1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,554
    Likes Received:
    1,610

    Correct Paragraphs

    Discussion in 'By Writing Form' started by John Calligan, Apr 5, 2018.

    From Helping Writers become Authors:

    https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/paragraph-mistakes/

    I'm going to look for examples in the next big five published book I read, but for now, I'm suspicious of this advice.

    Again, I'll have to go look for examples in a well received, big five published book, but I'm highly suspicious of separating "She shook head," from the following line.

    Anyone have any feelings on this?
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,948
    Likes Received:
    11,810
    I'd agree with the "Like This" version of both. A paragraph represents one complete idea, and one character's actions are a separate idea from another character's thoughts. One character's thoughts are a separate idea from her actions.

    But I'd also look for the overall flow of things--I don't want a million super-short paragraphs, so I wouldn't stick to this idea if it made the writing ugly.
     
    xanadu, John Calligan and T_L_K like this.
  3. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,554
    Likes Received:
    1,610
    There are so many ways being rigid can make writing ugly though.

    Take the second one. I find the repetition of she ugly already. If it’s one paragraph, you can use the name, then the pronoun. If you use the name in one paragraph, then she in the next, it can become ambiguous.

    I’m not saying their taste in structure is wrong, other than that right/wrong on things this subjective is suspicious and maybe problematic.
     
    Shenanigator likes this.
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,948
    Likes Received:
    11,810
    Totally subjective, because I don't see the ambiguity in having the pronoun and antecedent in different paragraphs! Style - lots of variety!
     
    John Calligan likes this.
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,270
    Likes Received:
    12,953
    I agree with”like this” in both examples.

    In the first, I don’t have a strong feeling, because it’s all the same character, but I still prefer breaking out the dialogue.

    I’m more inclined to call “not like this” wrong in the second case, because “She shook (her) head” is her action, and the rest feels like his—yes, it starts with “she”, but that’s him thinking about her, not her doing something. So combining it in one paragraph sort of makes her an object, not a character,
     
  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,666
    Likes Received:
    7,894
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Me third to agree with both "like this," though like Chicken said, the second passage feels as if it could go either way.

    If anything, the function of a paragraph is to cue the reader that one thought has finished and another is about to begin. What constitutes a thought is debatable, but it's one of those subconscious things that a reader will only notice if the paragraphs are parsed incorrectly (usually because they're consistently too short or too long). And most of the time the reader won't even be able to articulate why it feels wrong... just that something is up.

    Don't bother. Nearly all competent writing follows these "rules." And the ones that don't are probably taking stylistic liberties that most of us mortals shouldn't try to emulate.
     
  7. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,554
    Likes Received:
    1,610
    I’m going to apologize for the second example. I misread it.

    For the first, standing in an airport on a phone, I google searched for a Lee Child excerpt and found this. From Chapter 2 of Lee Child’s “Make Me.”

    Scene, Reacher takes an action, and then the clerk speaks. I’ve always enjoyed Lee Childs writing.

    Anyway, my impression is this sort of prose is pretty common in the commercial fiction I like to read.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  8. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,554
    Likes Received:
    1,610
    From Nora Roberts “Bay of Sighs” which I happened to have on me:

    I understand the form isn’t identical and it would be possible for someone to make the case this excerpt follows a different rule than the first example. I only show it to point out the grey scale.
     
  9. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,554
    Likes Received:
    1,610
    A single paragraph from V.E. Schwab’s “Vicious.”

     
  10. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,159
    Likes Received:
    4,016
    I've never paid attention to this. As long as it makes sense, who cares? The average reader would have no idea either way. If you've done your job well enough, your reader shouldn't be pulled from the story to examine your paragraphs. It only becomes a problem if it confuses the reader. If it doesn't, then go wild.
     
    John Calligan and Cave Troll like this.
  11. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,220
    Likes Received:
    2,312
    Hmm... I think I would go with the first example that is marked wrong. And this is an area I tend to feel confident in when it comes to grammar and structure. In the "wrong" example, I know that it's Chris talking since the paragraph starts and stays with him. Even mentioning another character, we stay with Chris and his thoughts. To me, it makes sense to include the dialog with this paragraph. If it's a new paragraph, shouldn't it be a new speaker? All the pronouns do make it a bit confusing, I think. The second example is somewhat of a mess. I think that one just needs a complete rewrite. My paragraph radar comes both from study and reading. It's not something I really feel like I need to think of so much. And I think reading and reading a lot can make this sort of think instinctive for others, too. I trust myself and that I know what I'm doing way more than these two examples.
     
    Wreybies and John Calligan like this.
  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    22,843
    Likes Received:
    18,115
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Agreed. Sometimes I think.... it's like a flat tire. When it happens, it's obvious, there's no mistaking the event. Otherwise, I'm not stopping the car that's rolling along perfectly well, every ten minutes, to check for a flat that's not in evidence.

    ETA: For the record - and not to dismiss the point of the thread out of hand - my natural feel would be for the form that's being pointed out as the more correct form. But I also agree with @BayView in that there is a matter of scale to be considered. When I back up the zoom, if I see a bajillion little one-sentence paragraphs, that's not good either. The variables are more complex than the prescriptivist lean that's being presented.
     

Share This Page