1. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    Construction: Chapters, Breaks, etc

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by ChaseTheSun, Mar 11, 2017.

    I'm wondering what the best way is for me to construct my first person POV, historical novel. The story spans almost 30 years, follows the relationships between 3 generations of women/girls within one family, and is written chronologically.

    I'm not sure what the best way is to break the book into sections.

    So far the first five chapters are set in 1961. Does this mean I then need each susbequent year to have five chapters?

    Do I need to have a chapter for every year or can I just jump to 1970 after the first X number of chapters move sequentially through '61, '62 and '63? Will that feel cheap, or convenient, to the reader, that I just jump ahead whenever I feel like it?

    Should I forego conventional chapters and just create section breaks through the use of date headings in italics? Perhaps break up the main time frames with a blank page titled "1961-1970", "1970-1975", etc?

    Is it clumsy to have section breaks within a single chapter, to denote a jump in time?

    I really have no idea how to structure this book... Thanks for any advice or thoughts!
     
  2. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    No, I don't think you need to write the same amount for different years. If you have only two chapters for, say, 1975, but five chapters for 1960, it is only going to make your book worse you trying to fill with more chapters to try to give it a more even feel.

    Which leads onto my next point. I think it's absolutely fine to jump forward any number of years. If nothing important happens between '63 and '70, then I don't need to read about it if it's just all going to be space-padding until the next significant thing.

    I think at the start of each chapter, you should have the date (and month, if necessary) and location (if it changes). I would advise sticking to one time period (at least the same year) per chapter though. Jumping forward a couple of years within the same chapter would be a bit confusing.
     
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  3. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    Thank you for your thoughts. :) What about using a paragraph break and visual (horizontal line, row of asterisks, etc) within one chapter to show we've jumped ahead a few hours or days? Or is that just clumsy?

    When beginning a new chapter that is a number of years after the previous chapter, should I have some sort of segue? "It wasn't until three years later that character X realised..." etc? I can see that working from an artistic point on a case by case basis, but would it be necessary from a structural integrity/clarity viewpoint?
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    If this is your first draft, just tell what you perceive to be the story. If that's five chapters in '61, two in '68 and seventeen in '73, then that's what you need to get down 'on paper.'

    Worry about structure in later drafts. For now, your job is to bring the story into this world. As far as I know, there are no rules about the number of chapters/sections/paragraphs that need to be in any part of a story, so let 'er rip.

    And, in case it comes up later, there are no expectations for chapter lengths, either. :)
     
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  5. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    I think that paragraph breaks are fine if it's only a short amount of time like that.

    Perhaps you could write a few paragraphs in summary of anything important? Introduction by a change in scenery is one such manner. If you've been writing a book that has taken place wholly in summer, you'd begin by talking about the snowstorms, cold weather and Christmas time if you wanted to change that to winter. If you have the date at the top of the chapter, then readers should realise that it is a different time themselves without having to directly reference in the text, as doing that might come off a bit clunky in some cases.
     
  6. J.E. Kirkland

    J.E. Kirkland Member

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    This is one of the things I'm working on in my story with some differences. Multiple characters over a much longer span of time. I'm also trying to have each part in their perspective. I agree with some of the advice here about just writing and worrying about that structure later. That's what I need to try to do more. I think it's easy to get hung up on the mechanics.
     
  7. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    I tend to be able to operate better - in whatever capacity - when things are structured and organised. Sometimes this works for me, and sometimes against. I'm the one who has a spotless house during exam period, because my way of managing my stress and feeling like I can keep track of what I need to do is to organise and clean and have everything in its place. And so I'm not sure how effective it would be to tell myself to "just bring the story into the world" without the structure.... it's like, depending on what the structure is, will influence how I choose to write the story. I don't know if that makes sense? But I am aware that this over-organisation mode I slip into isn't always particularly helpful or appropriate. So I appreciate your advice and will try to refocus my energy on more relevant tasks! Like getting the story written! Haha :)

    Good idea, thanks :)

    Yeah, well good luck to us both, then! Haha! I am dealing with multiple characters, too. The idea of switching perspectives is tripping me up. Does it come across as a cheap tactic to just get the most out of my character, switching to the next when this one doesn't have anything more to offer? Hmm. The mechanics of this book have slowed me down more than any of the creative aspects! Wish I could just find a template that is perfectly designed for my specific story and have it all laid out, so I could just focus on the fun creation part. :p
     
  8. J.E. Kirkland

    J.E. Kirkland Member

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    In a way yes I've had that feeling that it feels like a cheap tactic. My reasoning behind doing this sort of varies. I feel that is more character based. I've been thinking about these characters now for some time. I feel like I can't write it from only one or two perspectives. I also feel this sense of wanting to write in first person. In a way I feel like I don't have a single plot. It's more about what happened in the lives of each character. Because each character comes from a different point in time (1600s, 1900s, etc.) One thing I'm sort of struggling with is deciding on present time and what is happening during that time.
     
  9. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    Yeah, this, so much! This is so me right now. Well hey, all the best to you, and if you figure out the answer, let me know! :p
     
  10. J.E. Kirkland

    J.E. Kirkland Member

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    Thanks, and you as well, good luck!
     

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