1. starkweather
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    starkweather Member

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    Are short chapters acceptable?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by starkweather, Sep 2, 2008.

    I'm writing this book—twenty-five pages into it—and it's going well. My chapters are awfully short. The reason behind it is that each chapter takes place at a different time. Sometimes it can be the character near the present time and the next chapter is ten years ago. This is clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter though.

    Is this acceptable do you think? Will having short, four/five page chapters generally annoy readers? It's almost like a diary but with dialogue.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    That is perfectly fine. I don't think there is a definite way to denote chapters. I've seen chapters as long as a few hundred pages and as short as 5 words.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love short chapters. As long as what you have is good, I see no reason why anyone should care how long the chapters are.
     
  4. Kylie
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    Kylie Contributing Member

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    It doesn't matter how long the chapters are as long as there's a good reason behind why they're short. I think that 4-5 pages is plenty for one chapter. :)
     
  5. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Every chapter -- just like every book, paragraph, sentence and scene -- should be like a miniskirt. Long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to be interesting.
     
  6. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    Nice quote, RomanticRose. :)

    My chapters are short, and I used to get really annoyed about it, because I thought it meant that I hadn't gone into enough detail. The way I solved it was getting someone to read it for me, and then question them later to see if they had got the details I had in my head.

    But yes, I don't usually mind short chapters when reading. Four or five pages doesn't sound that short to me anyway :p
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    LOL at RomanticRose's response
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rose, you're awesome
     
  9. starkweather
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    starkweather Member

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    Thanks guys and girls. I'm reassured.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    best-selling author james patterson generally writes 2-3 page chapters... don't fret about the length/quantity, just be concerned about the quality!

    love and hugs, maia
     
  11. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I think its fine. Thriller writers tend to do this (especially James Rollins) to switch to other characters POV's.
     
  12. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Chapters can be as short or long as you like. I tend to write till I feel its time to stop and move on to the next. I sometimes set goal markers like things I want to happen by a certain chapter but this is often static and second to the natural flow of the story.

    Go with whatever you like. You could write one page chapters if you wanted. As long as the story is well written I can't see anyone complaining.
     
  13. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    Short chapters are good, but reviews on James Patterson's work are very hit or miss by a mile.

    Put what you need to in a chapter, long or short and let that be that.
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    That is true Maia. Also best-selling author Robert McCammon is known to write 2-3 page chapters. This is the case with his lovely book Swan's Song. I personally enjoy short chapters. It makes the book go by quicker. I like a nicely paced book.

    I don't know if I am going to read anymore Stephen King, because his pacing sucks. Except for cell, that was paced well. I like his characters and story ideas though, darn it.
     
  15. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short chapters are awesome especially if you can get the closing lines right. Think Dan Brown and you'll see that this technique can be mindblowing.
     
  16. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    I think that short chapters work great for action and sometimes comedy. I don't think they work well for explanation and character development.

    If Johnny Rocket is telling me about his criminal past and how he got inducted into the Space Corps on threat of execution, and now he's a suicide agent with a bank of new bodies for his brain to be downloaded into, I want like ten or twenty pages of that. Really, some authors might just go with the sentence I wrote, but I like to get into the psychology of the character and hear more.

    When Johnny, air drops into the alien base and break security something like that could be a page or two if it's fast paced. But, when Johnny comes to grips with his existential angst, I want more.

    What I'm saying is that deeper material needs deeper treatment. Short treatment could seem shallow, like you have an incomplete understanding or concern about your subject.

    Never say never, but those are my thoughts.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    whose reviews are you referring to?... actual recognized critics, or the amateur kind found on amazon?... in any case, i'm sure jp doesn't give a fig, since his books hit best-seller level every time...
     
  18. CDOKeefe
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    CDOKeefe New Member

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    Just about every instructor I've ever asked this question has replied, "Make them as long as they need to be." Personally, I love brief chapters, a la Robert Parker, but I also know of one author who suggests short chapters indicate an author isn't able to sustain a narrative. Bleh!

    IMHO, YOU are the best judge of how long your chapters should be. You know your story better than anyone else. Go for it!

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  19. DrJoe
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    DrJoe Member

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    Dickens wrote short chapters for that reason sometimes I believe.
     
  20. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow, seriously? I couldn't disagree more.
    Just because you can keep the ship afloat doesn't mean it's going anywhere.
     
  21. fossil
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    fossil New Member

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    You probably have your answer now but I thought I'd add to the chorus. I love short chapters. I read in bed at night and I hate starting a long chapter knowing I'll probably nod off half way through and lose track of the whole story. Vive le short chapter!
     
  22. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I've gotten to a point where I actually prefer a shorter chapter, say in the range of 5-10 pages, both for reading and writing. I used to write my chapters much longer because a lot of the books I was reading (fantasy at the time) had long chapters. I was unconsciously trying to imitate their style and so followed their example with the long chapters. Once I started writing shorter works (usually close to 60,000) I switched to shorter chapters.

    The short ones also hold my attention better if I'm reading someone else's book. And it's always handy to have a good stopping place when you get ready to take a break. :)
     
  23. CDOKeefe
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    CDOKeefe New Member

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    Exactly! Nothing like a long, boring chapter, when a short one moves the story along that much better. On the other hand nothing says a chapter needs to be cut to the bone. It needs to do what it needs to do, tell the story and engage the reader.

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