How to develope sentences in the style of David Foster Wallace (visit Jason’s post to see an example of how powerful this can be for prose):
- Begin with an idea, a string of ideas.
- Use them in a compound sentence.
- Add rhythm with a dependent clause.
- Elaborate using a complete sentence as interrupting modifier.
- Append an absolute construction or two.
- Paralell-o-rize your structure (turn one noun into two).
STOP HERE IF YOU ARE A MINIMALIST, WRITING COACH, OR JAMES WOOD
- Adjectival phrases: lots of them. (Note: apprx. 50% will include the word ‘little’).
- Throw in an adverb or two (never more than one third the number of adjectives).
- Elaboration — mostly unnecessary. Here you’ll turn nouns phrases into longer noun phrases; verbs phrases into longer verb phrases. This is largely a matter of synonyms and prepositions. Don’t be afraid to be vague! Ideally, these elaborations will contribute to voice — for example, ‘had a hand in’ is longer than ‘helped’, but still kinda voice-y — but that’s just gravy. The goal here is word count.
STOP HERE IF YOU ARE NOT WRITING PARODY
- Give it that Wallace shine. Replace common words with their oddly specific, scientific-y counterparts. (Ex: ‘curved fingers’ into ‘falcate digits’). If you can turn a noun into a brand name, do it. (Ex: ‘shoes’ into ‘Hush Puppies,’ ‘camera’ into ‘Bolex’). Finally, go crazy with the possessives. Who wants a tripod when they could have a ‘tunnel’s locked lab’s tripod’? Ahem.
- Practice. Take one sentence — any sentence — and Wallacize it. Turn ten boring words into a hundred good ones.
I suppose you could say that this technique is almost the antithesis of William Zinsser’s style.