My friend Cindy Horvath sent me an example of strong writing from a favorite novelist of hers – Irish author Tana French. The speaker is Stephen Moran, a detective in The Secret Space who’s assigned to cold cases but wants to be on the murder squad:
Murder is the thoroughbred stable. Murder is a shine and a dazzle, a smooth ripple like honed muscle, take your breath away. Murder is a brand on your arm, like an elite army unit’s, like a gladiator’s saying for all your life: One of us. The finest.
I want Murder.
Although Moran is a fictional character, he sounds alive. The sentence is rough (an English teacher would be whipping out that red pencil). But that rough quality – words tumbling out too quickly for Moran to control them – makes him sound real.
I urge you to aim for that quality in all your writing. If you’re working on an academic task, you’re not going to go for the rough-and-tumble feeling in Moran’s thirst for murder. But you can still have a voice, and you can still make your sentences move.