t related; that’d be confusing. Keep that in mind as you write.

Using a Coordinating Conjunction and a Comma

Going back to our definition of a compound sentence, there’s also a little something called a coordinating conjunction. That’s a big ol’ name for a group of super small words. Seriously. Each coordinating conjunction is three letters long or less. And, there are only seven of them.

To remember all of our coordinating conjunctions, we can use the acronym, FANBOYS. They’re like fangirls, but they tend to keep their composure around famous singers and bands a little better. Maybe not…

They’re super handy for our compound sentences, though! Here’s a breakdown of our coordinating conjunctions:

F – For
A – And
N – Nor
B – But
O – Or
Y – Yet
S – So

Yep. That’s all of ’em.

But, how do these help us create compound sentences? Think of them like the zipper on a backpack, keeping everything from falling out behind you. And what is a zipper without that little tabby-thing to grab and pull? You’d never get that zipper opened or closed without it, just like you can’t have a compound sentence without a comma. When you write out your compound sentence, that comma needs to follow directly after the first independent clause. Then comes the coordinating conjunction, followed by the second independent clause. It’s like a sentence structure conga line (da-da, da-da, da-DA!)

Here are some examples of compound sentences using those coordinating conjunctions:

  • I filled the blender with fruit, and I watched as the blade pulverized it into a smoothie.
  • I woke up late, but I still managed to catch my bus to school.
  • You can read a book, or you can work on your science homework.

Compound sentences… they’re a thing of beauty, aren’t they?

 

Comma Splices: One of Grammar’s Greatest Enemies

We love commas. They’re so handy! We can use them to separate clauses in complex sentence, to insert an appositive or an interjection, or even to indicate a natural pause where we can take a breath while we read. They’re like little superheroes of the sentence structure world. But, sometimes heroes fall. And they become not-so-hero-ish.

Imagine you’re writing a compound sentence, and you decide to split up those independent clauses using a comma. But, if you forget to add in a coordinating conjunction, you get something like this:

Commas are a great tool, you shouldn’t use them to separate two independent clauses.

In that sentence, we’ve got two independent clauses:

  1. Commas are a great tool.
  2. You shouldn’t use them to separate two independent clauses.

But, we don’t have a coordinating conjunction. We’re missing a major component of our sentence structure conga line!

To make that sentence correct, we’ve got to add in one of our FANBOYS:

Commas are a great tool, but you shouldn’t use them to separate two independent clauses.

Those coordinating conjunctions help Super Comma complete its task of separating those two independent clauses correctly; make sure you don’t leave it out.

 

Want to Practice Your Skills?

Here are a few sentences that contain commas, but some of them need a coordinating conjunction! Find the sentences with two independent clauses, and add in a coordinating conjunction to make them correct.

 

  1. Chocolate is my favorite, I’ll eat vanilla if that’s the only option.
  2. Before we went to the store, we ate a huge breakfast.
  3. I enjoy writing fictional stories, I’m good at academic essays.
  4. Watching too much TV will rot your brain, you should read a book instead.
  5. Although the hero was good at his job, he longed for a normal family.

 

Answers: #1, 3, and 4 all contained comma splices.

 

 

 

 

 Author: Stephanie Constantino

Mrs. Constantino - Compound SentencesMrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style. If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, send an email to inquiry@writefromtheheartclasses.com.

Determining an Audience for your Essay

What is an Audience?

An audience is anyone who will read your essay. A target audience is the person or group of people you’d like to read your essay.

Why do I Need to Determine an Audience for my Essay?

You might think to yourself, “Only my parents will read this,” or “My teacher will be the only one who ever looks at this.” Why should you care about identifying an audience? Whether or not you’ve consciously thought about it, you’ve always been speaking and writing for a specific group of people.

Think about this: would you talk the same way in an interview as you would in a text message? Do you speak to your teachers differently from how you’d talk to your siblings? Are you going to speak differently when giving a public speech from just chatting with a neighbor? Chances are, the answer is “yes.” But, what’s the difference?

It’s the audience. Who you’re speaking to matters, as well as when you’re writing. However, not every piece of writing can be written for everyone. By nailing down a target audience, you can figure out what kind of purpose, format, and tone would be most appropriate.

Audience: Once Upon a Time...

Where Should I Start?

