Signs of Greatness

Signs of great writing . . .

Look at this great paragraph from Deborah Wiles’s novel, Each Little Bird That Sings. The dog under the table just stood up.
“’Down, Dismay!’ I shouted. Milk sloshed out of my bowl, and I made a mighty push-back in my chair. Dismay’s toenail’s clawed my legs and his thick coat crammed itself into my nose as my chair tipped sideways with me and Dismay in it. ‘Umpgh!’ The air left my body. My Snowberger’s baseball cap popped right off my head. And there I was, lying on the kitchen floor with a sixty-five-pound dog in my face. He stuck his shaggy snout into my neck and shivered. An obituary headline flashed into my mind: Local Girl, 10, Done in By Storm and Petrified Pet!” (p. 3-4)

Now read this passage from Cynthia Voight’s The Runner.
“It wasn’t until everybody had been served that Bullet’s father looked at him. ‘Pass the butter,’ he said and then, his eyes having slid over Bullet, ‘Take off that hat.’
“Bullet obeyed. He reached up and removed the woollen hat, dropping it onto the floor beside his chair. His mother looked up at him, then quickly away. Her dark hazel eyes flashed briefly, Bullet saw, and her mouth twitched, before she settled her face into expression-lessness. She picked up her knife and made a quick cut into a slab of meat.” (p. 35)

Notice . . .
1. powerful verbs
2. sensory details
3. short sentences for emphasis

4. emotions
5. conversations


Good writers read differently than other people. They are always keeping their eyes open for examples of superb writing. Since you are already on the way to being a good writer, you can try it, too!

Read the sections below. Copy words and phrases from your book into the appropriate sections:

1. Powerful verbs (e.g. ‘sauntered’ instead of ‘walked’)

2. Sensory details (e.g. things you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch)

3. Figures of speech (e.g. similes, metaphors, alliteration)

4. Short sentences to draw special attention to certain events, ideas or emotions.

5. Emotions (e.g. words and phrases that show how characters feel)

6. Conversations that show how different people have different ways of speaking

My book: ______________________________

My name: ______________________________

[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided: ©2009 Sophie Rosen.]

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