Fast action, short chapters, and short paragraphs

The first on my list of what I like to write, and what I intend to give you, is fast action, short chapters, and short paragraphs. I like to write this way, because I like to read this way.

Let’s talk about Henry James. Henry James was a 19th century writer who wrote very long, nuanced paragraphs and sentences. I read a little of him in college and was impressed at some of his writing skill. I especially enjoyed “The Turn of the Screw.” But one thing I found to be true of him was that any action in his story was going to take a looooong time to accomplish.

Another example is Victor Hugo. A great writer, but try reading Les Misérables and you will feel like you running a marathon. When will this story ever end?

I decided long ago that I don’t want to be these writers. I like a book with a faster plot. A book that makes you feel like you’re going somewhere. I don’t want to pick up a book for even twenty minutes and feel like all we’ve done in the story is walk across the room, or stare at the beautiful tree outside her house. I want things to happen. Exciting things. And I want them now!

The length of paragraphs really contributes to this feeling that things are moving forward. Nothing makes me feel like I am hiking through molasses like coming across a paragraph so long it takes three pages to finish. Where do you stop? If you are done reading, you have to read for another page and a half just to find a place to put your bookmark. I like a story that not only feels fast-paced, but looks fast-paced. That’s what shorter paragraphs do.

Both of these tie into my thoughts on chapter length. Every year I try to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. When I tried to read other novels by Dickens, I found that, although his stories might be long, his chapters were very short. I like this. It means it is even easier to read for ten or twenty minutes at a lunch break and still be able to finish a chapter; still feel like you got somewhere.

Most of my writing has short chapters and fairly short paragraphs. That’s because I like the feeling of forward momentum when I read a story. Sure, I like character development, but not thirty pages talking about the main character’s interest in collecting bird trophies. Give me some telling details, maybe some quirks, and then get on with the story, because that’s what I came for.

And, dear reader, that’s what I want to give you.



About Aaron K. Redshaw

Aaron's goal for writing is to create believable characters in fantasy or science fiction worlds that do not leave out the element of faith in a personal and loving God. He is an English teacher at a large public high school, the senior co-pastor of New Hope Church in Scotts Valley, CA (, and a father and husband in a wonderful family which he hopes to someday patent.
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