To narrow down your target audience, use the following questions to help you out:

 

Is this writing for…

  • … young children?
  • … peers?
  • … adults?
  • … males?
  • … females?

Am I creating an argument…

  • … for or against something?
  • … on the same side as my audience?
  • … on the opposing side of my audience?

Is this writing for…

  • … friends and family?
  • … experts?
  • … a person with authority?
  • … someone with no knowledge of the topic?

Do I need to start with an introduction?

  • Could I start with a personal story?
  • Does my opening need to be more formal?
  • Should my text be in first-person or third-person point of view?

What do my targeted readers have in common?

  • Do they have any common interests?
  • What political, social, or religious backgrounds might affect how they perceive my writing?
  • Do they have similar backgrounds?
  • What does my audience know of technical terms I plan to use?
  • Will the audience need explanation or definitions in order to understand my writing?

What kind of format should I use?

  • Essay?
  • Article?
  • Report?
  • Journal?
  • Letter?
  • Email?

Does my writing need…Audience: "Write Like it Matters and It Will."

  • a table of contents?
  • a references page?
  • a title page?
  • page numbers?
  • headings?
  • graphs, charts, or illustrations?

Is this writing for a grade?

  • Have I reviewed the rubric to ensure I know the requirements?
  • Do I completely understand the prompt? Or do I need clarifications on anything?
  • Are any phrases or words too conversational for an academic tone?

Can I have More than One Audience?

It’s completely possible to have more than one audience for the same piece of writing. As you identify them, keep a running list. That way, they are always in front of you as write.

The Finished Product

Once you’ve finished your essay, you may worry that it’s not tailored perfectly for your audience. To check, reread your essay as a reader, not a writer. That way, you can get a little better insight into how effective your essay is. But, how can you read something as someone other than yourself, though?

  1. Try taking a break. By getting some space and time between you and your essay, you can come back to it with a fresh eye for things.
  2. Create a reverse outline. To start, look over your essay, and create an outline based on what you’ve written. Next, ask yourself if the pieces of your essay give the message you were hoping for and if everything is in a logical order.
  3. Read it out loud. That’s right! Don’t be afraid to sound foolish. Reading your essay out loud will let you hear all those awkward phrases, incomplete thoughts, and places where the word choice just isn’t right.

These techniques can help you craft your essay and writing style perfectly to just about any audience you can think of. Think about it this way: the more work you do, the less your audience will have to. That means you’ll have one happy professor on your hands!

 

 

 

Written by Stephanie Constantino

Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coachescheck out our classes here, or contact us.

 

 

 

Expository Essay Thesis Builder

A thesis is perhaps the most important sentence in an entire essay. It introduces the topic, gives your stance, and briefly previews the main topics in an essay. Using the following checklist, you can create the perfect thesis every time:

  • Does it answer the question posed by the writing prompt?
  • Does it introduce your topic?
  • Does it preview your three main points?
  • Does the point preview match the order of the body paragraphs?
  • If you looked at it by itself (with no other writing around it), does it still make sense?

Be sure to ask yourself these questions as you write your thesis. Here is a guide to help you create a perfect thesis for your expository paper:

 

Prompt: Everyone, at some point in life, will experience stress. Stress can actually have a negative effect on your health, so it’s important to manage it effectively. What are three ways to reduce stress in a person’s life?

Topic: Reducing Stress in Your Life

Time to build our thesis! But, where do we start?

First, introduce the topic in a way that answers the prompt: Three ways to reduce stress in a person’s life are…

 

Next, create your three main points.

This is where your brainstorming skills will come in handy. Come up with a number of ideas, and choose your best three!

  1. Meditating
  2. Reading
  3. Exercising
  4. Going on vacation
  5. Playing a game
  6. Talking about the problem
  7. Listening to music.
  8. Asking someone for help.

 

Finally, we’ll connect the dots between the response to the prompt and your top three ideas. To do this, combine it all into one sentence:

Three ways to reduce stress in a person’s life are meditating, exercising, and talking about the problem.

 

Let’s double-check our list of questions to make sure we’re on track with this thesis.

  • Does the thesis answer the question in the prompt? Yes!
  • Does it introduce the topic? Yes!
  • Does it preview the three main points? Yes!
  • When writing the essay, the first paragraph will be about meditating, the second will be about exercising, and the third will be about talking about the problem.
  • Does it make sense by itself? Yes!

