WHAT ARE PARAGRAPHS?

WHAT ARE PARAGRAPHS: DO WE NEED THEM?

The definition of a Paragraph

A short part of a text, consisting of at least one sentence and beginning on a new line. It usually deals with a single event, description, idea, etc.

The above definition of a paragraph is found in the Cambridge Dictionary. It is precise but doesn’t tell you much, on the other hand, I found the article below at saidsimple.com which is far more informative.

When to Make a New Paragraph

 

Learning how to break your stories and essays into paragraphs is a confusing but important job.  Nobody ever really sits down to tell you the basic rules about when to make a new paragraph, so you generally have to muddle along, making the rules up for yourself.  This is too bad.  New paragraphs are important for the reader.  They tell when you’re switching time, place, topic or speaker, and they help break the page up so it is not just a solid block of writing.  Seeing that can be discouraging, and you don’t want your reader to be discouraged before she even starts to read.

Before you begin

You don’t really have to have anything done before you begin this process.  You can break a piece of writing into paragraphs after you’ve written it, or you can do it as you go.  Doing it as you go is the best choice, but you might not be able to do that right off the bat.

How to do it

There are a few standard times to make a new paragraph:

  • As you start a new topic
  • When you skip to a new time
  • At the time you skip to a new place
  • When a new person begins to speak
  • If you want to produce a dramatic effect

Let’s look at them one at a time.

New Topic

This one’s mainly for essays.  Every time you go on to a new topic, you should make a new paragraph.

New Time

This one–and the rest–are mainly for use in short stories.  Whenever you skip sometimes, that will probably be the right place to make a new paragraph.  If you find yourself using phrases or sentences like these, you are skipping some time:

  • Later that day,
  • The next morning,
  • Five hours passed.
  • They waited and waited.
  • Life in Dullsville remained unchanged.
  • The seconds seemed like hours.

New Place

Scenes in stories generally happen in one place.  When the characters go to a new place, a new scene happens.  At the very least, a new paragraph happens.  Anytime you have a “Meanwhile, back at…” phrase in your story, make a new paragraph.

New Speaker

If you’re doing a good job, your short stories are going to have dialogue, or characters talking to each other.  Dialogue helps bring stories to life.  Every time you switch speakers, you make a new paragraph.  Sometimes this means that your paragraphs are really short, because all a character might say is, “Nope.” If that’s all he says, though, that is as long as the paragraph needs to be.  Another thing to remember is that, if you put the “he said” phrase before the quote or your character does some action before he speaks, you should make that part of the same paragraph as the quote.

Action That Serves As Part of the Dialogue

A good writer will break long stretches of dialogue up with snatches of action.  This is good for the rhythm of the piece.  Changing things up makes the conversation flow smoothly, at least from the reader’s standpoint.  It also helps make a picture in the reader’s mind by inserting just the right detail to bring the scene to life.  The last reason for using this kind of paragraph break is that people don’t always reply with words.  Sometimes they shrug or make a face or ignore the other speaker entirely.

Dramatic Effect

Sometimes you simply want a paragraph to stand out, or you want to slow the reader down and control the pace of the story.  At times like this, you can make a brief sentence–or even a word–an entire paragraph.  Just don’t overdo it; this gets old fast.

 

The paragraph is one of the basic building blocks of writing, of both fiction and non-fiction. Both words and sentences are even more elemental, but paragraphs allow us to string a narrative together, to create chunks of information or story that we can discuss and study and work on as a unit.

Most of us know what a paragraph is, those sentences joined into clusters and separated by line spaces. They’re groupings of words that separate sections of narrative and join similar thoughts or assertions or dialogue or actions.

Paragraphs are visual cues to writing, cues for keeping the reader on track.

If you’re writing a novel or short story, you’re well beyond this definition:

A paragraph consists of a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

Yes, there’s more beyond this simple advice we all got back in school when we first met the mysterious essay.

We still write in paragraphs, grouping and separating information chunks, but we know there’s more to paragraphs than what we learned in middle school. Let’s examine the elements of a paragraph, the elements that help you craft enticing paragraphs that can be connected into scenes and chapters and ultimately into a complete manuscript.

