When to Start a New Paragraph

A paragraph is a section of your story. All of the sentences in your paragraph should be about one chunk of information. The paragraphs are indented, or there is a line skipped between them. In this article, lines are skipped between the paragraphs.

the paragraph, scaryforkids.com

the paragraph, scaryforkids.com

How long should your paragraphs be? They should be as long or as short as you need them to be. A paragraph can consist of only one word if necessary. Or it can be much longer.

Why do writers, especially fiction writers, need to worry about knowing when to begin a new paragraph? The main reason is to keep the readers from becoming confused. Is there any writer who wants to bewilder his readers?

There are some basic rules about when you should start a new paragraph when writing fiction.

Since you don’t want to confuse your readers, a new paragraph should be started when you switch to a new time. The new time could be only a few minutes away, or it could be years in the future. On the other hand, it could also be part of a flashback and be set in the distant, or not so distant, past. Some phrases that signal a change in time are:
1) Later that afternoon. . .
2) Two hours later. . .
3) The next day. . .
4) Earlier that day. . .
5) Before the accident. . .

When locations are switched, a new paragraph needs to be started. Many short stories take place in one location, while the story in a book can take place in several different locations. Whenever you change where the story is taking place, you need to clue your readers in by letting them know the location has changed.

What if your story takes place in just one room? You still need to signal when the action moves to a different part of the room. Do you remember the movie Rope that was directed by Alfred Hitchcock? This awesome story took place in one room. It was based on the play Rope’s End which was inspired by real-life events. A different location, even if the book takes place in only one room, can be very important. Some words that signal a change in location are:
1) Meanwhile, over at the restaurant. .
2) Back at the compound. .
3) Inside the house. . .
4) Behind the fence. . .
5) Over by the entertainment center. . .

paragraphs, www.instantdisplay.co.uk

paragraphs, www.instantdisplay.co.uk

A new paragraph needs to begin each time the speaker changes. Have you ever read a story where the author failed to do this? If you don’t give each speaker his or her own paragraph, it is extremely hard to keep up with just who is talking. If the speakers change a lot in your story or book, you will have a lot of paragraphs. This is all right. If you decide not to switch paragraphs each time your speaker changes, not only will it confuse your readers, it will also be wrong. No publisher will accept your story like that.

If the speaker changes the subject during the time he is speaking, then you need to start a new paragraph even though the speaker is still the same. Quotation marks are needed at the beginning of each new paragraph for the speaker. Ending quotation marks are not needed until the character is done speaking, another character speaks up, or it goes back to the narrative.

You can use your own judgment for this one. A new paragraph can be started if you want to convey a dramatic effect. What kind of dramatic effect? Well, that depends on the type of story you are writing, but the dramatic effect should be something that is unexpected, not something that is obvious.

Once you are done writing your story, read back over it, and ensure your paragraphs will make it easy for your readers to understand.

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