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The street is filled with cars and people.

I tend to write simple, straightforward sentences, like the one above. Can you suggest ways I can write more interesting sentences? What books (with lots of examples) will help me write better sentences?

How can I make the above sentence more interesting or better or unique?

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Paying attention to the verb/adverb/adjective you use could be one way of making your sentences more interesting. Say, for example, using "bustling" in place of "filled". –  Soulz Jun 2 '13 at 10:48
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6 Answers

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I was just (politely) criticized (or rather cautioned) by another user on a related matter. Referencing Stephen King, I was informed "The road to hell is paved with adjectives". Now, adjectives aren't your particular problem , but the idea is the same: you're telling, instead of showing. Your sample sentence sounds more like directions to a stage manager: it's giving them the information they need to construct the scene, but not in any way that is likely to engage them as a reader. I think a more interesting and engaging sentence would tend to relate the information you want to convey in terms of how it effects the characters. For instance:

Out on the street, they struggled to make any progress against the throngs of pedestrians and motorists.

Obviously, this depends a lot on your story and on the particular circumstances of the scene but the general idea is simply that if you think the sentence sounds boring, you can often improve the situation by illustrating the effects of something, rather than simply describing it's form (it's very existential, besides =).

More generally, if you want to make your sentences "more interesting", I would suggest developing a rich vocabulary and utilizing a thesaurus (but don't overdue it), learn the proper use of semicolons, and emdashes for parenthetical information (don't overdue either of these, either), and learn about different kinds of grammatical constructs. Subject-verb-object over and over and over will make your story very boring; I know your English teachers probably took points off for the passive voice, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it, and if you learn to use it correctly (and sparingly), it can make your writing less monotonous. See, for instance, this site.

As far as books to read for examples, I would avoid any "super market" books (anything you're likely to find in the checkout lane at the super market), and most books with gold or silver text on the cover. These tend to be "mass produced" works where the author is: a) trying to get books out as quickly as possible in order to make money, and b) targeting as wide of an audience as possible, which generally means underestimating their interest in and ability to read "more sophisticated" prose.

Really, any author widely regarded as having literary significance will help you learn different ways of phrasing things, and more sophisticated constructs. I would also suggest a wide variety of authors with a variety of writing styles. As John Landsberg illustrates in his answer, James Joyce will certainly provide some examples of not-at-all-boring (if perhaps wildly challenging) writing, as will Jack Kerouac, to a lesser extent (particular any book he wrote while strung out, which I think was every book beyond "The Town and the City").

As a final note, don't entirely discount simple writing, it all depends on your purpose. I would say, for example, that Kurt Vonnegut's typical writing style was quite simple, which contributes to his stories' typical tone of frank but non-judgmental observation. And yes, it does make them more accessible to a wider audience.

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Did you mean to make this community wiki? –  Monica Cellio Jun 7 '13 at 18:46
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Simplicity is a virtue. Don't assume that "simple" and "straightforward" are necessarily less interesting than "complex" and "indirect." Any sentence you write should be judged "better" or "worse" on one basis only: how well it accomplishes your purpose in constructing it.

You might want a sentence to be flowery, caustic, dynamic, subtle, poetic, informative, grim, exciting, or any number of other things. The effect you want to accomplish with any given sentence is limited only by your imagination. There is no one standard for what constitutes a "good" sentence.

Just for fun, let me see if I can illustrate the point by giving you hypothetical examples of how various versions of your sentence might have been written by different authors:

James Joyce: Call it that lying passage laid west east never making marked time but vehicular. Lands lined with sons of sons of apes and Eve never knowing.

Charles Dickens: It was a plain roadway, though one well known to, and loved by, even those whose carriages now clogged it to the point of complete obstruction.

William Shakespeare: Dare not gainsay that which any fool of ten teeth can tell, how these carts and creatures bipedal crowd the path before thee.

Raymond Chandler: Cars and gawkers filled the street at both ends, all of them behind the police barricades, none of them near what was left of the dead drifter whose name I still didn't know.

Are any of these "better" than your original? Maybe, maybe not. "The street is filled with cars and people" is a perfectly good sentence, and might be exactly what you need!

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Love your snippets. Dickens and Joyce in particular feel right on the money. –  sh1ftst0rm Jun 7 '13 at 12:23
    
@sh1ftst0rm Very kind of you. I enjoy setting myself challenges like that! –  John M. Landsberg Jun 8 '13 at 1:26
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So... what can be interesting about the street with cars and people? My first guesses are: action, thoughts and emotions.

Action:

The street is filled with cars and people, beeping and shouting at each other in the endless war for the right to pass through.

Thoughts:

The street is filled with cars and people. Too many of them, but I won't do anything about it anyways.

Emotions:

The street is filled with cars and people. I enjoy my everyday habit of crossing it - there's always some pretty girl passing me in this place.

If you notice that I didn't touch your words at all, you're right. They are OK. Simple words are good, because they are good and simple. It's mainly the context what matters.

Also, the situation of a street filled with cars and people is casual one. It's boring, because if we take out all the context, all such streets are pretty much the same. So the sentence doesn't need to be the most interesting one. Being as simple as it is, it serves it's role very good. This way you say the reader that it's just a typical street with just some random cars and just ordinary people crossing it. There's nothing wrong with it.

Also this sentence, being simple, can be a good starting point for a twist, which leads to something more interesting.

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@DarekWedrychowsi Yes, simple sentence is good. But if you see many book simply says the "the street is filled with people and car". The word 'filled' is kind of boring. I mean instead of simply saying street is filled with people and car, may be giving some information about the busy street. Or describing a busy street with better words. Or may be the word 'filled' can replaced with some other better word. May be we can add "flashing lights everywhere" –  user5126 Jun 1 '13 at 16:19
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Ask yourself why that simple sentence is in the story. What purpose is it mean to serve?

Once you know its "motivation" then you can build on it to make the narrative richer.

The street is filled with cars and people because ...

The street is filled with cars and people despite ...

The street is filled with cars and people until ...

The street is filled with cars and people. Little do they know that ...

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Shouldn't that be "The street was filled with cars and people until"? –  Paul A. Clayton Jun 1 '13 at 12:22
    
@Fortiter There is no any specific purpose other than describing a busy street. I mean instead of simply saying street is filled with people and car, may be giving some information about the street. Or describing a busy street with better words. Or may be the word 'filled' can replaced with some other better word. –  user5126 Jun 1 '13 at 16:15
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I'm not really sure of what you want but, what about:

The street is like the beach were I used to go in my childhood, with waves of people and cars coming and going in a never-ending movement.

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I mean instead of simply saying street is filled with people and car, may be giving some information about the street. Or describing a busy street with better words. Or may be the word 'filled' can replaced with some other better word. –  user5126 Jun 1 '13 at 16:11
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It depends on what you think is more interesting. Somewhat more complex sentences than "the street is filled with cars and people" are fine, but overly complex sentences, in my opinion, tend to get a bit boring. Once again, it depends on what you think.

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