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Paragraph Structure - Walter Shillington's Author's Workshop

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A paragraph is a small subsection of a story and usually deals with one distinct idea.  It is marked by the beginning of a new line and can be indented.  

A paragraph is composed of sentences.  How these sentences are constructed will affect flow of the story.  Consider this:

   Black eyed Pete climbed from his horse and tied it to the rail.  He pulled down his saddle and slung it across his back.  Click!  Pete swivelled quickly around and reached for his gun.  It was the sheriff.  Pete dropped his weapon and raised his hands.

With the possible exception of Click!, each of these sentences are adequate.  Combined together in one paragraph, they fail miserably.  The section plods on awkwardly and will fail to interest the reader.  Four of the six sentences use identical structure and are approximately the same length.  The two short sentences help but this is not enough.  

  
 Black eyed Pete climbed from his horse and tied it to the rail.  With a sigh, he pulled down his saddle, slinging it across his back.  Click!  Pete swivelled quickly around and reached for his gun.  It was the sheriff.  Pete dropped his weapon, his hands reaching for the sky.   

While the snippet shows improvement, it contains too much information for one paragraph.  

   
Black eyed Pete climbed from his chestnut Palomino and tied it to the rail.  It was hot. He loosed the cinch and reached for his saddle.
    
Click!
    
Pete grabbed his revolver, swivelling quickly to the right.
    
“Hold it right there, stranger.”  The tall man held a Springfield, its barrel aimed directly at the outlaw’s chest.  A metal star glinted from his shirt pocket.
    
Pete dropped his gun and raised his hands to the sky.

Adding additional paragraphs helped.  Research on the internet located a breed of horse to use, and a video on how to Western Saddle a horse came in handy.  I didn’t want to keep repeating Pete’s name so I used a couple of substitutes.  The word picture of Pete - swivelling quickly to the right while holding a gun and heavy saddle - didn’t work.  To fix this I started the action before he removed the saddle.  Instead of naming the Sheriff, I described him; it is always better to show than tell.  The sentences are of varying lengths and composed using different structures.  I added dialogue to help draw in the reader.  If you read this section aloud, it sounds natural.  While not perfect, this is a respectable revision.

 
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