1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Chapters for shorts stories

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Aug 31, 2011.

    Do you ever put chapters in short stories? I know a lot of people will say that as the author I can do whatever I want, but I was just curious if this is more common than I think. I've seen a few short episodic stories, like Kate Chopin's "The Storm" and Margaret Atwood's "Happy Endings" but I wanted to get some more opinions.

    I don't really need the chapter breaks for my story to work, but I think it just adds a little oomph. Thoughts?
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The vast majority of short stories do not have chapters. They have breaks or scene breaks. A short story is usually 5000 words or less, which doesn't leave a lot of room for chapters, as one normally considers them and their use.

    With the ezine I edit for, I cannot recall ever publishing a short story with chapters. Of the anthologies I've been published in, no story had chapters. Of the stories I've read on online ezines, and with the short stories I've taught as an English teacher, I cannot recall one that has chapters.
     
  3. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Maybe it depends on genres, because it's not all that rare in literary stories.

    The determining factor would be simple logistics, for me. If the story is very clearly in vastly different 'acts' then I would perhaps consider segmenting it out. Like the first part of the story 20 years before the latter, or something. If the story is just long, but the narrative all flows pretty well from one scene to the next without any major jumps in time or place, then I wouldn't bother.

    Basically, if your single story is more than one major story arc, I'd consider cutting it at those natural arcs.

    Though, it's not necessary. Hell, I read plenty of novels that seem to simply determine chapter breaks based on word count, and one chapter to the next seems to have no significant narrative break, much less self-contained story-arcs.
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I have seen "chapters" in occasional short stories, though I've never used them myself before. Generally, they seem to amount to just attaching numbers to different scenes. The only circumstances where I can see that they may be useful is with stories that switch between different perspectives, or to demarcate sections with dates.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can't recall ever seeing any among the many i've read... can you give us some titles, please?
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    "The Eleventh Day" by Christopher Fowler uses sort-of chapters to separate out the eleven days within the story.
     
  7. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use chapters, yeah. I mean, when you're getting above 10,000 words in length, chapters can be relieving while you're reading.
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chekhov very often uses them. Likewise Isaac Bashevis Singer. Henry James sometimes uses them. I read little contemporary fiction, but given these examples, it would be surprising if all moderns don't.
     
  9. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I've seen it done in both literary and contemporary works. Leonid N. Andreyev, Willa Sibert Cather, P.G. Wodehouse and so many more. Usually they are either just breaks or divided out by roman numerals. Rarely have I seen Chapters with actual titles unless the titles are somehow significant to the story.
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    One of the stories in Volt by Alan Heathcock has a story separated in parts.

    That's the most recent, and the one I remember offhand. I don't feel like digging through shelves of anthologies looking for others, though. And I'm not saying it's common, or recommended, just not exactly as rare as having never seen it done anywhere ever. I've seen it often enough I'm not shocked to have seen it.
     
  11. AfterBroadway
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    AfterBroadway Senior Member

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    Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock is almost like this. It's a collection of short stories, but they all take place in Knockemstiff, Ohio, and a lot of them actually tie into one another, almost like Pulp Fiction.

    P.S.
    If you'd like to read a writer on the rise, or at least will be bigger at some point, I'd recommend that book.
     

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