Using prepositional phrases in our writing is a direct way to the drive train of a storytelling. “After that, and for the next several years” acts like a time machine in the reader’s mind. You’ll see this used in movies and TV, too. The words “Nine Months Later” appeared on the screen during The Imitation Game. Immediately, we in the audience could make that leap to a moment when many things had changed.
A favorite writing craft book of mine, “Now Write!” shows how to use prepositional phrases as powerful drivers in a story. The first step in this book’s exercise can be adapted to render a memory from a protagonist’s childhood story. The four-step exercise in “Moving Through Time” by Nancy Reisman requires only four paragraphs to experience the power of a preposition.
- A moment from childhood rendered in precise detail
- Pushing the writing toward summary with a prepositional phrase like “In the next five years,”
- Starting with a line of dialogue that moves into scene, increasing the intensity
- Using another prepositional phrase like “After that, in the months that followed” to push the writing to the larger view of the story, again toward summary.
This is also useful for developing characters. Their lives are journeys, after all. Using these phrases puts fuel into the story’s engine.