Latest News

Fun with paragraphs

Paragraphs are one of those fun things you learn about in high school (okay, even younger than that…) in lessons that probably made your eyes glaze over a little bit. A topic sentence, then sentences that support the topic, then a concluding sentence that restates the main point and transitions smoothly into the next paragraph. See? Your eyes are even glazing over right now, just reading that sentence, aren’t they?

This is the way I thought of paragraphs for however many years. Even in college, they didn’t let me forget it. Believe me, I tried. But there was always a lot of red on my papers when I did.
But fiction is not an essay (and why is this sometimes so hard to remember?) You can do things in fiction that you can’t in essays. Dangerous things. Like writing paragraphs that are only a single sentence long. Or, even scarier, one word.

I know. Crazy.

It has been hard for me to unlearn the structure of a paragraph. To look at (or write) a one or two sentence paragraph and not be scared. I’m still unlearning it a little bit. But creatively separating sentences to make them stand out is such a great tool, and one that tends to get kind of overlooked. I mean, with all the writing, plotting, outlining, and the rest of the things we have to do, who has time to think about structural issues?

But don’t forget about your paragraphs. Make them work for you!

Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

Posts by Kaitlin

website twitter goodreads tumblr

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. This is so true. The rules that were pounded into our heads for years, don't always apply when writing fiction. I love how separating sentences and other ways of 'rule breaking' can add to emotion or suspense in writing.

  2. Kaitlin,

    Paragraphs were always one of my biggest fiction writing struggles before I realized the essay paragraph rules don't apply!

    I can't even say what a relief it was when I finally figured out there was no right or wrong way to do paragraphs in fiction; that they were mine and I could write them however *I* wanted.

    I'm also still unlearning too, but now I happily break paragraphs not only for logical content and dialog, but for emphasis and to visually break up large clumps of words on the page. Now my paragraphs work for me; I don't work for them.

    Such FREEDOM!!!!

    Great post!

  3. very true! paragraph design is just as important for pacing & emphasis as sentence length, and even what those paragraphs & sentences actually contain. John, well-put as well.

  4. The paragraphs in my WIP are always pretty short. Like, more than three sentences is unusual. I've had the whole essay paragraph banged into me too, but this is MY writing, dangit. haha.

  5. I'm loving the burger. There are many rules that have changed since I was in school. One space after periods comes to mind. :]


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Fun with paragraphs Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward