A Writing Tip from John Green

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Right now I’m reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I’m almost finished, in fact. His books are pretty quick reads. Anyway, I came across the following line from chapter fourteen that struck me, and I wanted to share (no spoilers):

“On the flight home, twenty thousand feet above clouds that were ten thousand feet above the ground, Gus said, ‘I used to think it would be fun to live on a cloud.'”

John Green could have written: “On the flight home, thirty thousand feet above the ground, …”

That would have been the easier, more standard way to go. In fact, I’ve seen that line before. But he didn’t, and I think this is a perfect example of an author’s voice and creativity shining through in a simple way that says a lot. Since the character Gus goes on to mention the clouds, it makes sense that Green would highlight the clouds in his opening sentence of description. And yet, he still is able to mention how high the plane is in the sky and let readers know what stage of the flight we’re at: cruising altitude.

I don’t really have much else to say about this. Mostly I just wanted to share an example that recently stood out to me of a creative way to write a fairly simple line. The next time you start to write a line of description, take a second look and see if there’s another way to phrase it. You might come up with something that surprises you.

Happy writing!

6 thoughts on “A Writing Tip from John Green

  1. Great post Amanda, I agree. Such a great example. I like it when the author’s voice is let out, the character is somehow more authentic.

  2. I like this short post…It takes me to a writers’ Club I recently attended where everyone spoke of “How it is supposed to be done”. Other than grammar, and certain literary rules that make reading more enjoyable for the consumer – shouldn’t writers find their own voice, their own way, their uniqueness against the millions of other writers?

    • I completely agree. There is often a lot of emphasis placed on “don’t do this,” and really if we all did the same thing, our writing would sound the same. That’s no fun for anyone. John Green has a unique author voice, and there are lines in his books that always stand out to me. I try to notice when that happens while I’m reading a book and take a look at what about a particular line struck me. I have to hope my writing does that for others every once in a while too!

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