LEARNING TO WRITE COMPLEX SENTENCES. After posting on a review here, I bought and read HOW TO WRITE A SENTENCE by Stanley Fish. Aside from a lot of insights into literature, it is something of a tour de force. It is an attempt to teach readers how to write complex sentences by imitating master sentences by some of our greatest writers. Let me give one example, using what Fish calls the additive style—basically, stringing together complex clauses in a loose sequence. (Fish uses the opening sentence of TRISTAM SHANDY to illustrate the additive style).
For an exercise for the student Fish sets the task of imitating this sentence from Ford Madox Ford’s THE GOOD SOLDIER:
“Anyhow, there you have the picture, the immensely tall trees, elms most of them, towering and feathering away up into the black mistiness that trees seem to gather about them at night, the silhouettes of those two upon the seat, the beams of light coming from the casino, the woman in black peeping with fear behind the tree trunk.”
Fish shows the reader how to construct this sentence in imitation about a cocktail party in June:
“The agitated conversations, mostly on politics, ebbing and flowing in intensity with passions surprising to those who voiced them, the music in the background incongruously soft and light, the children listening in shadows on the staircase wondering who these people, so familiar to them as parents, uncles, doctors, and shopkeepers, could possibly be.”