Excellent! Our thesis is right on target.

 

It’s Your Turn to Create a Thesis!

Use this blank template to help create the perfect thesis for your next essay.

 

Prompt:

Topic:

First, introduce the topic in a way that answers the prompt:

 

Next, create your three main points:

Finally, combine it all into one sentence:

 

Does it answer the question in the prompt?

Does it introduce the topic?

Does it preview the three main points?

When writing the essay, the first body paragraph will be about ______________, the second paragraph will be about _____________, and the third will be about ___________________.

Does it make sense by itself?

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephanie Constantino
Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coachescheck out our classes here, or contact us.

Coach Interview: Jenny Cowan

Write from the Heart has an amazing staff of coaches who work with the students.  All the coaches are degreed professionals passionate about working with homeschoolers.  Coaches do a lot more at Write from the Heart than grade papers—they’re available daily to help students, discuss homework, facilitate literature discussions, and encourage each student individually through the writing process.  Write from the Heart is an interactive class, and a big part of that is the wonderful coaches.  In this series, we hope that you can get to know our staff even better.

Our next coach in the lineup is the wonderful Mrs. Jenny Cowan. Jenny graduated in 2007 from Cedarville University with a degree in English. In 2014, Jenny began her journey with Write from the Heart as an Intermediate Composition coach, working mostly with 7th and 8th graders. Jenny’s ambition led her to write the curriculum for the Thesis and Expository Essay course offered in our Summer Institute. She now teaches two sessions of this course every summer. Want to know how to write a knockout thesis? She’s your girl!

Currently, Jenny lives in New Jersey with her husband and three beautiful children.

 

Why were you interested in teaching writing?

 

I have loved writing ever since I was a young child, and I always knew that someday I wanted to pursue professional writing. Along the way, there were teachers who recognized and encouraged my love of writing, and it helped me believe in myself and gave me the confidence to pursue writing as I got older.

One teacher, in particular, stands out to me, even twenty years later. My family had moved during the middle of my seventh-grade year, and I started a brand new school. My favorite class was with Mrs. Geesey, who taught reading and writing. One of my first assignments was to write a short story. I was very shy and was having a hard time adjusting to my new school, but I loved writing. Mrs. Geesey noticed my love of writing right away and encouraged me to follow my imagination and use writing to get through this tough time. She helped me figure out the plot line, develop the characters, and refine my story until it was exactly what I wanted. Afterwards, she created a special award, complete with a gold nameplate with my name on it, as having the best short story in the class.

I will never forget the confidence that she gave me, and the extra time she spent with me. Even more, I wanted to teach writing so that I could pass that same encouragement to another student.  I love nothing more than to help my students become the absolute best writers that they can be and to have confidence in their creativity, voice, and ability.

 

What is your favorite part about coaching?

My favorite part of coaching is helping a student to find his or her unique voice as a writer. I especially love working with those students who start off the year thinking, “I’m not a good writer.” Even students who doubt their writing abilities have a distinct, one-of-a-kind perspective on life that no one else has, and I enjoy helping them to discover that perspective and put it into their writing.

One student, in particular, told me he would much prefer being outside on his ranch driving his ATV, to sitting inside and writing for class. I encouraged him to write about what he loved best: his ranch, the outdoors, and his many adventures. Together, we worked on improving his grammar and his writing process so that he could put down his thoughts more logically, and find places to include his creativity in each assignment. He wrote some unforgettable pieces during that school year, and I could almost imagine myself living the ranch life because of how his writing jumped off the page.

After the class ended, I received an email from him, thanking me for all of my help and telling me how much more he now enjoyed writing. It is so rewarding to help a student unlock their own creative voice and learn how to channel that into their writing.

 

What piece of personal writing are you most proud of?

About three years after deciding to be a stay at home mom, I missed the challenge of working in the professional world. I saw a wanted ad in my local newspaper for a reporter to cover local municipal meetings. It was just a few hours a month, and I thought “why not?” I sent in my writing samples, and the editor asked me to also cover the monthly human interest feature. Through this, I got to meet a number of amazing local citizens doing some extraordinary things. This story is one that I wrote early in my newspaper tenure, but it is one that I am most proud of! I received many, many notes of thanks from the people involved with this story after writing it. It’s amazing how

the written word can touch the hearts and lives of so many people.

