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This is a question to all the writers out there. I was wondering how you write a chapter story. More specifically, how do you know how/when to end one chapter and begin the next.

Any links to information on this subject, greatly appreciated.

Newbie,

Jeremy

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I haven't written many multi-chapter stories, just two which have been posted and three sitting in (or, more correctly, buried in) my to-be-completed-real-soon-now-when-I-can-find-the-time-and-get-around-to-it pile. However, despite the fact that I can't find a round to-it anywhere, I will talk about how I write long stories that have to be broken into chapters.

I don't pre-chapterize my stories. I write them in large blocks, or even (Escaping Katrina) the entire story. Then I go back and divide it up. I'm not able to think in chapters.

Colin :icon:geek:

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I've always found a logical breaking point for a chapter. Sometimes it's the end of a scene. Sometimes it's at a climax or dramatic point (known colloquially as a cliffhanger... :rolleyes: ).

Chapter breaks are good points to introduce time jumps. If you want to advance the story by jumping forward in time, doing it at a chapter break is a logical time. You can do it at other times, too, but it comes natural at a chapter break. Similarly when you are changing a point of view (assuming a third person POV story). Essentially, any scene break could be a chapter break.

You can also look at a chapter as being a mini story. It will have a start, something happens, and a finish. It's not a strict guide, but if you've just had something important or dramatic happen, then that's a good place to consider a chapter break.

Just my views on the matter. It's a good question!

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It's a good question but difficult to answer. It depends on so many things.

One of the things that people seem to consider when writing a serialized novel for posting on the Internet is chapter length. Many published novels have chapters of all different lengths, sometimes only a page, sometimes thirty-five pages. The author simply ends one where it feels appropriate to do so, no matter the length. When we're writing on the Net, readers expect chapters they've been waiting for to be of a length that satisfies them till the next one comes out. I've found that if I write chapters of less than, say, 3500 words, I hear about it, sometimes nastily. I'm sure I'd make chapter breaks in much different places if I were writing for publication.

But there's no real right or wrong for this. What feels right for your story probably is right.

Cole

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1. Write first. Worry about chapters later.

2. Sometimes you reach an OBVIOUS breaking point. You'll know it when you see it. "The plane left for Tunica" and "Two days later, after basking in the sun..."

3. Sometimes you will need to finish a whole stream of writing and you will say "this seems too long" and decide to break it. You need ANY logical place. Don't just stop it.

4. You can use the "cliffhanger" but never do that on purpose. However, if you write, you will find that's an obvious breaking point. Despite the fact my reader(s) think everything I write is a cliffhanger, I rarely do it on purpose and often disagree with what constitutes one.

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WBMS:

:rolleyes: Thanks for the tips. It's cool having such an amazing author giving me advice.

That's usually what I do but I was just wondering what others do.

Thanks again,

Jeremy

1. Write first. Worry about chapters later.

2. Sometimes you reach an OBVIOUS breaking point. You'll know it when you see it. "The plane left for Tunica" and "Two days later, after basking in the sun..."

3. Sometimes you will need to finish a whole stream of writing and you will say "this seems too long" and decide to break it. You need ANY logical place. Don't just stop it.

4. You can use the "cliffhanger" but never do that on purpose. However, if you write, you will find that's an obvious breaking point. Despite the fact my reader(s) think everything I write is a cliffhanger, I rarely do it on purpose and often disagree with what constitutes one.

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:rolleyes: Thanks for the tips. It's cool having such an amazing author giving me advice.

That's usually what I do but I was just wondering what others do.

You know what they say, "those that can't do, teach" and I guess I'm teaching :)

And thanks for the compliment.

I will ignore Mr. Parker's comments in the interests of not hijacking this thread.

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Those who cannot do, teach, and those who cannot do that, proof read. :rolleyes:

Those who can't even do that, just criticize.

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There's some good advice above. I've worked in bad TV for so long, that structuring for commercials is part of my DNA. I sit down and write a chapter to a logical dramatic break -- at a climax, if I can do it -- and that's the end.

This sometimes leads to irregular chapter lengths, but it's the only way that works for me.

I would advise to resist the temptation to end the chapter at the end of the day, where the character falls asleep. It's a cliche (which I've been forced to use due to circumstance), but I try to avoid it when I can.

I'm dreading the new chapter of my novel I'm working on now, because I know it's going to end on a cliffhanger. Readers are going to kill me, and I'm bracing myself...

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Readers are going to kill me, and I'm bracing myself...

And that bracing will stave off death? :rolleyes::lol: Just joking with you. People really do dislike cliff-hangers. The worst ones are those when the author really dies (or just stops writing) and it remains a cliff-hanger for eternity.

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And that bracing will stave off death? :bunny::lol: Just joking with you. People really do dislike cliff-hangers. The worst ones are those when the author really dies (or just stops writing) and it remains a cliff-hanger for eternity.

