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I'm trying to describe an action (a gust of wind blows) and its result (the flame is doused) and its subsequent effect (the room is plunged into darkness). However, I'm facing some issues with how to present them in a way which feels immediate. The sentences that I've come up with are as below but all of them feel perfectly ok to me:

  • The flames were suddenly doused by a gust of wind as the room was plunged into darkness.
  • The room was plunged into darkness as the flames were suddenly doused by a gust of wind.
  • A gust of wind suddenly doused the flames, plunging the room into darkness.

(I know that each sentence just changes the subject which is focused on but then how do I decide which subject is to be focused on?)

As an extension of this question, How do I decide which sentence feels correct in a particular scenario when multiple structures feel perfect to me?

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    I'd remove "suddenly" from whichever structure you choose. It's not really necessary here. "A gust of wind doused the flames, plunging the room into darkness." – Ken Mohnkern Jul 24 '17 at 14:09
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You asked for immediacy, and the third sentence

A gust of wind suddenly doused the flames, plunging the room into darkness.

is the best fit. It's short and uses active voice. Not knowing the sentences around this one, it's the best answer.

However, if you're wanting to emphasize the darkness, perhaps consider the following (which is tweaked slightly from your second option):

Darkness fell in the room as a gust of wind doused the flames suddenly.

A sentence's subject is what typically creates the most emphasis, so this will cause the reader to focus more on the effect (the darkness) instead of the cause (the wind).

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    The third choice is not bad, but both examples have sub-optimal flow because of suddenly, which is redundant in any case. Drop the "suddenly" from your proposed structure and it has a beautiful rhythm. This also has te effect of increasing immediacy imo :) – DukeZhou Jul 26 '17 at 20:43
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You've gotten answers picking each sentence -- they all work!

It's going to come down to your opinion, which one you think sounds best.

To get a better feel for it, I suggest reading each one out loud, in context (read a couple sentences before and after) to hear which one sounds best.

I also have to agree with the others suggesting removing "suddenly". Jessica Dall's blog post describes how having extraneous words like suddenly slows down the pacing:

Often when editing, I’ll put in the suggestion to keep sentences short in high action scenes. You can’t control much about the pacing as far as how your readers read a scene, but sentence length and paragraph breaks are a good way of speeding up and slowing down action. The shorter you keep a sentence the more immediate the action is. For example: “He ran.” Two words, the reader knows exactly what’s happening and is on to the next piece of information. Make it longer, however–“He began to run”–means it’s going to take the reader longer to make it through one action. The longer it takes to read something, the slower the action feels. The same goes for breaks. When reading, a comma is a generally a quick pause in the reader’s mind. A period is a full stop.

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I will be contrary here, and say that I think the second sentence is arguably the best way to present the action under those terms. The effect is experienced even before the cause is identified, which speaks to its immediacy.

Someone can feel a gust of wind as soon as it happens, but if the light goes out at the exact same time, there may be a split second of confusion for the observer, similar to the amount of time it takes them to read the last part of the sentence.

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What's more important the action or the effect? For my money the flames being doused result should always be at the middle of this. If you want to immediately feel the result then the middle sentence is more appropriate, effect result action, if the causative action is more important, for instance because something is unnatural about the gust of wind that you want to point to later then your last sentence is the way to go. I may be wrong here but I feel it's important to look at overall intention rather than trying to work any particular sentence or phrase in isolation from the narrative it is part of.

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I actually like your first variation best, but advise you to drop the unneeded "suddenly":

The flames were doused by a gust of wind and the room was plunged into darkness.

Is extremely clear, concise, and has a beautiful rhythmic structure.

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For me, I would have to say that the last sentence is the best one to use. It is the shortest so has the effect of being immediate and it uses cause (the wind) and effect (the darkness) which the others do not.

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