SMUG Monday: Paragraph breaks

White space on the page adds emphasis to the end and beginning of each sentence. Psychologically, white space makes the reader feel like they’re reading faster. This is an advanced, useful tool for any writer.

Take the following paragraph:

Version 1: Slowed down

When Kaily woke up that morning, she had no idea what the day held. If her precog ability had chosen to raise its fickle, fickle head, she would have hit the snooze button and skipped the morning entirely. Instead, she found herself face to face with a demon over the breakfast table, aching to reach for the wand she kept taped under her chair. She had the stashed all over the house for this very reason, although it had been a long time, months at least, since someone had sent a demon assasin to her. Had she only stayed in her well-warded bedroom, she’d have to clean up a broken kitchen, instead of a broken her. Shit.

There are a few ways it can be broken up, depending on where we want the emphasis placed.

Version 2: Minimalist

When Kaily woke up that morning, she had no idea what the day held. If her precog ability had chosen to raise its fickle, fickle head, she would have hit the snooze button and skipped the morning entirely. Instead, she found herself face to face with a demon over the breakfast table, aching to reach for the wand she kept taped under her chair. She had the stashed all over the house for this very reason, although it had been a long time, months at least, since someone had sent a demon assasin to her. Had she only stayed in her well-warded bedroom, she’d have to clean up a broken kitchen, instead of a broken her.

Shit.

I always like to have emphatic single-word “sentences” on their own line. It adds to the bitey tone of the word without having to add punctuation or narrative tags, like “Shit, she thought bitterly.”

Version 3: Speed reading

When Kaily woke up that morning, she had no idea what the day held.

If her precog ability had chosen to raise its fickle, fickle head, she would have hit the snooze button and skipped the morning entirely. Instead, she found herself face to face with a demon over the breakfast table, aching to reach for the wand she kept taped under her chair.

She had the stashed all over the house for this very reason, although it had been a long time, months at least, since someone had sent a demon assasin to her. Had she only stayed in her well-warded bedroom, she’d have to clean up a broken kitchen, instead of a broken her.

Shit.

The paragraph breaks mark thought transitions. Even when you add many paragraph breaks, you still need to keep similar ideas together!

Paragraph breaks should be deliberate. Think about what you want to emphasize, how fast you want your reader to absorb the content. And don’t forget that big blocks of text can be intimidating to a reader, and this is even more true in romance where readers are used to shorter, snappier paragraphs interspersed with larger amounts of dialogue.

The white space is your friend.

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