How do you know when to start a new paragraph?


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Thread: How do you know when to start a new paragraph?

  1. #1

    How do you know when to start a new paragraph?

    I usually just go with the flow.. It seems to work well enough.

    Its just when you start talking about a new subject, right?

    What if you can convey what you are trying to say with minimal words and don't have enough words to form a paragraph to communicate what you are trying to communicate?

  2. #2
    (I know your style now. Your post looks fine to me.) Right, you break for a new paragraph when you have a new thought. Whatever that means. I sometimes paragraph mid-sentence for that.

    I think your paragraphs should also be about the same weight. Which is to say, a lot of detail tends to get a longer paragraph, and an important event tends to get shorter. So a short paragraph isn't a problem, but a short unimportant paragraph probably is.

    And there's size, you don't want a paragraph that's too long. Whatever that is. I guess when you're daunted.

    Finally, if there is something where you're reader should stop and say wow, that probably deserves its own paragraph. That's on my website or here. Those should be as short as possible.
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  3. #3
    For me a paragraph is a chunk of action, or a single character's action. I change when perspective changes, or when I start a new action.
    Paragraphs help us to compartmentalize each character's dialog and actions.
    I think of a paragraph as a single frame in a comic book.

  4. #4
    Besides the rules - a new paragraph with a change of speaker, for instance, I see a lot of variation with this. I struggle with it myself sometimes.

    Deciding when to change the paragraph actually has a surprising level of impact. I tend to go by the rule that each paragraph should start with a new angle that is sufficiently important to deserve its own 'space'. A change of location would absolutely warrant a new paragraph: In my WIP my character is currently moving about their house in the dead of night and when they go upstairs, that's a new paragraph. When they enter a room, that's a new paragraph too. Essentially starting an new paragraph is the next level up from starting a new sentence.

    Some writers use a lot more paragraphs than others and line breaks more generally. I tend to find modern writing, especially in genre fiction, uses the space of the page more than older literary writing. US authors tend to be more generous with line breaks than British authors. YA books tend to have much shorter paragraphs - sometimes just a sentence or two - than adult fiction. There's a balance to be struck though. If there is a constant break-apart in writing sections it becomes irritating and gimmicky. On the other hand, big blocks of text can be off-putting and lead to an overcrowding of lines that may benefit from being more spread out.

    Again, no hard and fast rules on paragraph usage beyond the basics. It's a trial and error thing.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I think of a paragraph as a single frame in a comic book.
    I really like that imagery! Sometimes my paragraphs are only a few words and sometimes they run away with me a bit! Especially when I'm trying to make a point.

    Sentence structure is not one of my strengths but I'm working to improve.

  6. #6
    I fully agree with luckyscars, there are some basic indications of how it can be done-- but a lot of it comes by trial and error metered by stylistic notions.

    At least, that's what my amateur writer brain thinks!

  7. #7
    If I find a paragragh too long, I look deep for a way to bring whatever into reality. When a paragragh gets long, its often full of bullshit wordage. But not always.

  8. #8
    A change of topic :

    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Finally, if there is something where you're reader should stop and say wow, that probably deserves its own paragraph.
    Hi

    I just spotted the word you're in the paragraph above. I think it's meant to be your. Maybe its just a typo by Emma Sohan or maybe its correct .... please advise.

    You're is short for you are so that's why I think it's wrong in the sentence.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Hero View Post
    A change of topic :


    Hi

    I just spotted the word you're in the paragraph above. I think it's meant to be your. Maybe its just a typo by Emma Sohan or maybe its correct .... please advise.

    You're is short for you are so that's why I think it's wrong in the sentence.
    You're correct; it was likely a typo. These days, autocorrect and autocomplete can bring about typos - sometimes hilarious typos. And some turn up as unconscious typing habits when trying to complete a thought (or thougth) quickly. We tend to ignore or forgive those in the midst of discussion ... well, unless they are hilarious; then we LOL our heads off.

    A paragraph can be one word, or one sentence, or a detailed exploration of ... just about anything within the writer's current focus. A change of paragraph indicates a change of focus; when the internal camera shifts from one point in the scene to another point, or another scene, it's time for a new paragraph (or scene break, or chapter break, etc). This can also apply when the focal shift is one of magnitude in the same location (zooming in or out to create a new frame of interest).

    Paragraphing in dialog can trip some writers up, sometimes in deciding when a change in focus occurs, and sometimes in identifying that new paragraph as the same speaker (the quotation marks rule for multi-paragraph dialog).
    "I don't know ... I'm making it up as I go ..." - Dr I Jones

    Nature abhors perfection - cats abhor a vacuum!

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  10. #10
    I think Cran is right on. I would add a passage of time would be a paragraph. Like...The next morning.....or...Later that day...

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