Formatting - The Magical Paragraph

What's he doing?
Many a great story is almost impossible to read because it's written in a block. This is especially important when there's dialogue involved, because paragraphing not only makes it easier to read, but also makes it clearer to know who's talking without having to constantly write, "he said" and "she said".

All of the following paragraphs (from the earlier version of my "Reno's Story" fanfic) have proper punctuation and reasonable grammar (although not the best storytelling, but that's not the point of the exercise). Which paras, however, are easier to read?


Reno grinned and stirred the ice in his glass with a lazy finger, then deliberately turned his back on Cloud, leaning his elbows on the bar. "Have a seat. I'll buy you a drink." "I'd rather keep my head clear, thanks." Cloud sat, though. "Have it your way." Reno took a mouthful of his drink. Stupid ice, always ruins a good bourbon. Note to self, he thought, specify "no rocks" next time. "You know something? You remind me a lot of myself at your age." Cloud grunted. "We are nothing alike, Turk. I'm not a mass murderer justified by a power-hungry company." He was referring to the sector 7 plate, of course. Reno sighed inwardly. "And how many people died, do you think, when you helped Avalanche blow those reactors, Strife?" he said, his voice harsher than he intended. Cloud had hit a nerve. "ShinRa isn't the only organisation guilty of self-justification." "Avalanche never experimented on anyone." Reno glanced sideways. Cloud's jaw was working. For a moment, an image of Cloud in Nibelheim all of those years ago flashed across Reno's mind, and he wondered what demons the younger man now fought as a result of Hojo's crap. "Yeah. I'll give you that one." Cloud looked at Reno, surprise flashed across his face. "I act under orders, Cloud. Being a Turk is my job, and I'm good at it. But it doesn't define who I am." "Doesn't it?" "I'm free to think what I like in my own time.

Oh, a painting

Or this:

       Cloud's lip curled derisively. "I'm surprised you bother. Reno, I don't know you, but you're kinda obvious. You may think you're different from them because you don't follow their damned dress code, but as far as I'm concerned, you're ShinRa, all the way."
       "I don't agree with everything they do." Reno's voice sounded lame even to his own ears.
       "Yet you help them do what they do anyway."
       Reno took another mouthful of his excruciatingly pallid drink and grimaced. "Man's gotta eat," he muttered. He could never explain to himself why he did what he did sometimes. There was no way he could convince anyone else. "Look, ShinRa hates Avalanche, for good reason in my opinion, but in this, we're on the same side, whether Rufus Shinra and Barret Wallace realise it or not. All of us want to stop Sephiroth." Most of us, he amended silently. Did Hojo count? "And all of us," he continued, "have the people's best interests at heart."
       "Tell that to the people of sector 7."
       "Or the people who have to live with mako poisoning any time Avalanche blows up a reactor," Reno snapped back. "I've spent years fighting Avalanche, Cloud, even going back to the time Wallace supported the installation of the Corel reactor. Fact is, those idiots have no idea what they're doin'. Where the hell do they think their electricity is coming from, huh? Is Tifa using open fires to cook the meals at Seventh Heaven? Lighting the place with candles? No? I didn't think so." Reno took a deep breath, trying to steady his mind. Strife's lucky that I'm not sober, he thought. Or I am, he amended. Cloud'd probably just put him in the hospital again.
       Cloud took him by the shoulder, forcing him to look Cloud in the eye. Cloud's face was intense. "So, Turk. Put your money where your mouth is. Leave ShinRa and help us."

A painting of what?
Or, alternatively, for online message board posting, this:

The statement, and the unexpected contact, took Reno off his guard, so much so that he couldn't reply. His eyes locked with Cloud's instead. Mako blue. He swallowed, hard. Man, he was drunk. "I can't do that."

"That's what I thought. You're all piss and wind, Reno." Cloud's voice was hard, but he looked genuinely disappointed.

Reno swallowed again, tearing his eyes away from Cloud's. When had Strife garnered so much power over him? That wouldn't do.

The trouble, Reno realised, was that Cloud was partially right. The other trouble was, "I will fight Sephiroth until my brain boils out of my nose, kid, mostly for the fun of it, but I can't agree with what Avalanche does. Shit, it's a terrorist organisation that blows up reactors whenever they don't get what they want. They destroy homes, jobs, the economy--lives--in the process. And, don't bring up Sector 7 again. I get it. I'm a fuckwit who followed my orders without thinking things through properly." Reno turned his head so he was looking Cloud in the face again. "Don't worry, though, you're still young. One day you'll learn what it's like to make a mistake you can't live with. And then we'll talk."

Cloud's face was like stone. For a moment, though, intense pain flashed across his eyes. So there was something.

Reno leaned forwards. "See. There you go. We're not so very different after all."

Cloud growled very low in his throat, and stood, turning to leave as he did.

Reno sighed, knowing he'd let his temper get the better of him. Well, diplomacy had never been his thing, which would be why he generally left all of the talking to Rude. Yet... "Strife."

Cloud turned. For a moment, he looked like the sixteen year-old Reno had seen in Nibelheim again. Vulnerable, and unaware. Reno pulled at his earring for a moment before he said, "I am sorry about... your mother."

"Why? Her death wasn't your fault. It was Sephiroth's."

"All the same."

Cloud caught his gaze and held it for a moment, then nodded. An understanding seemed to pass between them.

For a moment, Reno thought that Cloud understood; that Reno was really apologising for allowing Hojo to take so many years of Cloud's life from him; apologising for Zack. That Cloud understood that there was no way you could adequately say something as impotent as "I'm sorry" for any of that. Not out loud, anyway. "I like to think that under different circumstances, we'd be friends," he said.

Cloud frowned. "Not a chance. I'd never be friends with a Turk."

"And that makes Vincent Valentine...?"

"Yet another person hurt by ShinRa's 'best intentions'." Cloud turned on his heel and left.

Reno turned back to the bar. Then again, maybe he was wrong. "Another, Jess," he said to the barmaid. "Keep them coming for a while. Oh, and hold the fucking ice."

Oh. Oh, my.
And, so on.

NB: Either indent new paragraphs as in the first example or leave a line in between them. Don't do both.

Paragraphing is easy.

Start a new paragraph when you change thoughts.

Start a new paragraph when you have dialogue and a new person speaks or performs an action.

Next - Tense and Viewpoint

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