Duhn, duhn, duuuuuhn! Time for dramatics! 😅
There’s a very easy way to add drama to your writing, whether you’re writing fiction or marketing copy or—like I do for my day job—writing for websites and apps.
How many times have you seen a website or Instagram post or book with a HUGE, LONG, SCARY, DENSE paragraph? 😱 (Listen, they’re scary to me!) It happens frequently and can be a near-guaranteed way to lose reader interest, especially in our very fast-paced world.
Now, keeping sentences short is a stylistic choice that not all authors follow, which is totally fine! Fiction doesn’t have to follow those same online rules. But, even authors who love long prose can benefit from breaking up big paragraphs.
I tend to break paragraphs up for two reasons:
- I’m trying to draw special attention to a particular line for emphasis or to build suspense.
- There’s a lot of physical action occurring and I want to break up the lines so that way the action is easier to read and digest.
In this example from the first chapter of Wolves, I made three separate short lines in a row rather than write them all in one paragraph.
In this scene, the main character, Sena, is running from some commandos through her frozen city. The line beginning with “I inch backward…” is one I separated because the action was shifting from the description before it. The character is going from internal thoughts to external action and I wanted that to be clear.
I separated the next two lines for three reasons: dramatic effect, suspense, and emphasis.
Sena starts by telling the reader that the bad guy thinks he’s won by cornering her and he’s not wrong. BUT then she immediately contradicts that by telling the reader that this person doesn’t know the city like she does. Which means she’s got a trick up her sleeve and we’re about to see what it is!
So having the line break there helps build suspense and creates emphasis. It also adds drama if I, the writer, hint at what the character has planning rather than just showing you immediately. And that drama is what helps keep readers engaged and keeps them reading!
A version of this story appeared in Wolves and Wonder, my monthly newsletter that includes no nonsense writing advice along with book updates and sci-fi inspiration. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.