View Full Version : What is needed to make a chapter "work"...
June 18th, 2001, 07:46 AM
I've been discussing lately with a friend of mine (he writes too) about what is needed to make a chapter "work". So, we concluded that there must be three (3) basic "elements" in a chapter:
[in random order]
A chapter needs all of these three things to "work" --a bit of dialogue, thoughts, disciption. For, if it has only thoughts or discription (or 80% of it is thoughts or discription), then it's boring. If it's all dialogue, it usually moves too fast to catch up.
That said, it's ok some chapters in a book to have only one of these "elements", or only two, but the majority must have all three.
What are your thoughts about this?
June 18th, 2001, 08:29 AM
Chapters are really just to make the reading easier on the readers. They aren't very relevant to the overall scope of your work (although smart writers use the convention to their advantage). Think in scenes, instead. That's a much better way to gauge the balance of backstory to dialogue to inner monologue to action. And if you keep any one thing up for too long, you'll eventually lose everyone's attention. Look at Piers Anthony. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif You always need a healthy mix of all the elements to hold interest & attention.
June 18th, 2001, 11:21 AM
Chapters are important to a story. Otherwise itíd be like reading a run on sentence. Most writers do thing in terms of scenes. Those scenes are how the beginning and ending of chapters are chosen. In other words each chapter has a specific beginning, middle and ending, a specific scene. Many even have mini-climaxes to pull the reader into the following chapter.
As far as needing the 3 elements . . . Iím not sure I understand what you mean by 2. thoughts.
1. dialogue - not a must for every chapter, but certainly a must for most chapters.
2. description - I would argue that this is a must for every chapter. Dialogue often contains this without intending to, e.i. shouted, hissed, whispered, etc.. I just donít think itís possible to have a paragraph without some description.
If by thoughts you mean insights into the characterís thoughts, I would have to say that in my opinion those would be included under dialogue.
The only other requirement I think chapters have to have is a consistency. The story shouldnít suddenly have a ton of dialogue and very little description then the next chapter be full of description. The book should flow from chapter to chapter and each chapter needs to have an easily identifiable beginning and ending.
But then, thatís just my not so humble opinion. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
June 18th, 2001, 12:11 PM
1. Done! http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
2.Agreed! That's why it's one of the "elements". http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif I don't only mean describing how someone is dressed, or a fortress.
"If by thoughts you mean insights into the characterís thoughts, I would have to say that in my opinion those would be included under dialogue."
I also agree with that. But not too many, cause then the dialogue will seem not "moving"...
"The only other requirement I think chapters have to have is a consistency. The story shouldnít suddenly have a ton of dialogue and very little description then the next chapter be full of description. The book should flow from chapter to chapter and each chapter needs to have an easily identifiable beginning and ending."
Hm. I agree. But this is based on your style (the style of the writer, I mean), and it won't change in the middle of the book, righ?
June 18th, 2001, 01:08 PM
"Hm. I agree. But this is based on your style (the style of the writer, I mean), and it won't change in the middle of the book, righ?"
You'd think, wouldn't you? http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif Actually my point was for those who are newer to writing and may not be very consistant.
June 18th, 2001, 08:20 PM
Interesting subject, Bardos!
I agree with most of what's been posted here already, and certainly second the notion that just as with the story itself, a chapter works best if it has a beginning, a middle and some sort of conclusion, or cliff-hanger, to keep the reader turning those pages!
But aside from all of that, I think the reader needs to feel that they have attained, or been taken to the "next level" as it were, at the conclusion of each chapter. Satisfying their hunger for more of the story, which, if you've set it up interestingly enough, is the only reason they've made it to the next chapter in the first place, is a definite requisite for my books. Without sufficient plot, there's no reason to keep reading, as the reader will become bored very quickly.
Teasing is fine, but what you don't want is the reader thinking: well this is all very interesting, but when when will it make a point?
So, I guess what I'm saying here is that along with Dialogue and Description, there's another "D" word to consider: DIRECTION! Without direction or purpose, a chapter will fade into obscurity; its pages hurriedly flicked over until the reader finds more of the plot they hunger for! Sure, the chapter could be filled with the best dialogue and scene description you've ever achieved. But without some form of direction your efforts will be largely wasted!
I hope this helps? http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
June 18th, 2001, 11:12 PM
Yep, methinks, you're right, lad! http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
June 19th, 2001, 05:52 AM
Good point, Erebus.
June 19th, 2001, 09:51 AM
For what it's worth . . .
It's possible to have dialog, plot and description, and a beginning, middle and end, and still not have a chapter that "works."
A chapter is a "chunk" of the overall story. It delivers some element of the plot (or some leg of the character's "journey").
In my mind, in order for a chapter to "work," it has to both fit with the story and supply the right information at the right time.
Another test is this: If I remove the chapter, does the story still work? If the answer is "yes," then there was probably something wrong with the chapter.
-- John Morrison http://ganymede-project.com
[This message has been edited by yurisverdlov (edited June 19, 2001).]
June 19th, 2001, 04:19 PM
You see, we can agree on something! http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
Your point is also a good one, John, and one that many editors will certainly attest to!
Regards, Neil www.wn.com.au/clubclad/erebus/ (http://www.wn.com.au/clubclad/erebus/)
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