To view this notification widget you need to have JavaScript enabled. This notification widget was easily created with NotifySnack.
Home Tour About Read What's New Help Forums Join Login
My Account
Shop
Save
Support
E
Book
Store
Learn
About
Jesus
  




The HOME for Christian writers!
The Home for Christian Writers!

Forums

This area is only a small portion of FaithWriters. The main site can be joined HERE.
Shop & Save to SUPPORT FaithWriters.
Upgrade to SUPPORT FaithWriters.

Paragraphs

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

Moderators: mikeedwards, glorybee

DustBSH
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
 
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:28 am

Paragraphs

Postby DustBSH » Wed Apr 30, 2014 7:31 am

Hi Jan
God bless you. Thank you for your good and constructive critique awhile back. I changed the ending as you suggested and I must say, it looks a lot better now.
One thing several people have mentioned to me is that I do not seem to properly place the paragraphs. It's true, I usually just place paragraphs sort of at random. That sounds a little silly, but I seem to be at loss as what the rules are. Are there some rules concerning where and how to place proper paragraphs in an article?
If it does not take too much of your time I would be grateful to hear from you.
Kind regards
Koos

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6239
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Paragraphs

Postby glorybee » Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:29 am

Generally, a paragraph should cover one topic. When the topic switches, a new paragraph should begin. Here's a non-fiction example:

Over a billion people in the world live in extreme poverty. These people often have to eat on very little money; often their income (adjusted to US money) is as little as $1.50 per day. With so little money, choices are few, and they often subsist on cheap grains, with very little meat or produce.

Live Below the Line is an organization that seeks to educate people about the problem of extreme poverty. From April 28 - May 2, several thousand people are voluntarily eating on $1.50 per day, in order to better understand the problems faced by the poor. These volunteers seek sponsorships; the money will go toward any of several of the most reliable charities for hunger relief.

You can visit my Living Below the Line page here. All of the money that I'm raising will go toward The Heifer Project, an organization that provides livestock to poor families, both as a source of food and of income.


You'll see that the first paragraph is a general informational paragraph on the topic of eating on extreme poverty. The second paragraph changes topics, and covers the work of an anti-hunger organization. The third paragraph covers my own fund-raising efforts.

It's a little bit different when writing fiction. You still need to limit paragraphs to one topic, but you also have to switch paragraphs every time a new person speaks, or every time a new action occurs. Paragraphs in fiction may be very short--perhaps only a few words--or quite lengthy. Here's an example from fiction (I've numbered the paragraphs to refer to them later):

1. It was a long train ride from Boston to Savannah, and Beau and I hadn’t bought sleeper tickets. When night fell, he covered me with his suit jacket and we dozed a bit, my head on his shoulder.

2. Early in the morning, we rattled into Savannah station; Beau’s mother sent a car to meet us there. My linen dress, the color of fresh butter, had wrinkled. I tried in vain to smooth it out—it was the dress I’d worn to marry Beau a month earlier.

3. I’d not intended to ever go south again. My mother’s rigid back and my sister’s tears were the last sights I’d expected to see through Georgia’s haze. Apparently, however, one does not ignore a summons from Mrs. Beauregard Montgomery, especially one that will probably be her last.

4. She was seated in the parlor, a yellowing lacy shawl around her shoulders and a quilt on her lap. Behind her, a set of crossed Confederate swords—her grandfather’s—were mounted above the fireplace. Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his. “Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…” I stood at the doorway, silent.

5. She touched his cheek, then chastised him in a wavering voice. “Where are your manners, junior? Tell your bride to come closer. I want to look at her.”

6. Beau beckoned me over and I approached her, my heart in my throat. “Mrs. Montgomery, I’m…I’m pleased to meet you.” I offered her my gloved hand, and she pulled me closer. Her eyes held mine, then she reached up and fingered an escaped ringlet, damp with Georgia air.

7. She didn’t speak for an eternity. Then—“What did you say your name is?”


Each paragraph has its own separate theme or purpose:

1. Introduction of two main characters and the setting
2. They change locations
3. Slight flashback, character building
4. A new character is introduced
5. One character's dialogue
6. Another character's dialogue and actions
7. Another character's dialogue and actions

Notice that the paragraphs are of several different lengths.

