This week’s Monday post is going to be comparatively short on the educational value, but I figure that’s okay now and again. I participated in an academic writing workshop with 49 other grad students earlier this summer and it was, with one exception, a great experience. I learned a lot and enjoyed the activities. Plus, I made some great progress on my dissertation. Woohoo! Seeing as that was the reason I had applied for the workshop in the first place, mission accomplished!
One of the many activities we did as a group was an exercise in varying sentence length and controlling long sentences. Two goals of the session were to show us how easy it is to write epic sentences, ones that go on and on forever, and how unpleasant they are for readers. The idea was that once we realized that we are all capable of writing insanely long sentences, we would look out for them as we write in the future. So, we were given ten minutes and asked to write the longest sentence we could with pen and paper on a topic of our choice. I wrote about dragonflies because I’m just that sort of person (but you all know that already, right?) and it’s a topic I know a lot about. Thus, I present my 377 word long sentence about dragonfly territorial behavior!
The dragonfly, with its clear and membranous, faintly gossamer wings, darts over the still pond, the water reflecting the morning light and warming the air, releasing small puffs of water vapor into a thick cloud that lies over the calm water, a haze through which the dragonfly flies as he seeks his prey, zigging and zagging over the water and darting to and fro, following the tiny trails through the mist left behind by mosquitoes and other small flies, the flies buzzing obliviously through the air as they fly and go about their morning’s business of searching for food and shelter and sex so they can pass their genes on as proud parents of the next generation of little flies, worm-like beings swimming in the water alongside the children of their hunter, the dragonfly, he searching for food and mates above the water, protecting his little patch of clear water and green water weeds from usurpers, those who wish him harm and covet his territory, for it is good, and the mates it will bring, all the while hoping that a drab female will choose his territory (thereby choosing him as the virile and potent father of her young), and allow their violent embrace, the male grabbing his new beloved behind the head and dragging her about his territory, as if showing it off, before they complete the copulative act, he curling his body around so that his mate lies under him, and she stretching her body up for their most intimate embrace, both flying continuously as they hurry through their lustful encounter over the water before breaking apart so the female can lay her precious eggs among the water weeds, spilling her offspring into the water, her latest love conquest looking on protectively as she brings forth his progeny, progeny that will rest in the water before hatching into tiny, fierce predators that strut about the pond, knowing that they are bada** carnivores that hardly anything will touch, growing ever bigger and stronger until they crawl out of the water, break free of their nymphal skin, and emerge with fully formed, clear and membranous, faintly gossamer wings, ready to take their father’s place darting over the still pond, flying through the gentle mist above the water.
My giant IS painful to read, don’t you think? I tried to be as lyrical as possible and change up the transitions, but yikes! And my sentence was only the second longest in the group too, about half the length of the longest! The exercise really worked for me though because I now comb my papers looking for long sentences as I never did before. I was also rather proud of myself for writing something that actually had some scientific merit AND circled back around so that the beginning and end were similar enough to illustrate the whole circle of life thing. Plus, although it might be painful to read (and there’s no denying that), my epic sentence is pretty accurate for dragonflies that lay their eggs in fishless ponds. So long as you ignore the anthropomorphism, that is. I so rarely get to write things that are simply fun these days that I felt like I could get away with taking a few liberties. :)
Next week I’ll have a more educational Monday post for you all. There’s a sneak preview in this week’s Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday too, so come on back on Wednesday!
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4 thoughts on “One Long Sentence About Dragonflies”
That’s an impressive 377-word sentence, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac or Marcel Proust. The sentence actually isn’t bad, and as long as I suspend my syntactic belief, I can read through it and absorb the information in it. Here’s my contribution to visions not of Gerard (à la Kerouac) but of odonates:
My eyes glassed over, 1/3 through the sentence.
Ha ha! I don’t doubt it. I had to read it out loud to the group and it took FOREVER, so I don’t blame people for quitting half way through.
I didn’t find the sentence painful to read, but then I like the subject-matter. It would have benefited from a few semicolons strategically placed, and perhaps a double dash or two. I’m a fan of 19th Century English novels and long sentences were common back then, but literary times have changed, I suppose…