“Uh, thank you.”
You see, I wasn’t consciously doing it as I wrote. I had no idea I was doing it.
After my friend’s comment, I reread the book and saw the breaks and realized it was something I just did while writing, something I learned in studying fiction and poetry and the importance of the word and white space and how readers may be affected by not only what we write, but also how we write it.
Lines breaks are not just for poetry.
We writers of short stories, novels, novellas, articles, essays – we, too, can use line breaks to great effect.
For this post, I’m going to use two examples, both from great reads you’ll find on the site SNAPS 1000 Words, a site that publishes weekly stories of 1000 words that are inspired by photography.
Let’s look at the first graph (first draft) of A Christmas Wrench, by author P. R. Spates:
My mother served my father divorce papers on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, after that Christmas became my least favorite holiday. I didn’t care to put up a tree, hang a stocking and all that bull; I preferred staying busy, and everyone knew that and respected it. Everyone, except Tristan.I really like this graph; I learn a lot about the narrator (and her family) in a short span of time, and I'm eager to know who this Tristan is.
A very little edit could provide emphasis to the graph (and the story). See below:
My mother served my father divorce papers on Christmas Eve.
Needless to say, after that Christmas became my least favorite holiday. I didn’t care to put up a tree, hang a stocking and all that bull; I preferred staying busy, and everyone knew that and respected it.I like this revision for two reasons. One, that first sentence is just very intriguing to me, and the line break and white space help me as a reader to think on that for a moment before moving on. Two, the “Everyone, except Tristan,” separated by the line break, makes Tristan important to me as a reader. I want to learn what role he plays in this story.
Everyone, except Tristan.
In author Jennifer Coissiere’s story, Meeting at the Christmas Tree, we get another example of how to use effective line breaking. Here’s the first graph (first draft) of the story:
This would be the first year without her. Daniel walked through the mall aimlessly. He had no one to buy for. No one in his life to love. Ciara had died two years into their marriage. They hadn’t the chance to produce their own children before she fell ill. Now, Daniel was all alone.
There is a lot of good material in this graph that connects me to Daniel and his life. A little line breaking could open up that connection between reader and Daniel. See below:
This would be the first year without her.
Daniel walked through the mall aimlessly. He had no one to buy for. No one in his life to love. Ciara had died two years into their marriage. They hadn’t the chance to produce their own children before she fell ill.
Now, Daniel was all alone.Breaking that first line by itself leaves great impact for the reader. Who will be without her? Who is her?
Having "Now, Daniel was all alone" on its own line also adds impact, but more than that, it connects to the words "all alone" that are in the line because the sentence is "all alone" from the graph before or after it.
Keep in mind this is not something I think about while writing. I’m too busy trying to get words on the page. However, in the rewriting, revising, and editing stages, I do think about how my words read aurally and visually on the page.
The way lines fall in your story can give readers additional space to think and to feel as they read your story.
Do you consider how your story lines break when editing your story?
What techniques do you use to aurally and visually connect your readers to your story?
|Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.|