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!