Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
—Daphne Du Maurier, from Rebecca
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
This brilliant first sentence draws us in, creates questions and a sense of urgency so we can't help but go on. First, content: although we know nothing about this narrator yet, we're being offered the intimacy of the narrator's dreams. Second, ambiguous meaning: that "again". Does the narrator dream this dream repeatedly, or is this a dream about returning one more time to Manderley? Plus, of course, the question of what/where Manderley is. Third, sound and rhythm: of the nine words, the first seven are single-syllable; of these, two are the first-person pronoun, though we don't know to whom "I" refers; and four slam up against the same hard "t". Just as we're getting used to this sound and rhythm -- Last night I dreamt I went -- that "t" repeats before a long vowel, inverting the sound, and next the rhythm breaks with the three-syllable Manderley. We come to rest, a little breathless, on the ambiguous "again." I defy anyone not to want to read on.
—SJ Rozan is the author of Winter and Night, Ghost Hero, and Absent Friends