What the fuck is a chapter, anyway?

As I dick around with the outline to a writing project, I reflect upon these things called “chapters”. What are they? What purpose do they serve? How do I know when to use them, instead of just a blank line to seperate “scenes”?

As I understand it, the concept of “chapters” came from the old serial story format guys like Charles Dickens wrote in, where the newspapers would publish his novels a chapter at a time, thus chapters were essentially short stories unto themselves like episodes of a tv show.

Episodes of tv shows? Hell, I get that. That makes a novel like a season box set!

But are books like that now? Hardly ever! That form of chapters seems very much out of fashion, so what are we left with?

It seems to me chapters are like a way of breaking up the narrative into easily-digestable chunks so you can “read a chapter before bed” and not have to start a few hours ahead of time; as a way to move on to a different “episode” once the current one is out of stuff to write about; a marker to indicate a thoroughly disconnected portion of narrative, so as to eliminate potential confusion.

But that’s my thoughts, and I still don’t really know how to properly use them. Writing in chapters is great fun, as I’ve discovered while writing chapters for A Game of Bones and its upcoming sequel (A Clash of Kinks, apparently; I don’t like that name, but my preferred one is pretty offensive, so we won’t be seeing that on the Kindle store anytime soon), because it gives me a structure and an end point, a goal or what have you. So writing my outline, I’m staring at these huge paragraphs of story/plot/total bullshit, and wondering where chapters should go in this mess!

Writing is hard… đŸ˜¥


~ by Tim H on August 7, 2013.

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