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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Purposeful Paragraphing

Have you ever read a book where the paragraphs seem to go on and on? Or a book with paragraphs so short you look around to see where they disappeared to? There is an art to paragraphing.

If your paragraph/s are too long, you may be telling instead of showing. Ask yourself if there is a way to show rather than tell. By showing you can break that long paragraph up into several small paragraphs, whih will be much more interesting to the reader. Paragraphing frequently can also add tension to a scene.

Long paragraphs can be boring to your reader, especially if there are many of them in a scene. You need to break them up to give your reader a rest and maintain his/her interest in your story. Watch for paragraphs that run longer than a half a page.

A long array of short paragraphs can be just as tiresome as a lot of the long ones, so be careful to have a balance of both and put them in the proper place in the scene. For instance, short sentences to build the tension; but eventually you reach the peak of that tension. Then you need a longer paragraph to give you reaer a chance to relax from all that tension.

Another purpose for a short paragraph is to focus attention or put emphasis on an important development by placing it in its own short paragraph. Also, if you have a scene that seems to drag, try paragraphing more often and have more dialogue between your characters.

Throughout all this shortening and lenthening your paragraphics, you must be careful that everything you write be essential to the story and to the flow of it.

In conclusion be aware of your paragraphs. There is a purpose for long and short paragraphs. Be mindful that balancing them can make or break your scene.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders and Sarah's Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                    Writers on the Move


  1. I have a friend who writes really long paragraphs and I do have to call her out on that sometimes when I'm editing her stories (not that I've had to edit anything of hers in a while). I on the other hand tend to write short, to the point sentences and paragraphs so I tend to fall short on the descriptive aspect in my stories. That's where my editors come in to play - they help make those very short paragraphs into wonderful, just the right length paragraphs.

    Great posting and food for thought. E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery
    "The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
    "The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal romance story
    "Bride-and-Seek", a paranormal romance story

    1. Thanks, Elysabeth. It really is a must for a writer to have an editor and readers. They do see things we miss in our proofreading and self-editing.