1. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    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?
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    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.
     
  3. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    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.
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Totally subjective, because I don't see the ambiguity in having the pronoun and antecedent in different paragraphs! Style - lots of variety!
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    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 I've got no use for kale... Contributor

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    A single paragraph from V.E. Schwab’s “Vicious.”

     
  10. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    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.
     
  11. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    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.
     
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  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    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.
     
  13. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    I would likely go with the "wrong" first example marked. It's smoother, like honey. That break in the "correct" example is a brain slap.

    In the second example, it makes sense that you would separate one person's actions and another's thoughts via paragraph. Cause and effect are best separated as well.

    However, separating all action and thought is bad form, in my opinion.

    On a case-by-case basis, I try to keep the relevant thoughts and actions together; sometimes the 'monologue' is directly placing emotion/reason on an action, so it makes sense to keep those married.
     
  14. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    NOT LIKE THIS
    She shook her head. [Action/Cause] She was a difficult woman to impress, and, up to now, his skill sets in this world hadn’t been of a quality that measured up. But, right now, he couldn’t help feeling she was pleased with him. Even more than that, she seemed to be reaching out to him for something. [Thought] He eyed her, then spoke before he could give himself time to think. [Action] “Your life didn’t exactly turn out the way you thought it would, did it?” [Speech]


    Let's look this over and make some considerations.

    First off, a paragraph is a construction that largely allows you to promote clarity and order. When something changes, we mark that significant change with a paragraph marker. Perhaps the subject changes, or a time gap occurs or a character changes or you've simply moved on to the next topic. But, suffice to say this:
    1) Paragraph marker: Something has changed.
    2) No paragraph mark: Nothing significant has changed.
    On that level, it's not quantum physics. The problem often will occur when we go too long. Then PACE is affected as we get lost in the clutter or lose clarity. At that point the pressure is felt by the writer to make change happen, perhaps artificially. There's the ying and the yang.

    One common tool is this idea that a marker change means a new actor is in play. By default, if we have no paragraph marker, the same actor is in play. I call that SA/SP, NA/NP. (same actor, same paragraph, etc.)

    This allows the reader to rush right along. Someone does or thinks something, and they speak. Paragraph marker: Bang, we know someone else is in play. Using this, we often don't even need to use dialogue tags, or not as much. We associate that paragraph space with that actor, and we associate a break in paragraph with an automatic intro to someone else.

    That said, let's look at this example. Why is the person making the advice fixated upon breaking this up by the artificial criteria of thought, action and cause? Seriously flawed thinking, there. If I saw that advice from a reviewer I'd not listen to a single thing they said to me thereafter. Clearly they are clueless about paragraphs and will butcher the work. That reviewer's focus is singular; breaking it apart for clarity of the moment, while totally sacrificing clarity in the main.

    She shook her head. [Action/Cause]

    She was a difficult woman to impress, and, up to now, his skill sets in this world hadn’t been of a quality that measured up. But, right now, he couldn’t help feeling she was pleased with him. Even more than that, she seemed to be reaching out to him for something. [Thought] He eyed her, then spoke before he could give himself time to think. [Action] “Your life didn’t exactly turn out the way you thought it would, did it?” [Speech]


    We seriously do not want to break speech out from an actor's action. Quite the contrary. We INSIST upon connecting them. This is how we know that the same actor is in play. If SHE speaks and then the focus remains upon her, those MUST be connected. The ambiguity in this example is in determining where HE begins. This could be broken out two different ways, given that this is a bit of a lengthy transition:

    She shook her head. She was a difficult woman to impress, and, up to now, his skill sets in this world hadn’t been of a quality that measured up. But, right now, he couldn’t help feeling she was pleased with him. Even more than that, she seemed to be reaching out to him for something.

    He eyed her, then spoke before he could give himself time to think. “Your life didn’t exactly turn out the way you thought it would, did it?”

    Here, HIS thoughts, actions and speech belong with HIM. Where prior to that, her actions, and his focus upon her belong with her paragraph. Making this a little more difficult is how much of the work is in HIS head. So, while he is focusing on her, it's really all his head. That points to a potential flaw in writing style. We get all sorts of content from him, when we might just see her making the case, allowing the reader in. The content presented for our evaluation is too limited to make that call, but if we spend a whole book in someone's head like this, we do tend to bore the reader and we also make these transitions more difficult to detect.

    Notice what defines paragraph, in this example. It isn't time or subject change. It's character SA/SP, NA/NP. If that is rigidly established, the book can continue along that line and dialogue specifically matures to the grad-school level. We ought to consider what improper paragraphing does to the overall clarity of story, NOT THE MOMENTARY splurge. If the reader can't trust in the meaning of paragraphs, they can't trust you when you paragraph. That's really bad.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
  15. Fahmidah Khatoon

    Fahmidah Khatoon New Member

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    Nice work buddy.
     

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