 

What do you like about teaching online?

When my oldest was born, I made the decision to leave my full-time job and stay at home with her. I never regretted that decision, and yet I found that I also missed working outside the home. Teaching online has given me a way to keep my skills sharp, invest in the lives of students, and yet not sacrifice too much time away from my own children. I like that the schedule of online teaching allows me to work around my responsibilities as a mom.

What do you do with your family that you enjoy the most?

I have three kids, a girl age 6, and two boys ages 4 and 9 months old. My husband and I love doing things outdoors with our kids, but it can be challenging to find activities that work for all of their different ages. This summer we have been doing a lot of bike rides since everyone can participate in that. We have a special bike seat for the baby and a bike trailer my four-year-old. The area where we live has miles and miles of paved bike trails that go through the woods and along the river. We have a lot of fun together!

In a few weeks, we will also be heading to the beach for a family vacation, which is one of our favorite places to go. Our youngest, the baby, has never been to the beach before, and I am curious as to what he will think of it! I suspect he will be putting quite a few fistfuls of sand in his mouth…

 

If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Cowan, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coachescheck out our classes here, or contact us.

Coach Interview: Katie Wolfe

Meet the Coaches Series

Write from the Heart has an amazing staff of coaches who work with the students.  All the coaches are degreed professionals passionate about working with homeschoolers.  Coaches do a lot more at Write from the Heart than grade papers—they are available daily to help students, discuss homework, facilitate literature discussions, and encourage each student individually through the writing process.  Write from the Heart is an interactive class, and a big part of that is the wonderful coaches.  In this series, we hope that you can get to know our staff even better.

First up is Katie Wolfe.  Katie was one of the first Write from the Heart (WFTH) coaches when the program began.  She worked for three years and then took some time off to have two beautiful little girls.  Now that they are school age, she is excited to be able to return to coaching.  This year will mark her second year since her hiatus.  She is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Masters of Education degree in Literacy with Reading Specialist Certification. She and her husband live in western PA with their two little girls and their dog. She also enjoys spending time with her family and serving in the Children’s Ministry at church.

Katie serves as the Basic Composition coach and enjoys working with 6th and 7th graders, especially ones who are reluctant writers. 

Why were you interested in teaching writing?

I have been a lifelong reader, and my interest in writing grew out of my love for reading. During my graduate studies for Reading Specialist certification, I observed a great need in younger students to develop their ideas more fully, organize them correctly, and add personal voice to their writing to make it their own.  I believe reading and writing go hand in hand, and that each improves the other. Great books and writings don’t just magically happen, so I wanted to help younger students unlock their ability to ‘write from the heart’!

What drew you to WFTH?

I appreciated the flexibility that online teaching would give me as a young mother, in addition to the fantastic WFTH curriculum. The WFTH writing curriculum is so comprehensive—even at the Basic level students can begin to develop the important foundations of writing, such as grammar, organization, developing ideas, and using their own voice.  The support system for WFTH is also great for both coaches and students. I always felt connected and encouraged throughout my coaching, and I try to pass that on to my students.

What do you like about teaching online?

One of the most amazing things about teaching online is the ability to interact with students who may live across the country or even on another continent. Several years ago, one of my students lived halfway around the world, and I was able to teach him and see his incredible progress throughout the school year. Knowing that I made a positive impact on someone’s life, even though we were far apart, was amazing to me!

I also like the fact that teaching online allows me to stay at home with my girls and be there to take care of them, help them with their schoolwork, or take them to the playground when my work is done. Online teaching offers me so much flexibility in this season of my life, yet it is very rewarding!

What do you do with your family that you enjoy the most?

I enjoy hands-on activities with my family, whether it is baking, sewing a craft, gardening, or planting flowers. Being outside with my family is definitely one of my favorite things, and we take many day trips to the park, the zoo, the playground, or the community garden.

What do you like about being a mom?

I like watching my girls grow into their own individual selves and being there to encourage them as they grow. Although my girls are young, they each have their own distinct personalities and ideas, and they are very different from one another! However, it is fun to see them use their unique creativity to explore the world  around them. I love watching them discover new things with their boundless curiosity. I guess that is the teacher in me!

