Writing to Impress

You can try to impress the reader with your writing ability.

That's probably a pointless effort. A few people will notice, but not enough to make any difference.

The woman stood in the far corner of the dimly lit room, hiding in shadows like a fish in gray water. (The Promise, Robert Crais)

That creates a mood. It is not the type of start I like, but there was nothing seriously objectionable, and I kept reading.

It's also a nice simile. I write about metaphoricals, so I appreciated that. I assume no one else will. The rest of the paragraph was boring description and then an even better metaphorical.

She was small, round, and dumpy. The fringed leather jacket probably made her seem rounder, but she'd never been a looker. The reminded Mr. Rollins of an overripe peach, and the peach was clearly afraid.

Second, trying to impress a reader with writing ability is, ironically, not good writing. You should just try to write well, all of the time. And to be clear, you do NOT want to show the reader that you can't write well. And you can choose a sentence that happens to show off your skill.

The third problem is that what impresses one reader might not impress the next. I was impressed by the grammar of this first line:

We always seemed to be moving, always for the better, always to make our lives better, whatever. (A Very Large Expanse of Sea, Mafi)

If you write with normal grammar, your grammar will not impress anyone. To be impressive, your grammar has to be at least a little unusual. Then it also has to be good. That first sentence succeeds – it's ungrammatical and it works.

Most readers won't notice or care. Meanwhile, there are readers who will not like the fact that this sentence broke the rules of grammar.

You can try to impress with fancy words that the reader might not even know the meaning of. That is impressive! Everyone will pick up on that. But it's not good writing, and the reader won't enjoy your sentence, which is a bad strategy. I don't know if anyone uses this strategy any more.

The trawler plunged into the angry swells of the dark, furious sea like an awkward animal trying desperately to break out of an impenetrable swamp. (The Bourne Identity, Ludlow)

I am not sure what the author was trying to accomplish. In terms of metaphors, that sentence is horrible. The next few sentences are as bad, and then the rest of the entire book is fine. And . . . a typical reader probably won't notice. The meaning (a ship during a very strong storm at night, waves crashing onto the deck) is fine.

Impressed yet? That's a boring first line until "whatever", where it suprises. That I suppose is the interest to the reader, the cynical attitude of the main character.