Specifics about paragraphs

Length
A paragraph can be as short as one word or can run for pages. In fiction, the paragraph, as does any other element, must serve the story. If the style of the story calls for long paragraphs, write them. Keep in mind that long paragraphs can be hard on the reader, can confuse the reader with their twists and turns and digressions. But if you can write a long paragraph that the reader can follow—and long paragraphs fit the scene and story and characters and the moment—then write it. You can always edit if a long paragraph doesn’t work.

Sometimes the only editing required is the simple insertion of a line space.

A paragraph of only a single word, whether dialogue or narrative, is often more powerful than five paragraphs filled with action or detail or emotion.
Consider using extremely short paragraphs to jar the reader or to make an unmistakable point.

A series of short paragraphs with either only a few words or sentences speeds the pace of a story. Short staccato paragraphs can indicate a character’s frame of mind or attitude or personality—tense, terse, worried, short-tempered, a man or woman of few words. Long paragraphs—meaning many words or many sentences—also reveal character. They may say that this character is someone in no hurry (or pretending not to be), someone who talks a lot, or someone of great self-importance.

Revelation

This revelation of character happens whether or not the paragraphs are dialogue, whether or not the character is overtly revealing himself. If the reader sees through the eyes of a character, that character can be portrayed by the type of paragraphs used for his viewpoint. Thus, a writer can use different paragraph stylings for each viewpoint character.

Purpose

A paragraph is used to hold information together, to let readers know that sections of text belong together. To help readers follow the meaning of the text without becoming lost or confused.

Paragraphs are facilitators and signposts. Their format is traditional and understood by most readers. So when a writer uses them incorrectly, readers will notice and can be pulled away from the fictional world. They may respond by putting down the book.

Paragraphs add to scenes and contribute, with other paragraphs, to conflict, character development or character revelation, setting, and advancement of the plot.

Order

Information revealed by paragraphs, especially in fiction, is typically presented chronologically; stories begin at one point in time and move forward. Flashbacks and flash forwards are exceptions, and experimental fiction may purposely mix up the order of scenes.

Concurrent scenes may have to be presented one after the other, even though their times overlap, but the diligent writer makes sure readers understand the order of events and the timetable.

Still, most story events unfold one after another.

Format

In fiction manuscripts, the first line of a paragraph is indented (half an inch is standard). A line break between paragraphs mirrors the break in thought. (And allows the reader a moment to catch his breath.)

If paragraphs are not separated by a scene or chapter break, a paragraph should have a logical connection to the one it follows. The first sentence in successive paragraphs should connect to the prior paragraph or set up a contrast to it.

The new paragraph may refer only obliquely to the prior one, or it can repeat words, phrases, or thoughts from the other paragraph.

Paragraphs can reveal new information about revelations from paragraphs that have come before, they can expand on those paragraphs, and they can approach the same information from another angle.

Paragraph Breaks

Begin a new paragraph, in fiction, with a change of speaker. Each time dialogue switches to a different character, start a new paragraph.

Begin new paragraphs with a change in thought or to change direction, to delve deeper into the same subject, to sum up, to change emphasis or focus, or to change the tone.

Elements
Sentences and phrases within paragraphs should be logically related.

In dialogue, however, a character might jump from subject to subject in the same paragraph. (Dialogue allows for many exceptions to writing rules.)

Paragraphs can consist of full sentences or phrases or a combination of the two. You don’t always need to write a complete sentence.

The two most important places in a paragraph are the opening and the closing sentences.

Information presented in these locations is the most readily noticed, and remembered, by readers. If you want the reader to note something, place it at the beginning or the end of a paragraph. (The last words of paragraphs that end scenes or chapters are especially remembered by readers.)

If you want to include information but also want to hide it—perhaps clues to a whodunit—write that information into the middle of a paragraph with other attention-getting phrases both before and after it.

They should know that short paragraphs can create and convey tension, that they can speed the pace of the story, and that a lot of white space on a page is more appealing to readers than pages of dense text would be.

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I hope you enjoyed this article devised from Saidsimple.com and learned something? I certainly did. If you’d like to learn more and hone your writing skills SIGN up to my mailing list.

 

 

 

Scenes
WHAT ARE PARAGRAPHS?
What are scenes?
WHAT ARE PARAGRAPHS?
Description
What is a paragraph, and do we need them? Learn if and why we need them and how to use them in your writing.

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