 

If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Wolfe, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, check out our classes here, or contact us.

Peer Interaction

The Missing Link in Online Education

You know what’s great about an online class?

The flexibility offered is next to none. There’s no specific time you’ve got to be in a classroom, and you won’t get in trouble for being tardy. Of course, there are due dates for some assignments, but let’s face it: with the sheer number of cute cat videos on YouTube, we need those deadlines to keep us on track.

There’s no commute. That means no traffic, you’re not worried about getting stuck in snow, and you’re not wasting gas and polluting the environment. And who doesn’t like to jump on the chance to reduce their carbon footprint?

Even more, you get the chance to increase your skills with technology, which is a skill you’re going to need in just about any career field. Why not learn to use the same pieces of tech you’ll need as an adult, all while gaining an education? It’s one of those two-birds-with-one-stone kinds of deals.

Online courses also look pretty sweet on your resume. Wait, what? Is that true? Yep. When you show that you can complete an online course successfully, you’re showing that you’re good with time management, you’re chock full of self-discipline, and you’re committed to learning.

Plus, it’s got the whole comfort factor going on. Where else can you get an education while hanging out comfortably in your pajamas? What classroom has a fully-stocked kitchen just a few steps away? Is there any other kind of school where you can snuggle with your cat or dog?  Online classes are just plain cozier.

 

You know what’s NOT so great about an online class?

Yep. You guessed it: there’s little-to-no peer interaction.

But, why does that matter? You’re here to get an education, right? Why should you worry about making friends and connecting with others?

If those questions are running through your mind, let us ask you this question: did you know that peer interaction and friendships are more important during teen years than at any other point in a person’s life?

Yep. It’s not just about learning when you’re a teenager.   Or rather, there are lots of pieces to learning when you’re a teenager—and learning how to interact with your peers is a big part of this phase of life!

 

But there is a better way…

That’s actually one of the greatest things about Write from the Heart Classes. We’ve got what most online courses are missing: the opportunity to meet someone new. And we’ve got it weaved into more than just one aspect of our program.

  • The Online Classroom is unique to the program. Most online writing courses offer one-to-one pairings with a writing tutor, meaning you only get one set of eyes on your paper. But, in our program, we work together. Instead of submitting assignments to an online black hole, everyone posts together. It’s as close as you can get to being in a real classroom without actually being in a classroom.
  • Peer Reviews happen on every paper, and we do them more than once. More than one peer will take a look at every single paper. It’s even been shown in a variety of studies that students will perform at higher levels when they know that another student will read their work. Talk about redefining “peer pressure.”
  • Discussion Boards aren’t just for posting assignments. We’ve got a variety of boards dedicated solely to sharing ideas, random thoughts, and for just plain getting to know everyone. The boards are closely monitored by coaches, as well, meaning that the program stays pretty shenanigan-free.

Yes, our coaches are wonderful. They’re trained, qualified, and skilled in their positions. But, they don’t have the answers to everything. And they can’t be our friends. Peers can, though. And here at WFTH, we love our peers.

And that is what’s so great about our online classes.

 

Written by Stephanie Constantino
Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, check out our classes here, or contact us.

Exploded Moments in Writing

Tick, Tick, Tick… Boom!

You know what’s awesome about movies? Those moments where time slows down to a crawl. The music gets super intense, or there’s a ringing silence filling the air. The actors are moving in slow motion, and there’s usually some broken glass shattering or a bullet ripping through the scene, leaving ripples in its wake. It feels so cool to experience a moment in time where everything’s basically come to a halt.

It’s too bad we can’t do that with writing.

Or, can we?

With a few simple techniques, we can alter the way the reader perceives time, no matter how fast they’re blazing through the text.

This time-altering style of writing is what we like to call an “Exploded Moment.” These moments in writing happen when the author uses a variety of techniques to make the moment drawn out, as if it were happening in slow motion. Not only does it help the reader feel the same level of disorientation the main character is feeling, but it also enables the writer to explore all the minute details: sounds that happen, emotions racing through veins, and visuals that the main character just can’t seem to pull their eyes away from. An exploded moment lets all this happen in just a short space of time, creating that slow-motion effect.

