When editing, I often find myself pulling out a key sentence from a long paragraph to stand on its own. These are important, emotional moments. You might think the reader will understand their impact on the story either way. So why does it matter how they sit on the page?
We’ve all opened books and been greeted with an impenetrable wall of text. It can feel relentless and intimidating.
White space on the page provides some visual variety and helps the reader keep track of where they are while they’re reading. But, most importantly, it gives them a chance to process what they’re reading.
As a writer, you want to have an emotional impact on the reader. If a heartbreaking/heartwarming/horrifying moment is hidden in a wall of text, it’s very easy for it to get lost or skipped over.
If the text moves on immediately, you encourage the reader to do the same. Giving a big development more space on the page likewise gives the reader more space to appreciate what has just happened.
Let’s look at a couple of different examples:
1. “I’d lost track of how long I’d been holding on. My arms were long past aching, and the voice in my head was long past encouraging me to stay put. I couldn’t do it anymore. So I let go. For a moment, I was flying, then the ground rose up to catch me.“
2. “I’d lost track of how long I’d been holding on. My arms were long past aching, and the voice in my head was long past encouraging me to stay put. I couldn’t do it anymore.
So I let go.
For a moment I was flying, then the ground rose up to catch me.“
Even with the exact same words, the second example is clearly more effective.
The break after “I couldn’t do it anymore” gives you a second or two to consider what that means for our character, and “So I let go” standing alone on a separate line gives you more space to process the gravity (haha, get it?) of the situation.
So what’s my advice here? Look out for the big moments in your work, and make sure you give the reader enough space to fully appreciate them!
Disclaimer: Of course, if every other line is pulled out like this, the impact it has is going to diminish. Remember that writing is an art, not a science. This is just one technique you can make use of, and you’ll need to find the right balance for your work.