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  1. #1
    Registered User SilentDan's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    A house on a hill somewhere in Australia.
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    Chapter summary things (in some published fiction)

    I've noticed a very modern trend that's just taking off (that's what it seems like): that is, to put little summaries of what happens in each chapter, under the chapter heading. I just don't know what that's called. I'm not sure what to Google, though I tried "Scaffolding" which gave me something that seemed waaaaaaay too complicated to go in the 'summary goes here' space in published fiction.

    I think my Uni lecturers mentioned it, and that it was actually an old-fashioned thing that some authors used to do but don't any more (with these exceptions). So maybe it's not new, just coming back into style.

    For examples of what I mean, see The Book Thief by Markus Zusack or The Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding (very awesome, fun Dieselpunk adventure series), or to a lesser extent The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (much briefer). It's where the book says 'In which x does y and z is discovered' etc.

  2. #2
    Breaker of Walls
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    Apr 2012
    Epigraph is what your a looking for I think.

  3. #3
    Speaks fluent Bawehrf zachariah's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Manifold A
    Dickens used them a great deal, something which Terry Pratchett lampooned in one of his Discworld books (might be 'Going Postal', can't look right now). They are effectively mini-teasers, a marketing tool back in the day when novels were sold chapter by chapter.

    When I see them in modern books, it signals either 'Dickensian spoof' or 'pretentious author'...

  4. #4
    Life is fantastic, yes? CMTheAuthor's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Conyers, GA
    Personally, I wouldn't call Neal Stephenson a pretentious author, and I'd hardly call The Diamond Age a Dickensian spoof. (There is a parallel between that book and Dickens' work, but I won't reveal what it is here, so not to spoil the book.)

    It's like any other tool of writing. Used well, it can create suspense, by making readers question how said events come about. Used poorly, it can reveal details too soon, spoiling the book.

  5. #5
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    In a Cloud
    LOL, it's called a preamble. In this particular case, for fiction, it is also sometimes called "Dear Reader" writing. ("In which, Dear Reader, our hero finds himself lost and his friend is chased by a bear...") It's a structural technique and it's not a hot trend. It does sometimes show up in novels. For steampunk, it's a good fit for some sorts of stories. It's used sometimes in children's stories, like The Graveyard Book. But The Book Thief, which is not SFFH, was published in 2007, Graveyard in 2008, Retribution Falls in 2009 (and Diamond Age in 1995.) So I don't think there's a big rush to it.

    It is a fun technique, especially for comic works or fairy tale works. It can be done with mystery works, though it's a bit trickier.

  6. #6
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    Northern California
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    Actually, I like these. Wouldn't mind seeing more. Maybe I'll do it for my book(s).

    Why do you think it is pretentious, Zach? It doesn't come across that way to me. I suppose, as CM said, it can be done poorly - like anything else.

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