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I'm not sure where I picked up this habit. Here are two examples:

I pictured An-Mei’s slim fingers running across their smooth surface, her hand, and then the body connected to it. But try as I might, I couldn’t recall her face. All I saw were scattered facial features that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t put together; they were like jigsaw pieces that slipped from my hands the moment I grabbed them. Was time capable of erasing such memories?

The trail turned into a sharp curve, a mountain of fens blocking what lay ahead. I circled around it.


She was short and relatively thin. Her hair was cut at the forehead with two long strands hanging limply above her shoulders. She was wearing a red knit cap, a white cotton sweater, and a plaid skirt that reached just below her knees. On top of all that, she had a thick leather jacket. Comfortable clothes. Not the kind you’d bring to a hiking trip, though. What was she doing standing there?

Following her line of vision, I realized she was staring at a huge ancient tree.

I guess my intention was to use the question to connect the paragraph to the next one (or to give the paragraph a summary/ending). Does this feel amateurish? If so, what should I be doing instead?

  • 2
    Don't want to post this as an answer in case there's some kind of style rule about it, but I believe it's perfectly valid. It actually works really well :) – CLockeWork Jun 5 '14 at 13:44
  • The question works better in the first example, where the text prededing it deals with the same topic, the inability to remember, and the question follows naturally from this. In the second example, the preceding text is a description of a person's clothing, and the question, quite unexpectedly, skips to why she is there. Instead of a question, I'd phrase the conclusion drawn from the observation as a statement: "In her city clothing she looked out of place deep in the wilderness." And don't call her clothes "comfortable", because hiking clothes are usually comfortable, unlike high heel shoes. – user5645 Jun 5 '14 at 14:31
  • Oh, and the description of her clothing is much too long. Weave the observation that she's not dressed for where she is into the description to make it less tedious and boring. Apart from that critique, the question nevertheless belongs to that paragraph and doesn't bother me in itself, as a question. – user5645 Jun 5 '14 at 14:35
  • Reading Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker, after you asked this I've started spotting him ending paragraphs with questions quite a bit. – CLockeWork Jun 6 '14 at 8:13
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I've certainly never heard of it being wrong to end paragraphs with questions, and it doesn't seem wrong to my eye. In fact, I don't think it's even a question of grammar; it seems to be more of a stylistic choice.

If that's your writing style, go for it. It works well in the extracts you included, and in general I'd say it's a good way to create a more "personal" narrative style with a first-person narrator. Like all elements of writing style, you should just be wary of overdoing it; ending every paragraph with a question would bug me quite a lot after a while.

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    Ditto. This is the sort of thing that I wouldn't even think about. If you are writing a paragraph and it naturally seems to end with a question, then do it. I wouldn't try to do it and I wouldn't try to not do it. But as this answer says, if you find yourself writing ten paragraphs in a row that all end with a question, then unless this is intentional parallelism, I'd recast some of them. Just like if I found myself using the word "exactly" in ten sentences in a row, unless it was intentional parallelism, I'd go back and seek an alternative word for at least half the cases. – Jay Jun 5 '14 at 14:03
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When you have a question like that in narration, you are essentially narrating the protagonist's thoughts. If you put quotes around them, or italicized them, and made them present tense, they would be dialogue.

As long as you keep that in mind (and don't overuse the technique, as Watercleave correctly notes), it's perfectly fine to do.

2

Totally fine in prose writing. Where it gets iffy is in formal writings like cover letters and scholarly essays. You really need a license to do so in these occasions or else it is kind of seen as lazy. But as far as your case in concerned, completely acceptable.

2

You are the proctor though. You are essentially giving birth to what never existed before. I have to say honestly I loved your writing. The flow; the eb. It reads fast like a dreamer's anticipation. You can feel the unfolding of the story upon a page when you end with a question mark. It creates a pause. Although many do not partake in doing so; who is to say that your way may not be the new way. Perhaps the world has something to learn from you.

I say when you feel the desire to end with a question mark do so. You did it quite well. Flow wasn't comprised it's velocity was simply fine tuned up.

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