An important unit in fiction writing that is often overlooked and taken for granted is the paragraph. When readers notice the paragraphing in a short story or novel, they may feel that it represents casual choices, quick touches of the return key made while the writer was dealing with other issues. Most fiction writers, however, regard the paragraph as a key source of form, movement, depth, and discovery, and they organize their days around building and shaping paragraphs.
Fred Shafer will discuss the possibilities that are open to the writer who pays close attention to her paragraphs. Since there are few, if any, guidelines or rules for paragraphing in fiction, he plans to cover a number of strategies that are different from those followed in expository writing. Using examples from contemporary short stories and novels, he’ll look at various writers’ preferences as to the length and structure of paragraphs, depending on their sense of the pace, tone, and identity of their work. He’ll show methods of arranging sentences to carry out the purposes of paragraphs, as well as the changes in strategy that may become necessary in any story or chapter, even after a writer feels that she has settled on a plan for paragraphing.
Fred Shafer was an editor with TriQuarterly, the literary journal published by Northwestern University, where he taught fiction writing in the School of Professional Studies for many years. He leads three private workshops in short story and novel writing.
Fred will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see the Manuscript drop down on our website at ocww.info for details.