Paratalk or torque?

My new column, with a title that somehow makes sense. From now on until I stop I will be examining a paragraph in whatever detail I choose. This is also a good time for guests to pop in and do their own paragraph.

This comes from the book Giants of Literature: Dickens which doesn’t appear to have an author.

A year after the purchase of the new house the first seeds were sown of the domestic scandal that was to erupt in 1858 and echo throughout the country. For some time Charles and Kate had been finding it increasingly difficult to endure life together, even though, as Victorian decorum dictated, they made efforts to keep up appearances. Timid, clumsy and not very clever, Kate was absolutely incapable of becoming part of the glittering cultural and intellectual world inhabited by her husband. She was by nature anxious and ill at ease, inclined toward depression and melancholy. Child-bearing had made her plain and prematurely old, and by now she had become gloomy and introspective, virtually handing over the responsibility of caring for husband, house and children to the patient Georgina. Dickens, for his part, was far from indulgent and insisted in treating her with, at best, irritating condescension. His meeting with the actress Ellen Ternan brought matters to a head. The setting for their love affair, for such it undoubtedly became, was the amateur theatre company to which Charles was so passionately devoted, both as actor and producer Ellen was eighteen, Dickens forty-six. At first there was only a superficial romantic attachment, stemming from admiration on her part and gallantry on his. Then, after the discovery of the liaison by Kate, there followed accusations, recriminations, clumsy justifications, lawsuits and, finally, a judicial separation.

I’m only picking out a couple of things from this paragraph.

It feels like a lot of words and when I check I find it’s 232 words. My memory tells me that the average A4 page has about 500 words. When I put it into Word to do a wordcount I also changed it to a font that resembles that of a manual typewriter, Courier New, and find it takes up about half a page. Not only does it feel like a lot of words, it is a lot of words. At uni we’re discouraged from writing paragraphs of this length and I’d certainly be trying to break it up in any book I write.

Why write shorter paragraphs? Sometimes you need short and sometimes long, just be sure to vary the length, the same as varying the length of sentences. It helps to keep people interested. This book tends to run to long paragraphs, I’m sure its target audience are academical people who are used to this sort of lengthy writing. I do suggest that people who aren’t academics are starting to get into reading in depth and keeping everyone interested and reading is a challenge. I don’t like falling asleep midparagraph but I can see it happening without that variation.

The last sentence I found interesting. It summarises what could easily be a chapter on its own, or at least a couple of paragraphs. I do wonder why the unknown author has glossed over this point in Charles Dickens’ life.

Anyway, that’s enough for today. I’m lucky to have a copy of this book. It seems to be out of print. I ran a search on ABEbooks and found only a handful of copies. This is why I’m not giving you an affiliate link.