The first meeting of the year saw much great advice at the table on Sunday and that always makes my job of picking a piece of advice for this post hard. This month I selected some advice received by two different submissions, but while about the same thing they looked at different functions of that one thing.
Paragraphs can have a larger effect on pacing than you realise. A long paragraph is daunting to a reader. Too many in a row can put people off, make them put your book aside. Even if you disregard that, a long paragraph takes longer to read. It gives the illusion of time passing more slowly. Unless that’s the pacing you’re intending to create, be cautious of putting too many together, or a large one in amongst a quick-paced portion that might halt or hinder the reader’s velocity.
A lot of quick, short paragraphs give the feeling of the story going swiftly. The same can be said of sentences too.
You can also make use of paragraph length to make a point or a statement, such as my single word paragraph further above. Don’t stop there though, you can do more than just that.
One of the submitted pieces was contrasting the lives of two different people, slowly looping it back around to show how they were actually deeply connected. It was a beautiful paragraph – but it was a single one. By breaking it up so the characters differences were each in their own paragraph it enhanced how the two were so different, but when it cycled back to showing how their lives were actually linked, they began to share paragraphs to symbolise the joining.
Paragraphs may seem like one of the smaller and less important parts of writing, but they too can be used for all kinds of effect. Don’t overlook them!