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Grammar in Fiction 1: Word Classes

We've all heard about nouns, verbs and adjectives, but what do they all mean, and how to they apply to creative writing?


Many native English speakers have a subconscious understanding of these 'word classes' and don't necessarily need to learn the theory behind them. When writing fiction, however, this knowledge can be extremely helpful!

Nouns

A noun is a name. In fiction, this includes your characters and places, but more broadly can refer to any object.

Almost every sentence will have a noun, because the sentence has to be about something. It's how other words are used around the noun that creates meaning.


Proper nouns, the official name of something, i.e. Emma, or Domino's, always need a capital letter. General nouns, like park or cat, however, don't need a capital.



Pronouns

A pronoun is used in place of a noun, when rather than using the name of something, you use words like it, she, they, you, etc. In fiction, knowing when to use pronouns is vital to make your book engaging and understandable.


For example, when writing dialogue between two people with different pronouns, it's okay to use pronouns such as he said and she said for a while, after first establishing who the speakers are. With more speakers, however, or speakers with the same pronouns, it's important to use their name where there may be confusion.



Adjectives

Adjectives are attributes that pair with a noun. This could be the colour of something, the shape and size, or even an opinion.


The old chair was rotten, and needed a keen-eyed expert to refurbish it to its original state.


Be careful not to overuse adjectives in your description. Always consider if there are more concise ways to describe things, as we'll talk about more below (under Adverbs).



Verbs

Verbs describe action - anything from loves to occurred.


This means verbs are the words we use that show tense, which writers often struggle with. You must master the use of verbs to show readers whether we're talking about the past, present, or future.


She runs to the party, but arrived on time.


Using this sentence as an example, runs and arrived are the verbs. Here, however, they're used incorrectly. It seems that 'she' already arrived at the party, and therefore runs needs to be ran, as it is in the past.


Adverbs

Adverbs give us more information about a verb, similarly to how an adjective gives more information about a noun.


They typically tell you the who, what, when, where and why of a verb, i.e. she carefully picked the flower, almost breaking it.

-ly adverbs have been mostly shunned by today's writing world, in favour of using more concise language. They looked at it angrily, for example, is a stronger sentence as They glared at it.



Prepositions

Prepositions connect nouns to their sentence, most often written before the noun to show location.


Common examples are in, to, of, and on.


They headed toward the beach and crossed over the sand.


Again, keep your prepositions minimal and make sure to delete redundancies. It's great to mix them up and use a thesaurus for engaging paragraphs, but don't get too complicated.



Conjunctions

Conjunctions connect words together to form sentences.


But, because, so.


In fiction, you can be more playful with conjunctions and their use in sentence structure. Rather than sticking completely to writing rules, you can (occasionally) use dependant clauses as full sentences to show the voice of your character or narrator. For example:


I didn't want to hear that. But I think I needed to.


Reads differently to,


I didn't want to hear that, but I think I needed to.



Interjections

Interjections are abrupt remarks or exclamations, typically used in dialogue to express emotion or character.


No! I had no idea.


These are especially fun to use in fiction, to create realistic and sometimes funny dialogue.


Don't forget to come back next Monday to discuss sentence structure, and sign up to the All Write Newsletter to never miss a blog.

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