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Sometimes I'll write something where there's a few paragraphs of buildup, then a "whammy line" or two. I wrote a quick example, pretend it's a climactic moment from a bad YA romance.

She wrung her hands together, staring at her chipped nails, her calloused fingers, and the motor oil stained into the grooves in her palms. She looked at his delicate features, his pale cheekbones, his gorgeous monitor-tan, and that perfect dimple. When she met his eyes, she knew she had to say it now and she had to mean it more than anything else in this whole world. She whispered her ultimatum, voice dripping with the built-up passion of the last five years.

"I love you."

He looked at her for what seemed like an eternity, grabbed his coat, and walked out the door.

She collapsed to her knees, sobbing up at the gray storm clouds that suddenly appeared indoors with no preamble, her reason for living now crushed. It started to rain, and the water washed away her tears. "Why?" she cried out, with a ton of angst and dramatic inflection. "Why!?"

I usually put a newline in-between the whammy line(s) and the surrounding paragraphs (See: "I love you" and "He looked at her..."). My idea since I've been doing this is that adding some blank space after a buildup gives a reader time to "digest" what they just read and therefore give the whammy line more weight. The line(s) that I want to impact you also stand out against the paragraphs of text.

I'm not sure if those are correct assumptions. Does the previous example tug on your inner tween heartstrings more than...

She wrung her hands together, staring at her chipped nails, her calloused fingers, and the motor oil stained into the grooves in her palms. She looked at his delicate features, his pale cheekbones, his gorgeous monitor-tan, and that perfect dimple. When she met his eyes, she knew she had to say it now and she had to mean it more than anything else in this whole world. She whispered her ultimatum, voice dripping with the built-up passion of the last five years. "I love you."

He looked at her for what seemed like an eternity, grabbed his coat, and walked out the door. She collapsed to her knees, sobbing up at the gray storm clouds that suddenly appeared indoors with no preamble, her reason for living now crushed. It started to rain, and the water washed away her tears. "Why?" she cried out, with a ton of angst and dramatic inflection. "Why!?"

So, are newlines effective for adding an emphasis to certain phrases? Does it interrupt the flow? Or is it trivial? What is the overall effect of adding newlines between important sentences?

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Putting a sentence in a paragraph by itself does give it emphasis. It can also break up the monotony of a sequence of long paragraphs.

Brandon Sanderson once said (on the Writing Excuses podcast) that he likes to add a one-sentence paragraph after every few long paragraphs.

But take care not to use this trick so often that the reader notices. What constitutes "overdoing" depends a great deal on the pace of the surrounding paragraphs. In a fast-paced scene, you'll have lots of short paragraphs, and those one-sentence paragraphs won't stick out (but they also won't get any special emphasis among all the other short paragraphs).

Genre also significantly influences how frequently you can use this trick without the reader noticing. For example, an abundance of such one-liners may feel out of place in a literary work.

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    I was thinking of adding a link for "Writing Excuses", but I was not sure whether the Writing Excuses site was the proper link or whether such would be a bit spammy. – Paul A. Clayton Sep 19 '14 at 23:51
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    Breaking up paragraphs into varying lengths is also helpful in other ways. It makes the written page less monotonous, draws the eye, and helps readers find the place where they left off between reading sessions. It's also just more visually pleasing. – lea Sep 20 '14 at 10:29
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    Agreed, this can be effective but it's easy to overuse. – Neil Fein Sep 20 '14 at 20:27
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    Paul, I added the link. I omitted it earlier out of sheer laziness. Writing Excuses has won at least one Hugo Award, so I think they're legit ;-) – Dale Hartley Emery Sep 22 '14 at 17:34

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