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Paragraphs and the "Camera"

Paragraphs is something new and younger writers struggle a lot with. It can be hard to know when to start a new paragraph, scene, or chapter. Luckily, there's a fairly easy trick you can use and once you get the hang of it, you won't think about when to start a new paragraph. You'll just do it.

It's called the camera. When you write, you're likely imagining the scene in your head. Kinda like a movie.


Think about the camera in movies.

When a character speaks, the camera shifts to them.

When a character moves or enters, the camera shifts to them.

If the topic or location changes, so does the camera.

A camera shift in a movie is equivalent to a new paragraph in a novel. It moves the "camera" to what the reader should focus on next. A new character speaking or moving. An event outside the characters that attracts their attention. A topic change. Anything like that.

Plus, if you start to feel like a paragraph is too long, it probably is. Go ahead and split it up. People don't like blocks of text.

Most of the time, when to start a paragraph is a stylistic choice. Start a new one when it feels right.


But when it comes to dialogue or action, those are rules, not guidelines.

Don't make two characters have dialogue in the same paragraph. Don't make one speak, the other move, and the first speak again in one paragraph. Don't give your reader a chance to be confused.


And when in doubt, start a new paragraph.



Exercise 1:

Pick up your favorite book and note where new paragraphs start. Is it when the "camera" moves?

Exercise 2:

Watch a movie and note the camera changes. Then, write one of the scenes from the movie and start a new paragraph with each camera shift. What do you notice?

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