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Author Topic: What precisely is a chapter  (Read 477 times)

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Offline KythiaTopic starter

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What precisely is a chapter
« on: May 16, 2013, 01:46:50 AM »
Weird question, I know.  But how - if you're writing something - do you know when a chapter ends?  Sentences and paragraphs seem to have well defined rules for what they are but wikipedia is extremely vague on what a chapter actually is.

Does the question even make sense?

Offline Oreo

Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2013, 01:51:44 AM »
From my experience chapters can be defined in several ways.

One, to simply break the long stream of a story into eatable bites.

Two, to change a scene.

Three, to bounce between completely different sides of a story. Rather like in LOTRs when the storyline has several parties in different areas.

There may be others, but these are the specifics that come to mind for me.

Offline Oniya

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Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2013, 12:01:08 PM »
There really aren't any well-defined rules for chapters.  I distinctly remember a paragraph in Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle that was a single sentence long.  I don't remember the exact sentence itself, but I remember staring at it for quite a while.

If I had to say one thing that makes something 'worth' being a chapter, it would be that the reader feels that something has happened.  There should be an 'event' in the chapter, even if it's only a 'small' as a chip of ice-nine falling into the ocean.

Offline Valerian

Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2013, 01:17:49 PM »
Novels didn't even have chapters originally.  The early English novel Moll Flanders, for instance, has no chapter breaks whatsoever.  Much more recently, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, also has no chapters.

In some ways, it's almost a literary gimmick, too.  Action novels might have lots of short chapters to give a sense of energy, while longer chapters might be more suited to more character study sorts of novels, etc.

Offline Moraline

Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2013, 01:36:54 PM »
I just want to agree with everything said so far.

I think Chapter = A flexible literary device, is a good definition.

I personally tend to use chapters as the end of scenes. So, if I have a scene with a group of people sitting in a house talking, the chapter ends when the conversation is done or they leave the house. Alternately, I use chapters to differentiate when I hop to a new point of view. Occasionally in the appropriate genre, I use it as a cliff hanger to lead the reader down the path I'm painting for them.

Offline RedPhoenix

Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2013, 01:38:06 PM »
A chapter is when you've written enough that you feel like the reader should take a break. That's how the authors I like the most seem to interpret it anyway. =)

Offline Oniya

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Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2013, 02:37:26 PM »
I suspect that chapters really came into vogue when you had the serialized novels. 

Offline Sarena

Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2013, 04:59:20 PM »
A piece of advice I was given by an author was never end a chapter at a low point of the story.  Always end it on a high somehow, drawing the reader in and making it hard for them to put down the book because they have to know what happens next.  How this is accomplished is up to the individual writer, but it does make sense.

Offline KythiaTopic starter

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Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2013, 01:28:01 AM »
Thanks guys.  Glad to see it was a little vague and it wasn't simply me not understanding a simple rule.

Offline Geil

Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2013, 06:07:18 PM »
I'd go with roughly what Red said. The end of a chapter is a reminder to those readers who have got so deeply absorbed in your plot that, yes, it really is that time, and, no, I don't know where the last hour went either, but it's now high time you put the book down and tried to get to sleep.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: What precisely is a chapter
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2013, 06:54:22 PM »
Weird question, I know.  But how - if you're writing something - do you know when a chapter ends?  Sentences and paragraphs seem to have well defined rules for what they are but wikipedia is extremely vague on what a chapter actually is.

Does the question even make sense?
There are no rules for chapters. None. Some do it do it based on subject or scene but it's ultimately at the discretion of the author.

Famously, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 has one chapter that is one sentence, and it's a simple sentence if I remember correctly. It's literally subject, verb period.