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One-Sentence Paragraphs Make Powerful Prose — 10 Comments

  1. There’s a place for Victorian detail and minimalism, I think. Both and. I think of Richard Flanagan who “let’s the detail slide elegantly into the pause” (Jan Hawke), and of William Trevor; his sharp sparse prose conveying what he wants to in a sentence of carefully chosen words.

  2. I do agree that one line paragraph is an effective literary device. I was reminded of this one from Conrad; “And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.” (From Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”) Interestingly, this one is placed between two long paragraphs.

  3. I agree. From UNTOLD FRONTIER: And they grooved through the grove heartbeat in hand, as one with the wind as were their kind, and they came to a place where Yupa warrior guards spun round from behind trees with great big knives and slapped high fives as the three passed by, swiveling like that periodically right on up to the twenty-four foot square pit wherein a one-eyed black bear with mange sat on its vaguely gray and pinkish mottled haunches looking up at the moneyed mitts of the ravenous spittle-spewing crowd which consisted of screaming pink-skinned white men, many of whom wore bright white powdered wigs and said things like, “You filthy sons of whores!” and, “Kill! Kill! Die! Die!” with such furious exertion–doubly resounding on the appearance of the astonishingly scantily clad Sacajariton–that it was a matter of some several moments before every man there felt fully the presence of Danyul Bune among them, and subsequently shut the fuck up.

  4. I explicitly recall those passages from your book, Dave. Memorable: isn’t that one thing we’re hoping for?

    There are plenty of one-sentence paragraphs in my books. Thanks for clarifying reasons they work.

  5. One’s writing style should reflect who the author is….generic rules should not apply….if a writer thinks lush and green, then the writing should reflect that….minimalism is not for everyone….the writers world is as vast as the cosmos and should not be reduced to a few rules….your article is great because it shows one way to do things…but it does not have to be the way everyone does it.

    • Thanks, Mira. I believe a re-reading of my last-full paragraph before the one-liners at the end will overcome your objections. This is my reward for attempting to be cheeky and starting a paragraph in an essay about minimalism with a sentence like, “Victorian ver­bosity is as valid a writ­ing style as post­mod­ernist min­i­mal­ism.”

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