Improve Your Writing With A Punch

Improve Your Writing With a Punch

I learned this several years ago. It's only been in the last few that I started using it regularly. It's simple. When writing, save the best for last. Put the most powerful word, your punch word, at the end of your sentence. When a powerful word is followed by a period (mental pause) it creates a spotlight of sorts. It gives the same word a more dramatic effect because it lingers in the readers mind. 

This works best not only at the end of a sentence but also at the end of a paragraph, scene break or chapter break. I use them sparingly but always where needed. When I first learned this I applied it while culling my second draft. Now, it's unconscious habit. 

A word of caution: Don't over do it. If every other sentence is arranged with a face punch at the end, your reader might grow weary. Don't beat your reader. Keep your reader. Place punches where they will matter the most for the story. I would venture to say that every chapter should end with a word punch. It increases the chances of a reader continuing on or stopping to do the dishes. 

Here's an example of how I use this from one of my unedited WIP's. It might not have as intense an effect because you haven't been reading the build up. You should be able to see the difference in how it might affect a reader. (FYI, the daughter they are talking about is a heroin addict.) 

Power word at the end: 

Dr. Porter opened his mouth to say something then closed it quickly. 
“What? What were you going to say?” 
“I wanted to say…” He paused,  debate apparent on his face. “It’s unfair to both of you. But I wanted to tell you, urge you, to do everything in your power to see that treatment is successful and she changes her life.” 
“Why is it unfair to ask us that?” Phillip asked. 
“Because you have no control over the outcome.” 
Stephene felt the weight of that truth on her shoulders. “It’s true,” she said quietly. “We can arrange for her to be admitted, we can send notes and cards and tell her we love her on the phone. But we can’t ensure that she’ll change.” 
After a moment, Phillip looked up. “So are you urging us to help or warning us that we can’t?” 
The doctor leveled his eyes. “Both.” 

The alternative is:

"Both." The doctor leveled his eyes.  

See the difference a simple rearrangement makes? The first punches with the reality of the situation, the second leaves the reader wondering what color the doctor's eyes were because I didn't mention that. I don't want them thinking about the doctor's eyes. I want them thinking about the hopeless situation this couple is faced with.  It's like magic and you can start doing it today. I'd love to hear how this works for you in your writing. 

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