Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Today's question comes from M.J. in Mr. Hughes' class.

How do you determine when to make chapters?

The answer is: This is a very subjective thing. Each writer decides where to make one chapter end and another begin. suggests three tips for determining where to place chapters.

1. Focus on your writing first. Don't worry about chapter breaks immediately but if while writing your story you feel you need a break, place a # (this is obviously for typed mss) to make note of a possible break. After you have finished writing the story, do a search for all the # and decide if that really is a chapter break or just a break within the chapter. If it is a chapter break, page break it there and move on to the next one. If it is a short break, put three or four #'s centered on the page so that you know it's still part of the chapter.

In my short story, "Butterfly Halves", I use #'s instead of chapters but I'm also showing you that there are two persons in parallel lives that need to be incorporated. Every time I put one of the #'s, I knew I was switching which girl's life I was talking about.

2. Break when your story requires a shift. When you change place, time, and points of view (we were discussing POV in class when this question came up), it's a good rule of thumb to make a new chapter.

In my story Finally Home, my first chapter is only 2 pages long; it starts in the car with Kelly and her parents traveling to their new place. The second chapter begins with them at the new place and unpacking the car. Since I did a scene change, I started a new chapter.

3. Break chapters in the heart of the action. These are the cliffhangers, make you keep turning the page chapter endings. You can't stop reading because you have to find out what happens.

I'm not sure I have any cliffhanger chapters in any of my stories, but I have a feeling when I get further on Imogene's story, that there will be some chapters like this because I've already had a few thoughts about something happening and leaving it there and moving to the next scene, place or whatever. I've read quite a few stories that use this technique and it's really effective. I've had to read straight through to find out what happens.

Good question, M.J., and thanks for giving me something to blog about. Check back every Wednesday except the fourth Wednesday of the month for another student's question for the WWYWWQ. See you all in the postings - Mrs. E :)


Susanne Drazic said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing examples, using your own writing, to help answer the question.

elysabeth said...

Thanks, Susanne. It was fun to dig into my stories and share what little experience I have. The kids have asked some interesting questions. Next week, as I don't have an actual question, I'm going to post something that is a general writing question from around everywhere - lol. Or maybe I'll do a posting about voice or POV. I have a semiquestion about the voice part and can probably turn that into a posting.

I'm glad you are a follower and leaving comments on my blog. E :)