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  • Writer's pictureYessenia♡❀

Reading as a Writer and A Reader

An English Assignment Prompt.

GASP! SHRIEK! Breathe. Sleep.

Did that previous sentences draw your attention in? If the answer is yes, then this illustrates a small doze of the power of syntax. Yes, my friends, words do indeed have power.

In this blog post we take excerpts from Edgar Allan Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart and Octavia E. Butler short story “Bloodchild.” to show how syntax plays a role in the experiences of reading both as a writer and as a reader. Although reading is almost a customary conscious process, rarely do we take time to analyze how sentences such as the ones below can demonstrate how diction (word choice), punctuation , and parts of speech make the sentence stand out.

It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think.

– Edgar Allan Poe ( A Tale Tell Heart).

First, let us analyze this as a reader. When I read this sentence, I felt the suspense! I could hear the sound growing louder, louder, and LOUDER despite not being there myself. I can see the two men who are smiling but it is almost as if they were far away, just like looking at a telescope through the reverse side lens. What I just describe is the imagery. What made this sentence stand out is that you can feel the suspense building, you can hear the noise by the repetition of the words louder-louder-louder! By repeating these words, the emphasis is increased. Imagine if I said

It’s coming-it’s coming-it’s coming!

The question then becomes….who is coming? There’s an urgency to such a phrase. A sense of building pressure. Whatever is coming is illustrating emphasis that we cannot think of anything else other than it is coming. Mr. Poe by using it grew-louder-louder-louder!, shows that this sound is amplifying. A non-stop ringing inside your ear that won’t stop. A fictional tinnitus established.

Mr. Poe doesn’t only amplify our imagery by these sentences, but also opens the door to enter the mind of this character’s thoughts. We are feeling what the character feels. We are hearing what he feels, and ultimately, we are spectator subconscious to the character. If we can hear so clearly the loudness, then we also feel the utter disbelief that the others can’t. Something that is so loud and these unknown strangers unbothered and smiling with no sign of distress. Of course it makes their smiling seem like an insult and it sets the tone of anxious distress.

Now let’s view this sentences as a writer.

Would it be different if Mr. Poe had said

It grew louder the men chatted and smiled. Was it possible that they didn’t hear? They heard, they knew, this I think.

This sound like a cozy scene doesn’t it. Almost like chatter over the kitchen table while an outside neighbor played their song too loudly. Not quite the same dire scene, right? Even placing this proxy sentence as substitution in the scene, the writing wouldn’t have such an effect as it did.

You see it’s not just word choice that made a sentence what it is. Here’s where the structure matters.

Notice the dashes and exclamation points. What do these do to the sentence? You guess it! They help set the tone, mood, and reinforce everything regarding the imagery. As stated earlier Mr. Poe opens the door for us to enter the very thoughts of the character. The dashes and the exclamation point verbally demonstrate the incomplete thoughts of an anxious man on high alert. They make the sentence what it is by growing more erratic the further the sentences go. The exclamatory sentences highlighted by the exclamation point let us know that these thoughts are shocking, loud, and a bit erratic. The perfect blend of nervous guilt.

All these effects were done simply by structuring the sentences in shorter length, adding dashes, question marks, and exclamation points.

Aha! – You see!- Words and their structures do have powers! Don’t you agree?

Lastly let’s us now consider Octavia E. Butler,“Bloodchild.”

T'Gatoi whipped her three meters of body off her couch, toward the door, and out at full speed. She had bones - ribs, a long spine, a skull, four sets of limb bones per segment. But when she moved that way, twisting, hurling herself into controlled falls, landing running, she seemed not only boneless, but aquatic - something swimming through the air as though it were water. - "Bloodchild."

It's a bird ? It’s a plane? A Monster? No It’s the first glimpses of the imagery of a – bug? Yes, you are correct a bug-like creature that for sure isn’t human.

In these sentences reading it as a reader all I could think is how finally we are able to visualize one of the character’s descriptively . This character did not just have bones but ribs, a long spine, a skull, and four set of limb bones per segment. The following sentence then comes as a contrast because despite all these bones described, she moves in such a way that she seems boneless. All these sentences are visually putting the image in our minds of how exactly this creature moves and looks like. It is until this moment in the short story that we get the first description of this alien creature. As a literature major Yoda would say " The Imagery is strong in this one."

Now reading this as a writer, Octavia's use of adjectives to the bones informed us descriptively about the creature. What big difference does it make to say she had bones compared to she had a long spine, a skull, limb bones per segment. In comparison, the following sentence is full of actions.

Moved, twisting, hurling, falls, landing, running, swimming

All these verbs added to the sentence made the sentence and character come to life. This creature was not just a bug with bones standing still, no it was alive- it was fluid- it was active. If those sentences structure did not demonstrate the visual and vivacity of this creature, the last portion of the sentence will.

“Something swimming through the air as though it were water.”

I know this post was rather long, whoops, but cheer up for making it this far.

Words are only tools it's how you use those words in a sentence that make the sentence really what it is.

- Xenia

2 commentaires

Tristan Zabala
Tristan Zabala
11 févr. 2021

Hello Yessenia I also felt the suspense in the cited passage you chose from Edgar Allen Poe's (A Tell Tale Heart). I also like when you referenced the sound growing louder and amplifying as a fictional tinnitus which changes my perspective to what the character was really going through. I also noticed the dashes and exclamation points and how they set the tone of the story. Although not only do they reinforce the imagery of an unstable and erratic character they also reinforce imagery of madness and depravity to the reader. In conclusion your post was enjoyable to read and your meme's and Gifs as well as your understanding of syntax were powerful indeed.


Jack Tanklefsky
Jack Tanklefsky
10 févr. 2021

Hello! I thought that your blog was really interesting to read and I think that we agree on a lot of aspects, particularly the Telltale Heart. I thought that your memes to accompany your text were spot on, as well. I like how you spoke about how if you were to read the story out loud, the reader would likely raise the volume of their voice to match the frantic behavior of the narrator, and I think that that idea adds significantly to the idea of this story being told verbally, and how that would increase or contribute to certain aspects of the story, such as theme and pacing.

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