“Smiling slightly, she peeked through the H2O sign; she had a faint Mona Lisa smile.”
Fronted adverbial + comma + pronoun + verb + adverb + noun + semi-colon + pronoun + verb + adjective + proper noun + noun + full stop
(bits of that may be wrong, and please don’t ask me about clauses)
When I write, I don’t do it by sticking bits of grammar together. I make a sentence in my head and I write it down. Then another one. And another one. If I’m lucky, the sentences come out in a rush and I can barely type fast enough to get them all on the page. If I had looked at that photo without trying to include as many different parts of speech as I could, and without having to know what the bits were called, the sentence wouldn’t have come out anything like that. (I was going to make it even more flowery, but I lost the will to keep naming the bits of the sentence.) Instead, I would have imagined myself in the picture. Thought back to that day. Let the memories seep in, and the emotions grow. I would have remembered standing in the heat of the garden festival in Ponte de Lima; I would have thought about what that garden was about. The water theme they had that year. Or I might have gone for something really simple; given it the potential for a story. I might have started with ‘the’ …
“The girl looked through the O. She smiled a Mona Lisa smile.”
When we are small, and indeed as we grow, we have more spoken language than we do written. You can’t put the horse in front of the cart – if we can’t speak it, we can’t write it, as the saying goes. (Indeed more than that – if we can’t think it, we can’t say it.) Children can express things they can’t write down, even when they are quite tiny. It’s very cute when they are too tiny to pronounce the words just right, but they are so desperate to say them that they do it anyway. Their writing should be like that too – wanting to get the thoughts down, rather than approaching it like a mathematical formula that the adults taught them. They need to spend time talking, and reading, and experiencing, so they have something to write about. We should remember that the point of writing is self expression, not linguistics or flowery prose. We need to let the children decide what it is they want to say. Because if we want to hear what they’re thinking, we can’t make them speak with the voice of an adult. We’ve got to let them speak with the voice of a child.