Re: RARA-AVIS: How important are chapters?

From: Patrick King (
Date: 01 Jul 2008

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "Re: RARA-AVIS: How important are chapters?"

    --- On Tue, 7/1/08, Rob Kantner <> wrote:

    Longwinded way of asking the wizards of RA, especially as readers: how important is it, in your mind, for a book to be divided into chapters?


    I think it's fairly important to give the reader an opportunity to consider what's been learned by breaking the narrative whether you number it or title it or space it out. Jerzy Kosinski often just put large spaces between what were little more than paragraphs in some of his early books. It made those books very fast reads. An uninterrupted narrative like Kerouac's ON THE ROAD as it was originally published I believe, certainly doesn't slow down the reading process but it does create a breathless quality to the story which may or may not benefit writer or reader.

    Not using chapters is I'd say a kind of stunt which may work with some types of stories but may also backfire by disturbing the readers' expectations. I don't think it helps a writer to set up a 400 page run-on thought. If I were going to write a book without chapters, I'd probably outline it in chapters, write each chapter, then remove the chapters in the final draft. Unless the narrative is very unusual, like ON THE ROAD or CRYING OF LOT 49, I don't think going outside the readers' boundaries benefits a writer. Reading is a very single-minded purpose and requires a great deal of patience from our readers. Asking of them even more patience by denying their own thoughts places to catch breath is probably a high risk experiment.

    Patrick King


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