No one wants the instant headache of two solid pages of text. Write in a spot to breathe. Start new paragraphs often. For the sake of your readers.
1. Change in Location
Every time you change locations, you need to start a new paragraph. Readers will easily become confused if you move from the kitchen to the garden halfway through your paragraph. Anything ‘new’ needs to be in a new paragraph.
2. Change in Time
This goes hand-in-hand with changes in location. If it’s new, it needs to be in a new paragraph. That way, it will click in your reader’s head that they should imagine something different. Writing changes in time includes days, years, or even a jump in minutes.
It was by this time about nine in the morning, and the first fog of the season. – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
3. New Character Speaks
Each character should say something important enough to require their own paragraph. Let the reader soak it in. A back-and-forth conversation can easily confuse your readers.
|Harry mumbles, “You’re sure about this?” With a quick glance at Beck, he relaxes.|
“What’s not to be sure about?” Beck smiles.
|Harry mumbles, “You’re sure about this?” With a quick glance at Beck, he relaxes. “What’s not to be sure about?” Beck smiles.|
Which one’s easier to understand? The first one, right?
The second you squish everything into one paragraph, you lose your readers. No one wants to work that hard to understand a conversation.
4. The Reader Could Use A Breath
Paragraph breaks give readers the opportunity to take a breath and collect their thoughts. Sometimes, I literally wait for a paragraph break to breathe. If you write two pages with no paragraph breaks, your readers might pass out!
It also gives your characters time to breathe. Let them take in what just happened too.
When this excitement was over, Beth waited to see what would happen. – Little Women
5. Change in Topic
Give your readers the chance to realize something new is happening. Don’t switch from talking about books to talking about movies in one paragraph. No one will realize you switched. Keep your story filled with new paragraphs, especially during topic changes.
6. To Shift Focus
The easiest way to shift your reader’s focus is by starting a new paragraph. Make it exciting. They won’t even realize you’ve bamboozled them into reading about something new.
Start with a transition sentence that blends your two topics together.
There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe turned, received the whack and fell. – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
7. A New Point In An Argument
Arguments are a back-and-forth boxing match. How do you expect your readers to keep up with that? New paragraphs are the key to writing arguments.
Write character A’s reactions and dialogue in the first paragraph. Write character B’s in the second. Make it clear who’s talking. Don’t make anyone re-read the argument a thousand times to figure out who said what. Use new paragraphs.
8. Dramatic Effect
What’s better than a little drama? New paragraphs are the perfect ‘pause-for-effect’ of writing. Use them! Readers will appreciate it.
Writers are dramatic. It comes with the territory. This is your chance to shine. Don’t write “I slept so long people thought I was dead,” write:
Death’s Brother is the name that poets give to sleep. – Circe