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  1. ithestargazer

    ithestargazer Active Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Likes Received:
    the big M, Australia

    Consistency in the structure of chapters

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ithestargazer, Jul 2, 2014.

    So, I've read through a lot of older posts and still have a question I'd like to flesh out.

    In my current WIP my chapters range quite markedly in the way they are structured. For example, some chapters focus on one specific scene/action (e.g. a fight scene) while other chapters may have multiple scenes built in with breaks (e.g. [Chapter begin] MC developing relationship with a friend through a conversation [break], MC pondering a question while on a train [break], MC finding an object important to plot [chapter end].) Though I feel the smaller scenes within a chapter are important as they fill in gaps to make the story feel more natural, give insight into the everyday details and the character's reactions to events, I don't want them to seem like 'filler.' I guess my question is this. If I have two or three chapters focused on an important event or action sequence without breaks and then the next chapter has three or four 'smaller' less intense scenes, does this disjoint the story too much and slow the pace or is a balance between long scenes/chapters and micro-scenes/ chapters a good thing?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. thirdwind

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    It all boils down to what you think works. It's hard for us to say based on a short description. Your best bet would be to find some beta readers to read through your novel and give their opinions.
  3. Jhunter

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Sep 23, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Southern California
    Unless you are writing a thriller, some downtime can be a good thing in my opinion.
  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
    Likes Received:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I'm with Thirdwind. Plus, you have consider your genre - thrillers, certain romances or chick-lit have set patterns ( but their are rule breakers ). I try not to set a conscious pattern when I write, in fact I leave carving out a rhythm or pattern for the second or third draft. I do make natural breaks but I'm not trying to write a scene conscious of a need to hit certain points. But I don't also write genre, or follow rules - so take my advice with a grain of salt.

    Don't worry too much about this, certain details will always seem like filler. The first three chapters of Lolita seem like filler but the details are interesting. That's the one thing I've noticed about filler scenes. They only become filler when the details are dry enough that the reader can skip them without feeling guilty or missing anything. That's another thing if your scene has already contained certain elements - no point rehashing them in a long filler scene - unless that says something about your character.

    Take Lolita for example if one skips the 'filler' scenes in Lolita they won't learn Humbert's mother was struck by lightning which becomes an odd symbol that reoccurs later on when it's mentioned Quilty wrote a play called The Lady who Loved Lightning. You can make even the driest details interesting or have a touch of mystery to them ( as if certain details in themselves could spawn another novel ) and they cease to be filler, they're just another facet of shaping your character or your story.

    If you really want to structure your novel and weave in a set pattern, a good way to test it is to find a book which has this pattern ( or near enough about ) and see if it works and how it works. Also read several novels in your genre by different authors to see if your structure has a place within the genre.
  5. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    In my current project, I have some chapters that span 30 years and are 10K words, and others that span a day or two and are only 1K words. The long chapters only deal with the past and the short ones with the present. The short chapters are placed to break up the historical presentations, either to assist in telescoping time or, in some cases, to prolong the tension at the end of a historical chapter. At the same time, placing them this way also helps (I think) maintain the tension in the present-day subplot.

    I would just make sure that, whatever your structure is, it supports a goal in your writing.

    Also, I second @peachalulu's advice.

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