Recently I was listening to a lecture from #1 New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson where he listed four different kinds of lines we use to write stories–and while I knew each type existed, I had never really thought of listing them out and talking about them, and as I considered that, I also thought of another type he didn’t mention.
When it comes to actually writing a story (on a line-by-line level), you really only have five elements to do that with. And one of the differences between a beginning writer and a professional-level writer, is that a professional-level writer will convey more than what the lines are saying on the page–they’ll convey more than the text itself. In contrast, a beginning writer often uses more words than necessary to convey concepts that the audience already understands. So while a professional writer tends to write text jam-packed with meaning, a beginning writer tends to write long-winded text with little meaning.
As an example of how to bring more meaning to text, I’m going to cover how each type of line can be used to reveal character (in part because this is what Sanderson does in his lecture). Beginning writers tend to write whole passages of introspection in the opening where nothing really happens–usually in an effort to convey character. But in reality, every kind of line can be used to reveal character nearly all the time. You don’t have to bring the story to a grinding halt to do it–as long as you know how to do it.
So let’s go through the five types of lines we have in our arsenal.