RARA-AVIS: Chapters (sort of)

From: Tim Wohlforth (timwohlforth@opendoor.com)
Date: 05 Jul 2008

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    Just a brief comment on the chapters thread. Elmore Leonard says someplace that when writing a book you need to consider the white space as much as text. The idea is a page that has a lot of short punchy dialog and short paragraphs appears less dense and thus more penetrable (readable) to the reader. Of course one can create this effect and not have chapters. But why? Just makes the book appear
    (even if it is not) to be unending. The trend in the opposite direction towards very short chapters particularly in thrillers also helps transform a yarn into a page turner.

    Then there is another structural advantage to a chapter. Long or short, if properly constructed it has a beginning (something to drawn you into the chapter), a middle (something happens) and an end. The latter has a duel and sometimes contradiictory purpose - to bring the action in the chapter to some kind of conclusion and to pull the reader in to the next chapter (cliffhanger). Thus so from time to time an effective chapter ending may be in the middle of the action.

    Chapter numbers are only a convention like an asterisk or other marker or a space between scenes.

    The interesting structural problem occurs when one constructs a chapter of more than one scene, What unifies the material to the point of requiring a chapter division? Time? Simultaneous or sequential Setting? There needs to be something beyond having reached pg 10 or 20 or whatever is the length you like for chapter lengths.


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