Or when an author stops updating right in the middle of the story and never comes back to writing again. Not saying I don't understand getting bogged down by real life or losing interest in a story but it's still upsetting to never see how a certain story ends.

I would advise to resist the temptation to end the chapter at the end of the day, where the character falls asleep. It's a cliche (which I've been forced to use due to circumstance), but I try to avoid it when I can.

In the story I'm working on now, I just ended a chapter at the end of the characters packing for a vacation and started up the next one when they were getting on the road the next day.

Pecman, do you think that would be too cliched?

Jeremy

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In the story I'm working on now, I just ended a chapter at the end of the characters packing for a vacation and started up the next one when they were getting on the road the next day. Pecman, do you think that would be too cliched?

I think it's too dull. I think you have to inject an element of anxiety, or at least some conflict and drama. Maybe two characters have an argument prior to going to sleep. Or maybe somebody has to get left behind. Maybe as they're packing, a tire goes flat and they have no spare. Anything to jog the audience and make them want to read the next page -- in this case, the next chapter.

Another common technique is to concentrate on one of the characters, who worries about the events of the next day. Have them run through all the scenarios, most of which wind up in disaster. To me, if there's an element of risk and a question about how things will turn out, this makes things more interesting and less dull.

Last point: Stephen King will take a dull final paragraph to a chapter, and then add one line that completely sends you reeling. A classic in your case would be, "I argued with Joe, but he insisted I pack my stuff on the left side of the trunk. He barked at me all evening while I stewed, deciding not to even bother letting him see how hurt I was. By the time I went to bed, I was exhausted, but determined that I would show Joe tomorrow just how good a camper I was going to be."

(and then)

"Little did I know it was the last time I'd ever see Joe alive."

OK, that's a bit melodramatic, but you can see the point. Never end a chapter on a dull, humdrum event. It has to end with a doubt, an unanswered question, or some story point that builds anticipation. (Or as they used to say in Rocky Horror Picture Show, "antici........................ pation." :)

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Or as they used to say in Rocky Horror Picture Show, "antici........................ pation."

They still do!

Frankenfurter RAWKS!!!

As to chapter breaks ... write short stories. Then you don't have to worry about it. ;)

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As to chapter breaks ... write short stories. Then you don't have to worry about it.

Tell that to J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, and Stephen King (or Tolstoy, Frank Herbert, and James Michner, going back a few years). Some stories just can't be told in short form.

Short stories require a certain kind of discipline, and novels require another. I think you can make a similar analogy between episodic TV and feature films: some things work better in long form.

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Tell that to J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, and Stephen King (or Tolstoy, Frank Herbert, and James Michner, going back a few years). Some stories just can't be told in short form.

Short stories require a certain kind of discipline, and novels require another. I think you can make a similar analogy between episodic TV and feature films: some things work better in long form.

Absolutely. (So sorry, I couldn't find a 'tongue firmly in cheek' emoticon. :icon_rabbit: )

The point is - I think - that some people can write short stories, some novels, and other, rather rarer breeds, both. Short stories are all I can seem to manage ... and it's not for lack of trying.

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I think it's too dull. I think you have to inject an element of anxiety, or at least some conflict and drama. Maybe two characters have an argument prior to going to sleep. Or maybe somebody has to get left behind. Maybe as they're packing, a tire goes flat and they have no spare. Anything to jog the audience and make them want to read the next page -- in this case, the next chapter.

Another common technique is to concentrate on one of the characters, who worries about the events of the next day. Have them run through all the scenarios, most of which wind up in disaster. To me, if there's an element of risk and a question about how things will turn out, this makes things more interesting and less dull.

Last point: Stephen King will take a dull final paragraph to a chapter, and then add one line that completely sends you reeling. A classic in your case would be, "I argued with Joe, but he insisted I pack my stuff on the left side of the trunk. He barked at me all evening while I stewed, deciding not to even bother letting him see how hurt I was. By the time I went to bed, I was exhausted, but determined that I would show Joe tomorrow just how good a camper I was going to be."

(and then)

"Little did I know it was the last time I'd ever see Joe alive."

OK, that's a bit melodramatic, but you can see the point. Never end a chapter on a dull, humdrum event. It has to end with a doubt, an unanswered question, or some story point that builds anticipation. (Or as they used to say in Rocky Horror Picture Show, "antici........................ pation." :)

Thanks. That's some real good advice. I hadn't even thought of the 'going through scenarios' idea. That would work real well because my main characters are visiting Char. 1's family and coming out to them. The scenarios could be the reactions.

Thanks again,

Jeremy

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They still do!

Frankenfurter RAWKS!!!

As to chapter breaks ... write short stories. Then you don't have to worry about it. ;)

And as usual, our resident Emu provides a succinct and useful solution to the chapter-transition problem!

Colin :B)

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