1. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Deciding which way to order chapters

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Dracon, Jan 26, 2017.

    I have quite an interesting decision I need to make regarding the chapter ordering in my novel and would be grateful for some help. The format of the book is that there are two main characters with each “Chapter” or “Part” split into a subchapter each. That allows me to switch up the order after each chapter if I want to. I’ve been quite good with ordering up until now, where an interesting fork in the road has presented itself, and would like some opinion on what you think would be most enjoyable for the reader.

    I’ll try to keep it as concise as possible and summarise the rough plan for each chapter:

    Germania was travelling with a caravan, but is now on the run (after falling for a trap) and is now trapped within a city, with only one place left to turn to who might help: a pair of caravan traders who she is acquaintances with. She waits for their return, and when they do, she appeals to them. Which is fortunate, because the traders have wised up that maybe it’s time to disappear for good, so they agree to take her to a safehouse they can all hide in while they try to arrange a way of smuggling themselves out of the city.

    Artax is trying to track Germania down. For reasons too lengthy to explain here, he rather wouldn’t involve the main authorities (that being his uncle, who is the residing desert lord) and needs to catch her himself. He makes the link between Germania and the caravan traders. The whole caravan was supposed to be detained due to all the crazy stuff that has happened in the book until this point, but he manages to convince his uncle to let the caravan go home for the night. He follows the two traders home, hoping they might lead him to Germania, or uncovering something.

    If I went Germania, then Artax, there is a sort of tension in Germania’s chapter that the reader knows something might happen, but they don’t know what, until they read Artax’s chapter as he pieces things together and the reader realises these traders had been let go on purpose. If I put Artax’s chapter ahead of Germania, there is a pervading sense of dread of the inevitable in Germania’s part as she makes the decision to go to these traders for help, which the reader knows is a bad move having already read Artax’s part. I can see merits to both approaches.

    I’ll not bias anybody by saying which one I am leaning towards; I’d prefer some honest opinion which might be better the option.
     
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  2. sprirj

    sprirj Senior Member

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    It's a hard one to answer, as I think we would need to read the full chapter or more. But personally, I would G and then A. You give the reader the hope and the goal first and then you take it away creating suspense for the next chapter.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I vote for the first option. In written fiction, I don't like a long trudge toward the inevitable. It can be OK in TV/movies where you can add emotion with visuals and music, but in print there's a much larger danger of, "Yeah, I know it turns bad; can we get it over with already?"
     
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  4. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    The first one would definitely be a conventional, solid story telling way to go. Heroine struggles and we set the stage, followed by the threat of an antagonist reactive and countering her actions.

    @ChickeFreak makes a good point about the second one; showing your readers that the hero's actions are ultimately fruitless, and that we the readers are just sort of waiting for the bad to happen, IS a style of writing, but it's a cynical one. If this is a traditional sort of hero's narrative, you don't want to do that.
     
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  5. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for the replies all. The first option was my original intention before I saw the other opportunity present itself, although I was still leaning towards G then A. Typically, I prefer the surprise factor as a reader, but I can think of moments where building up the suspense while knowing the inevitable outcome I have really enjoyed, though that is more typically when there is a longer playing out of events, i.e., when the book starts at the middle or end, and then it's about the journey up to that point. It's not the writing style I've kept with in the book so far to flash backwards like that so maybe I should stick to conventionality.
     
  6. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Dracon,

    The severity of Conflict and Stakes are how I order me chapters.

    Example: (A really basic example)
    Chapter 1
    Conflict: Car won't start.
    Stakes: Not being able to make a Date.

    Chapter 20
    Conflict: Bear chasing MC.
    Stakes: Being eaten alive.

    So the question is, who has more 'to lose'? That would be the person I put second.
     
  7. Siena

    Siena Senior Member

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  8. RaitR_Grl

    RaitR_Grl Member

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    OMG I'M HAVING EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM! Not that I've written a full manuscript yet, but I'm considering experimenting with a non-linear plot structure. I've spent A LOT of time in the Barnes & Noble reference aisle...

    Anyway, I remember skimming through one reference book that suggested "carding" your scenes. Basically, you'd write a name and brief description for each of your scenes on a flash card. From there, you can lay them all out in front of you and figure out the order you want.

    Good luck!
     

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