Friday, 21 November 2014

Divide and Conquer - What's in a chapter?

Did you know there are multiple rules for writing a chapter? No? Well it turns out there a quite a few. Some of them are obvious and some are carefully crafted rules.

Firstly each chapter has a job. That is to propel the story forward. It should keep the reader wanting to know more.

Chapter hooks are the cleverly crafted final sentences or two on each page. Their job is to make the reader want to read on. If an author is very good the reader will keep reading on no matter how many times they say – ‘Just one more chapter.’

Chapter length is important depending on the audience. Bryce Courtenay, one of my favourite Australian writers, thought very hard about it.
"I have to say that my average reader is a female; she's probably working, she's probably got two kids, she probably does twice as much as her husband does just to get organised every day of her life.

She arrives home after work exhausted, cooks a meal, gets the kids into bed ... puts their school clothes in the washing machine and about half-past nine she is absolutely and totally buggered. She has watched one hour of television and picks up my book and she reads one chapter.

Now, if you read a chapter of a Bryce Courtenay book it takes exactly half an hour, it's thirty pages. And she goes to bed hopefully having enjoyed herself thoroughly for the last half-hour. That's my job. My job isn't there to sit in a library for perhaps a hundred years. My job is essentially that of an entertainer, no different to that of a musician, no different to that of an actor. I just happen to be an author."
Bryce Courtenay

Reading is entertainment so the author must keep the attention span of thier audience in mind.

Chapter beginnings can set the scene for what is to come. It can drop the reader right in the action. It can create an impression or an environment. It can even give them a feeling just through the description.

The flow of the writing is important for each chapter. Dialogue and action tags can move the story along without all the telling. However we need the descriptive language to help set the scene as well.

Some chapters mix it by using different point of view. Multiple character viewpoints add another layer to the writing because the voice of the character needs to come through each time. It should be done so well that the reader can tell the point of view has changed without realising it from the chapter heading or font.

If you are working on something now don’t get caught up on where your chapters should begin and end. Just write. You can divide and conquer later.
Melissa Wray is the author of Destiny Road which is published through Morris
Publishing Australia, and can be ordered; through Amazon and Smashwords.
Learn more at her blog Dream Big ... Read Often. 

Follow Melissa’s Facebook page here.

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