1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rules/guidelines for chapter division

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Apr 16, 2011.

    As Im writing an outline for a new story I find I'm not quite sure when to start a new chapter rather than ending with the ending of the last scene, when to end to make it the most effectful. I do usually include more than one scene in each chapter if it's not a very long/drammatic scene which needs to stand alone, but right now I'm stopping more out of a general feeling rather than knowing exactly why I do in that way. Are there some general things to think about when dividing the text into chapters?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think so - I just end a chapter when it feels right.

    When I wrote about Socrates coming out to his brother I ended with just that scene it was too powerful to add to it. Very short chapter.

    When i wrote the Queen's Guard battled I split the 9000 word scene into three chapters, sort of did the approach, the battle, the clean up.
     
  3. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes I write chapters with a subtle theme in mind. Usually a brief question, thought or observation appears in the first couple of pages and the chapter ends when the character has said something or forms an opinion on something which somehow relates back to it. These chapters are easy to find an ending for.

    Other times, like Elgaisma, I just end the chapter where it feels right. Eg: the end of an intense scene, when I feel that there's no immediate follow-up that's related to what's happened so far in the chapter or when the scene is no longer progressing the plot and/or character development.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points both of you :)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are many strategies for chapter breaks. Some authors like to simply break chapters when there is a major break between one scene and the next (change of POV, new major location, passage of time, etc). Others like to leave the chapter on a cliffhanger, nudging the reader to keep reading. Some put nearly every scene as a new chapter.

    Whatever strategy you choose, maintain it throughout the book. You might deviate from the strategy for effect, but mostly you are trying to avoid the impression that the chapter breaks are randomly arbitrary.

    Read a variety of authors and see how they approach chapterization differently.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I will, thank you for explaining, even about the need for consistency, which I didn't think about. :)
     
  7. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^great advice cog. I've found myself wondering/comtemplating the same problem. :D
     
  8. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I like to take advantage of chapter breaks to create suspense, i.e., break when something bad is about to happen or a critical decision is about to be made. Not with every chapter, of course, but I find it's a useful technique.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I usually do it at what seems like a logical breaking point (what feels right, as mentioned above). I've read some books that seem to do it simply based on words, where the author feels it is time for a break in the text. Other goods books I've read haven't used chapters at all.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know, they say "ending the scene with disaster " and all, so that would be a way to end even the chapter, but let's face it, in some kinds of novels there aren't enough disasters to cover all the chapter, :rolleyes: I'm aware that it doesn't need to be totally disastrous to be considered such, but still... Your point about when decisions are being made or just something happens that changes things can be a good way too. I'll keep that in mind. :)
     
  11. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I disagree that each chapter has to end on a cliffhanger. To me, that seems like a weak writer's way of keeping their reader turning the pages. If your writing is up to scratch, you shouldn't need to employ such gimmicks.

    I think the best approach to chapters is to "feel out" the natural breaks in your story. Personally, I try to keep my chapters no longer than 2,000 words, but that's because I dislike long chapters as a reader. It's also not a hard and fast rule- I'm completely open to varying chapter length in a story, particularly as it can be a great way of setting pace.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all of that!
     

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