But, how do we do it? Here are just a few ways we might stretch time within our writing:

 

Sensory Details

Think about it: our life is basically one big assault from our five senses. We’re always getting input from our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. And, if we write about them just right, we can take a small moment that, in reality, lasts only a few seconds to create an intense piece of writing. Check out this example:

I watched myself begin this horrible deed.  My hand seemed to suddenly have a will of its own.  I picked up the milk carton.  The spout was already open.  My arm extended over Carol’s head, tipping the carton.  The liquid poured in a slow, steady thick unending stream down through her long blonde hair, soaking the back of her clothes and running onto the floor.  As the milk reached the floor, I shifted the spout slightly to begin another long milk journey down the front of her.  It poured over her forehead, in the eyes, running in rivers down each side of her nose, converging on the chin and splashing into her plate.  Her food was soon awash and the milk poured over the edge and ran into her lap.  And still I poured on—it was too late to stop now.  The rapture of it all.  Oh, sweet revenge. 

(“Sisters,” by Jan Wilson)

Do you see how that took a small moment of tipping a milk carton to the point where it actually leaves the container can become something so much more. The author could’ve easily just written something like, “I poured the milk over my sister’s head.” But, they would’ve missed all those little moments and details within that action. Even more, it helped the reader feel like they’re in that moment, feelings those feelings themselves.

 

Repetition

By using a phrase or sentence again and again, you essentially hit the repeat button on a moment. It’s like a skipping CD, never really moving passed that section of the music. Exploded moments within writing can utilize repetition to create that sense of being stuck in a moment. Here’s an example from a previous Write from the Heart student:

Everything was finishing. Riley hit the ground and felt the life slowly leave her. Slowly departing. 

Everything was ending. In her last moment of consciousness, she thought of Rudy. The early morning sun began to rise, and she thought of how Rudy had deserved to shine like the sun. She thought of how she had robbed him of that by making one fateful decision. If she could go back, if she could change her decision… but, no. It was too late. If she could just think…

Everything was over. Her last burst of consciousness departed, and Riley was left in darkness.

Everything was…

Gone.   

(“Gone,” by Alison S.)

The repetition doesn’t always have to be the exact same throughout the piece. Notice how this writer goes back and forth between three different repetitions. That technique avoids boring the reader with the same phrase again and again, but it still utilizes that repeating strategy to make this moment seem as though it’s moving in slow motion.

 

When Should We Use an Exploded Moment?

Exploded moments are great, and all, but you shouldn’t write an entire novel just exploding moments left and right. Talk about watching your story bomb and fail. Instead, find those areas within your narrative that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • The main character experiences a moment of adrenaline (due to fear, nervousness, happiness, etc.)
  • A specific action in the story needs a lot of emphasis because it’s a turning point or really necessary to catch in order to understand what happens next
  • The narrator is struggling with a decision or consequence of an action
  • Something of importance breaks, explodes, or is otherwise subject to complete obliteration
  • A character has to make a split-second decision with a lot of pressure from their environment (i.e. bad guys coming at them)
  • A character is killed

Exploded moments are tools of emphasis. They help point things out to your reader like a big sign that says, “Hey! Make sure you notice this!” in giant, red letters. Plus, it’s a surefire way to improve the overall voice of your narrative.

By including one in each story that you write, whether it be fictional or biographical, you can ensure that you’ve picked an interesting topic. Any story that doesn’t have a good spot for an exploded moment probably isn’t a strong enough story.

See? These slow-motion, action-packed scenes aren’t just for the movies. This is just one more piece of evidence proving that the book is always better than the movie. Explode that moment, Hollywood.

Written by Stephanie Constantino
Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style. If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, check out our classes here, or contact us.

Welcome to the Write from the Heart Blog!

Welcome!  This new feature of the Write from the Heart website is an exciting new development for our program.  Our goal is to become a resource guide for both our students and families as well as the general public.  On this blog, we will highlight things like:

Grammar Rules

Revising Tips and Tricks

Voice in Writing

Organizing your Writing

Developing Ideas

You will see posts from Veldorah Rice, the owner and administrator of Write from the Heart; several of our writing coaches, all of whom have professional training; and selected students who have mastered certain writing skills and would like an opportunity to share their experiences with others.

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We look forward to creating an online resource library to help you and your family for years to come!