Words are the building blocks of sentences. Sentences are the building blocks of paragraphs. Paragraphs are the building blocks of storytelling.
TIP: Paragraphs are units of thought that provide cohesion to the story. They give the reader a rest between ideas.
TIP: Very long paragraphs can be tedious. Shorter paragraphs improve readability. An endless series of single-sentence paragraphs can be annoying, however.
Be sparing. Paragraphs should be unified ideas with no wasted words. Avoid big blocks of text.
Inject variety. A variety of paragraphs will engage the reader. However, consistent use of long or short paragraphs can create a distinctive style, though that carries risks.
Be aware of effect. A long paragraph can work well as a mini-narrative or flashback, a story within the story. A short paragraph after a long one can produce surprise.
Respect rhythm. Paragraph lengths sets the tempo. The break between paragraphs are pauses. Longer paragraphs can therefore slow the story down when needed. Shorter paragraphs can speed it up, such as during a climax scene.
TRICKS: How to check your readability statistics.
Flesh Reading Ease:
The resulting score corresponds with U.S. grade level omprehension. A score of 6 is considered ideal.
You can check your Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid scores in Word. Highlight some text, click Review, then Spelling and Grammar, then Show Readability Statistics.
Oh dear. Somebody’s having a bad day:
Reader Ease Ideal: The Reader Ease Ideal score, promulgated by James Smith, is the Flesch score minus the Flesch-Kincaid score. Smith delineates varying Reader Ease Ideal scores with an evaluation of pacing. A score of 86+, for example, is a “breakneck pace.”
You can do this for your entire book, scene by scene (as shown in the below example covering the first 35 scenes for my novel SEPARATION) to get a pulse for your book’s pacing. You can also apply it to individual parts of your scene (beginning, middle, end). Rising pace is good toward climactic scenes. Variety is good instead of a flat band running across.
Of course, there’s something missing here in these statistics, which is quality. To be clear, these are pacing tools. How easily will the reader understand what you’re saying so they keep turning pages? Of course, the rest is up to you. What words populate these pages.
And that’s paragraphs. In my next post, we’ll talk about how to compose scenes.