In non-fiction, paragraphs tend to have more than one sentence, and there is often a topic sentence, or a sentence containing transition from the previous one. Those transitions are particularly important (and there is a lesson in the forums on writing transitions here). However, there is no rule, either in fiction or in nonfiction, about the number of sentences in a paragraph.

I hope this helps, and please let me know if you have further questions!
Jan Ackerson

DustBSH
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
 
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:28 am

Re: Paragraphs

Postby DustBSH » Wed Apr 30, 2014 2:40 pm

Thanks Jan
Everyone here is so helpful. I am just about amazed. I am going to study this.
Txs.

DustBSH
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
 
Posts: 45
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:28 am

Re: Paragraphs

Postby DustBSH » Thu May 01, 2014 6:08 am

Hi Jan. Just a little clarification. In the sample you wrote:
Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his. “Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…” I stood at the doorway, silent.

Since Beau is starting to speak would it not be appropiate to place a paragraph there, and then one again after the idea switches back to 'me'? Llke:

Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his.

“Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…”

I stood at the doorway, silent.

In any case if someone would have butted in there would have been a need for a new paragraph, like in:

Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his. “Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…” I stood at the doorway, silent.

Suddenly the door opened.

"What's going on", screamed the maid...

I never studied this but I can tell from the comments on my articles that it is very important.
God bless.

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6239
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Paragraphs

Postby glorybee » Thu May 01, 2014 7:56 am

DustBSH wrote:Hi Jan. Just a little clarification. In the sample you wrote:
Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his. “Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…” I stood at the doorway, silent.

Since Beau is starting to speak would it not be appropiate to place a paragraph there, and then one again after the idea switches back to 'me'? Llke:

Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his.

“Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…”

I stood at the doorway, silent.

In any case if someone would have butted in there would have been a need for a new paragraph, like in:

Vases everywhere were filled with lemony lady’s-slippers. Beau knelt beside her chair, grasping her hand in both of his. “Mother,” he said. Then again, “Mother…” I stood at the doorway, silent.

Suddenly the door opened.

"What's going on", screamed the maid...

I never studied this but I can tell from the comments on my articles that it is very important.
God bless.


Good question!

In fiction, so much depends on the writer, and the impression she is trying to make, and thus, decisions about what to include in a paragraph are not black-and-white.

In this case, I was the writer, so I can tell you why I kept all three of those sentences in one paragraph, rather than separating them into three separate paragraphs. This story is told from the POV of Jeanette, and this particular paragraph takes place as she first meets her mother-in-law in the old lady's home. So these sentences (in the story, there are two more) show Jeanette's taking in of the room that she had never seen before, and also her first impression of Mrs. Montgomery and Beau's interaction with her. All of those things--her observations of the room, the old woman, and Beau--happen in a very short amount of time, and the final sentence tells how Jeanette reacts. She doesn't rush in to hug the old woman, for example, but she hangs back, silently (later events in the story reveal the reasons for her hesitancy).

So that's all about characterization, but there are mechanical reasons for keeping all of that in one paragraph, too. Breaking up that larger paragraph into three smaller ones would interrupt the flow of the story, and make it far choppier to read.

You're right, though--if the maid had entered, I'd definitely need to give her a new paragraph. That could be done as you've written it, or the two sentences that you added could be combined into one paragraph. (Interestingly, there is a maid in the story. If you'd like to read the whole thing, you can find it here.)

I hope this all makes sense to you. Please let me know if you have further questions!
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
RachelM
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 620
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:52 pm

Re: Paragraphs

Postby RachelM » Thu May 01, 2014 11:34 am

Very helpful information! I don't usually think about paragraph placement, and it's good to be reminded of the "rules."
My FaithWriters profile: RachelM FW member profile

BrotherAnthony
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
 
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 1:00 pm

Re: Paragraphs

Postby BrotherAnthony » Thu May 01, 2014 2:55 pm

Hey, Jan,

Most of my devotional writing is more akin to story-telling. I like to keep the style conversational - as almost as if I am writing letter to a friend. When it comes to paragraphing, I sometimes find it difficult to find the place where the subject matter changes. However, I notice I tend to use paragraphing as places for thinking pause on the part of the reader. Is this legit, helpful, or problematic.

