1. screenwritefl
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    screenwritefl New Member

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    Chapters broken down by roman numerals

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by screenwritefl, Jan 31, 2009.

    Hello all, it's great to be a part of this board, I have already been reading a ton of stuff on this site that has been very helpfull to me.

    One thing I cann't seem to find a definition on is why, in some novels, are chapters broken down with roman numerals. For instance, John Steinbeck's Cup of Gold is 5 chapters, but each chapter is long and broken down an average of 7 times by roman numerals.

    I'm guessing it is per sequence of the story, rather than writing short chapters, but I would like to know for sure. Thanks in advance!

    Keith
     
  2. RadioActive
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    RadioActive New Member

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    They're called 'subchapters', and they're awfully useful if you're not the kind of writer who likes to describe every detail and movement.
     
  3. screenwritefl
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    screenwritefl New Member

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    Thanks for the info. Do you know where I can get more information on sub chapters? I can't seem to find any reading on the term to better use this tool. There seems to be everything under the sun on structure and act breakdown but for the life of me I can't seem to find anything on this. Any link or info on a book would be much appreciated. Thannks again.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Think of it this way. If the chapters are really big, a chapter is like an act, and each sub chapter is a scene or a set of closely related small scenes. But naturally, you can have more than five acts, which is the most you would have in a normal play, though you are more likely to have two or three.

    That's not the only way to use subchapters, of course. How you divide the events in your story can be done any way you want as long as it works.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1. steinbeck wrote long ago... writing [and reading] habits have changed a lot since then...

    2. it's not done in fiction nowadays [which is probably why you can't find info on it], but if you want to try it in your ms for some reason [and you'd better have a really good one], it may still be up to the publisher's styling editor whether or not it'll be done that way in the printed book...
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not true. I have seen books that use sub-chapters that were published in the last fifteen years.
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I'd think these are also closely related to scene breaks, often separated from each other by a double space or line of asterisks or some such. I'm currently reading "The Myst Reader" and the scenes in the chapters of the first book are divided by little graphics like that on the book's cover. Same idea. Still very much in use.
     
  8. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Almost every King book.



    Terrible example, but it's all I got.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was thinking of an author from England, Anita Burgh.
     
  10. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Oh yeah. Totally forgot about her.
     
  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think V. by Thomas Pynchon did the same thing.

    Some people just feel that the novel they are writing would benefit from this style of separating a book, especially if they have long chapters.
     
  12. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Scott Lynch does it. But why use it when you can just use a generic scene break symbol or whatever? I guess it would be useful to keep your place in long chapters.

    Hey, tehuti88, are those books any good? They're so tantalizing because I love the mystery of the Myst universe, but then again they're based on a game.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the idea of subchapters may not have gone completely out of style, but what i was referring to was a new, unknown writer adding numbers for them, within a numbered/titled chapter in his/her submitted ms, which would most likely not impress agents/publishers...

    it's a styling choice that is going to be up to the publisher's book designer to do or not, in the end, not the dictate of a writer who's totally unknown and has never had any books published, much less as bestsellers... when you've made a name for yourself and lots of money for your publisher, then you can send your ms in on tp if you want, with numbers all over the place... till then, it's wisest to hew to the standard mandates of ms formatting...

    oh, and i'm also only referring to us agents/publishers, as in the uk they may allow more leeway on such matters...
     
  14. screenwritefl
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    screenwritefl New Member

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    After looking into it further, I think it has little to do with style and more to do with structure. I was reading the first chapter of Cup of Gold again and you can practically point out each sequence using them. I don't see how a publisher would see this as bad, even from an unknown writer; it would be the job of the editor to take them out in accordance with the publisher. They certainly won't throw it in the trash just because the writer uses roman numerals to break down sequences.
     

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