I’m working on a series on pacing. You can see other posts in the series here.
It’s a big jump, going from “The Quick Brown Fox” to Edgar Allen Poe, but I think we’re ready.
Take a moment to look at the story, here. Whatever you do, don’t stop to read it. Bah! Just skim through it. We’re just going to look at form and not content for now.
Take a look at:
- How long the story is (you can always copy/paste the story into a word processor document and count the words, if you like).
- How long the paragraphs are (ditto).
- The pattern of long vs. short paragraphs (long-short-long-short, or long-long-long-short-short short, etc.).
- Where the long paragraphs are (in the beginning? in the middle? in several places?) vs. where the short paragraphs are.
- What are the paragraph patterns at the beginning and the end of the story.
- Do long paragraphs contain long sentences, short sentences, or a mix?
- Are the dialogue sentences longer or shorter than the descriptive ones, in general?
- Of the two characters, who has the longer dialogue sentences?
- Of the two characters, who has the more complex sentences (that is, the sentences with the more phrases in them)?
- Who has the longer words?
As a rule of thumb:
- The average length of a word in English is 5 letters.
- The average length of a sentence in English is 15-20 words.
- A line of printed text is about 10-15 words in a book.
- A medium sort of paragraph in fiction is about 3-5 lines, or 30 to 75 words.
- A medium-length short story is about 3,000 to 6,000 words.
Imagine that very short paragraphs of 10 words or less are yellow, short pararaphs of less than 3 full lines are green, medium paragraphs of 3-5 full lines are blue, longish paragraphs of 5-7 full lines are purple, and very long paragraphs are red.
What are the main colors used in this story? Would the pattern be mixed or consistent? What is the longest stretch of one single color?
If you’d like, now you can stop to read the story.
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