I want to discuss today - the paragraph. I have reviewed many chapters where the paragraph somehow got lost in the Sahara desert and never made it back. Pages upon pages of muck.
Why does it matter how the paragraph looks? Um, because you want the reader to like your book, don't you?
Okay, so what is a good paragraph and how do I write one?
First of all, a paragraph is not just white space between, let's say, every five lines. Do not make all your paragraphs the same lenght...yuck.
Second, paragraphs have a purpose. Well, they should...and if yours don't, rewrite them.
What do you mean I need a topic sentence?
Yup, even if you are writing fiction, you need a topic sentence, supporting sentences and a way to move the story forward.
Here are some examples of topic sentences from best selling novels:
From Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants: "Apparently uncle Al doesn't agree." - Now what's the paragraph going to discuss? Basically, all the ways uncle Al shows he doesn't agree.
From Val McDermid's Beneath the Bleeding: "Carol felt the rip of conflicting emotions." As you can guess, the paragraph then relates what conflicting emotions she felt.
From Joshua Mowll's Operation Red Jericho: "Then they saw her." The paragraph describes what they saw her doing.
How do you know when to switch paragraphs?
1) You are writing about one thing, and then you start writing about another. This is it in a nutshell. But how do you tell whether or not all your sentences are about the same thing, and not about another? Usually it is obvious, but occasionally it is not. This is where your authority as the author comes in; you are responsible for deciding whether the sentences belong together or not. Do you want your readers to associate these ideas together closely or not? Which way makes your meaning clearest?
2) You are writing about the actions of Carol in the one paragraph, and then start writing about Jim. If you are planning to devote several sentences in a row to Jim, you should probably start a new paragraph.
So keep that in mind...