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How to write a fictional scene with writing-assistive software

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, the purpose of writing is to convey a message. Sometimes that message takes the form of a story and other times it is a persuasive essay. But in either case, writing has to be accessible. And that's the difficult part that few discuss.

With that said, how can you make your writing more accessible?

Although English classes or workshops are helpful -- when reviewing grammar, syntax, rhetoric, or other writing elements intrinsic to developing native fluency -- they are necessary, but not sufficient to good writing. Similarly, writing-assisstive software applications fall into the same category.

However, tools like Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor can help freelance writers and should be employed, when used appropriately. Not only can these tools help writers bring their best work to English workshops, but they can also assist with writing more concisely. Therefore, I highly recommend all writers, regardless of skill, use these tools during the editorial process.

What is Grammarly?

Grammarly is a website and application that helps writers of all levels correct tone, grammar, syntax, and flow. There are five general categories: (1) correctness, (2) clarity, (3) engagement, (4) delivery, and (5) style guide. What's unique about Grammarly's program is that a writer can adjust the algorithm to their needs. For example, say an article has to be friendly, then it will assist the writer by providing autocorrections or suggestions.

Despite the simplicity and low cost of using this platform, I have noticed that some of the suggestions for more complex sentences are neither correct nor desired. So, don't mindlessly click accept to the suggestions or autocorrections -- particularly, if writing poetry! Link: Grammarly!

What is the Hemingway Editor?

As you may have presumed, the eponymous program takes after Mr. Earnest Hemingway himself. The writer championed the Iceberg Theory of writing back in the day, which relied upon selective omissions and shorter, staccato sentences. When combined, the results let the reader get lost in the pages and the Iceberg Theory took the literary world by storm. Recently, I noticed Stephen King uses it in Billy Summers.

The platform grades your writing based upon readability and the goal is to have a range around Grade 4 to Grade 6. This range is the same level that Hemingway wrote at and, similarly, looks to omit, edit, or remove adverbs, the passive voice, and highlights hard to read sentences. Link: Hemingway Editor!

Want to see an example of Grammarly and Hemingway?

Below I shared a creative writing excerpt of a hunter killing a deer. In this "stag hunt" scene, the two paragraphs were written in about 10 minutes and not reviewed.

Grammarly graded the "stag hunt" scene as:

  • Score: 96 Overall

  • Correctness: 7 alerts

  • Clarity: Very Clear (1 alert)

  • Engagement: Very Engaging

  • Delivery: Just Right

  • Style Guide: Just Right

In addition, from the picture you can see that the average word length and sentence length were "Above Average". And the text, more or less, requires at least an 8th grade education to read it. Unique words say "Average" and care words are "Below Average".

For Hemingway, the application states that:

  • Readability: Grade 9 / "Good"

  • 3x adverbs

  • 1x passive voice use

  • Phrasing is fine / no simpler alternatives exist

  • 3 of the 12 sentences are hard to read

  • 3 of the 12 sentences are very hard to read

Unlike Grammarly, Hemingway doesn't provide the same level of suggestions or autocorrections. Instead the platform highlights issues and may, on occasion, offer to omit an adverb. So, it is on the writer -- who is assumed to understand grammar -- to review their work until it matches Hemingway's style. Of course, don't use this application if it isn't your desire to write in that manner.

The "Stag Hunt" scene is written below -- without any editing -- and done in 10 minutes.

Here is the "Stag Hunt" scene before Hemingway and Grammarly edits

The mossy underbrush crawls alongside and up the sapling stems. Black ants following a memory trail laid out before them by their fellow colony members offer the false promise of safety from the birds and bugs which prey upon them. In the distance a familiar crunching sound of twigs in the underbrush crinkling reminds the black ants that they are not alone. Below the shimmer of the pale, morning light, you can see two deer, a buck and a doe, or is a fawn, wander without aim, like gypsies who travel without intention or schoolchildren enjoying life's grace.

By the hunter clothed in the orange vest is an overturned, deceased black beetle that has only begun to start rotting. The foul odor barely reaches the nostrils of the grizzled man. Covering the man is a soot-like presence that mask his aesthetic-pleasing jawline. His wife loved to kill him, but only when he would shave. He was to prickly, she had said, on the morning that the man had last seen her. Immediately, the ravens and bluejays hidden in the tops of the forrest's cover scatter upwards into the still-dark sky. The buck falls to the ground as he bleeds words that were written, prophetically, many years ago before his birth that codified his death would take place under the pale, morning light.

Here is the "Stag Hunt" scene after Grammarly and Hemingway edits

The mossy underbrush crawls alongside and up the sapling stems. Black ants follow a memory trail below an oak tree trunk. The discontinuous and irregular walk offers false promises of safety. Birds and bugs alike circle, watching. Ready to swoop.

In the distance, twigs hidden in the underbrush crackle. Crunch! Two deer pause. One is a buck, the other a doe. Both deer stop chewing the dead grass in their mouths. An orange vest and a gun emerge.

Morning light shimmers in the forest's opening. It peaks through the green branches that shoulder shade's familiarity—the hunter aims.

Nearby the foul, acrid stench of a rotting black beetle rises from the floor. The ant trail begins to make its way to the shell. Hunger lingers. The hunter covers his mouth into the sleeve of his elbow. Stubble decorates his face. Bang!

The buck falls to the ground, bleeding. Above the birds flee. The hunter lumbers to claim the fallen prey under the pale morning light.

Grammarly and Hemingway scores after edits:

Grammarly had no comments. Hemingway scored the work as "Grade 4" / Good.

Which did you enjoy more?

Leave a comment below on your thoughts about writer-assisted software as it relates to producing better content. Do you think it works? And do you like the changes?

//Last Updated: 3 Nov 2021//

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