Here is a recent devotional... also note how I tend to not paragraph short exchanges for the sake of keeping the moment in one piece ... this certainly breaks form and style ... but in this context does it hurt or help?

"In Jerusalem there is a pool with five covered porches, which is called Bethesda. … Many sick people were lying on the decks beside the pool. Some were blind, some were crippled, and some were paralyzed and they waited for the water to move. Sometimes an angel of the Lord came down to the pool and stirred up the water. After the angel did this, the first person to go into the pool was healed from any sickness he had. A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, ‘Do you want to be well?’ The sick man answered, ‘Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Stand up. Pick up your blanket and walk.’ And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” – John 5:2-9


As the caregiver for Brother John of Kilkenny and as an older patient of a chronic condition, I have grown accustomed to sitting in doctors' waiting rooms. Strangely silent places are these places, seldom are conversations shared, even the greetings are done solely through nods and smiles. There is always a clock in prominent view, somehow adding to the agony of this slower portion of Time. Magazines are available by dozen, not so much for reading but for flipping through, mindlessly as a means of soothing the impatient feelings that these waiting patients seem to have. And there is always that mysterious yet quite tangible air of anxiety that fills the room.

I find it strange that waiting in a physician's waiting room is such a struggle. Most folks would confess - if they were totally honest - they hate it. At home, I often sit around so little more than loafing and procrastinating. That loafing time comes easily; but this waiting time, it comes painfully. But, still we wait... ever hoping that the nurse will call next our name.

The Gospels tell us of the great crowds that would be waiting for Jesus' arrival. A great share of that waiting crowd came hoping to be healed or to have a loved one healed. When it came to healing, in Jesus' day, mystical healers were commonplace with medicine still in its primitive state. And the people were willing to wait ... waiting for not a healing word but also a healing touch.

And I offer that we still have such a need ... this need for someone to offer a healing word and a healing touch, from someone who will take the time to look us in the eye and ask, "Do you want be made well?"

I find Jesus question of that man by the Bethesda pool to most unexpected. Why else would the man be there? But it is always the first question asked by those with healing words and a healing touch ..."Do you want to be made well?"

Not sure what I mean? Well, take Brother of Kilkenny and his Alzheimer's. The other day the doctor asked him, "Padre ..." [For reasons never explained, the doctor likes to call clergy, "Padre". Possibly it was a military slang from years ago.] "Padre, what can I do for you today?" Brother John thought for a moment and then said, "Do you have anything that might help me sleep more soundly?" No longer is John's answer ... "Will you heal me of this Alzheimer's." That question has been asked and as of yet, left unanswered. Now the request he makes is of a more specific kind. And I find that this specificity of request is most helpful for those who bring healing words and a healing touch.

That night, Brother John asked me to tell him a story ... some tall tale that we of Scotch-Irish heritage tend to be quite adept at telling. It was a tale of merry monks and gallant soldiers, fair maidens and meadows of Irish green. Before I finished, Brother John gave to me a rather loving smile of thanksgiving before he slipped off to sleep. I brought him a blanket and said the Order of Evening Prayers for that night. And I felt ... yes, I humbly felt as though the Lord had used me that night as a healer, bring a few healing words and a moment of healing touch.

My Loved Ones, never underestimate the gracious worth of such words and such a touch ... for the world is filled with people waiting for them.

Pax,

Brother Anthony of the Cross (jim mcwhinnie)
and Brother John of Kilkenny


jim

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6239
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Paragraphs

Postby glorybee » Thu May 01, 2014 6:08 pm

Jim, I think the only paragraph there that might give pause to a grammatical stickler is the one that begins "Not sure what I mean?" As you said in your post, you set aside convention and put more than one speaker in the same paragraph.

I think this is one of the cases where writing is more art than science. You've stated your reason for wanting to keep that paragraph intact, and your reasons are valid. Furthermore, if I might paraphrase a familiar verse: excellent writing covers a multitude of flouted conventions. You are a superb writer, and I doubt that anyone would scoff at that paragraph. It does what you want it to do.
Jan Ackerson


Return to Jan's Writing Basics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Allison and 1 guest


© MeasurelessMedia. All rights reservedTerms of Service



Jesus - True for You But not for Me      Website Builder     Build Website     Is Jesus God?    
Does God exist?     Build a writers website     Does truth exist?     Website online in minutes