Argh! My Eyes!!

My apologies for being absent. Life happens. I really appreciate all the comments on the previous blog post. Also the kinds notes I received while I was ‘gone’. You are all my family!

Since I am so busy, let one of our own step in and say a few words.
Give it up for Jim Stitzel!

Structure In Your Story: Carriage Returns

Hey, Ficleteers, I’d like to make a suggestion to ponder as you craft your finely tuned stories: consider putting two full carriage returns between your paragraphs, so that instead of this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus dapibus, dui eget hendrerit congue, diam diam tempor mauris, nec blandit odio sapien ut ligula. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.
Mauris molestie tortor mattis sapien tincidunt tempus. Fusce sagittis, odio ac aliquam vulputate, enim velit hendrerit tortor, in luctus enim neque nec odio. Donec dictum feugiat eros, quis convallis nunc placerat id.

You have this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus dapibus, dui eget hendrerit congue, diam diam tempor mauris, nec blandit odio sapien ut ligula. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

Mauris molestie tortor mattis sapien tincidunt tempus. Fusce sagittis, odio ac aliquam vulputate, enim velit hendrerit tortor, in luctus enim neque nec odio. Donec dictum feugiat eros, quis convallis nunc placerat id.

There are a couple of reasons I make this suggestion. The first is relatively straightforward and structural: it significantly improves story flow for the reader. Just adding that little bit of visual separation makes it much easier for the eye to track the transition from paragraph to paragraph and from thought to thought.

The second is less obvious but may actually be more important in terms of craft: those extra carriage returns might make you a better writer. One of the great frustrations about writing on Ficly is the 1024 character limitation. We’ve all had to trim key elements out of our stories in order to make them fit. We sacrifice words, phrases, punctuation, carriage returns, etc. We do this so we can squeeze in those all-important extra few letters. I would submit to you, dear writer, that we maintain the structural integrity of the carriage return for the sake of the reader and accept the damages to our character limit. What this does for you, the writer, is make you a better writer by forcing you to write with an economy of words. By sacrificing characters to the carriage return you end up learning how to make a bigger impact with a smaller box of words. Yes, those sacrifices can be onerous and frustrating, especially when we turn a phrase that we already feel is perfect. But sometimes, those sacrifices result in stronger writing and better storytelling because we’re forced trim out all the unnecessary fat.

It’s something to consider, at least…
-——————
Thanks, Jim!

My eyes thank you as well.

I love paragraph breaks between dialogue, too!
Elsha

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Comments (11 so far!)

  1. Avatar August 2nd

      As an alternative, one might always indent the first lines in their paragraphs like you would typically see in a printed book.
      From a technical perspective, indenting steals more characters from the rather skimpy 1024 character limit than simply inserting a blank line does.

  2. Ahfl_icon THX 0477

    Here, here!

  3. Avatar 32 ^2

    Thanks Jim.

    Each carriage return uses only one character. One character well used.

    Each carriage return is like your reader’s eyes taking a breath, then diving back in to read your next paragraph.

  4. Avatar ElshaHawk (LoA)

    Well said, 32. :)

  5. Avatar Princess Binky Lemontwist (LoA)

    AMEN! I’m a strong believer in carriage returns. Use them please or I might die….

  6. Avatar kwatz

    I find it difficult to read online posts that are massive walls of text. Those carriage returns really do help!

    Plus, you can do some interesting things with them. For instance, back in my old incarnation on ficlets and here on ficly I wrote a couple of stories that were entirely dialogue. Those line breaks helped to separate who was talking without ever once having to write “he said” or “she said.” Saved some characters in the long run.

  7. Avatar Writearound

    As a poet mainly I agree with this as the white space around something is really important as a key part of the text, it lets it breathe and like punctuation os part of the stage direction for a piece of text.

  8. Avatar Dude

    Being new here, I explored the works of the authors who commented and befriended me, I noticed immediately that THX 0477 was using spaces between segments of his story, and liked it… but

    I try to get the maximum out of my 1024 characters and ended up not using it in order to tell the story I wanted. I’ll do my best, but no promises. Interesting points from all, and useful advice.

  9. Avatar August 2nd

    @Dude: The 1024 character limit is an artificial and arbitrary challenge that every author has to meet every time they write a story. When I find myself running out of space, I’ll revise the story to eliminate irrelevant or redundant elements. That usually does the trick. If it doesn’t, then that usually tells me that the scope of my story is simply too large and I’ll cut sections of the story away so that I can expand on the aspects that I’m genuinely interested in.

  10. Avatar 32 ^2

    @August: Well said. Also, I don’t understand why some think returns use up a lot of characters. I would suggest the same; changing one word to a shorter synonym can free up valuable character space, like changing scarlet, vermilion, amaranth, burgundy, to red. I’ve been surprised at how simple words carry so much meaning. Simple words find a larger audience since those types of words are highly subjective, allowing the reader’s imagination to soar. No one really cares about vermilion or scarlet, red is primary and easier to imagine and 3-7 character spaces freed up.

  11. Avatar Zen Brau

    I know I like seeing the spaces in the “wall” and I return the favor when applicable. I never saw this as a writing skill, but more of a relief to the eye, and a clearer way to divide thoughts/points of a story/narrative.

    Thanks for sharing.