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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Couldn't Put It Down

Haven't had a lot of time to get words into the manuscript so far today, but I'm homing in on the big confrontation for "Seer, Tyro, Fiend" in my head. As noted yesterday, timing is a factor. So far, Stefanie and the other main characters have not had many encounters with the "bad guys," and I want to bring those out of the background in a measured way that does not seem as jarring as waiting till that last scene. Also on the subject of timing, I find my story currently on a Friday, and I think that will work out for the denouement to come.

In the back of my mind are issues that will be addressed when I start editing the first draft. Chapter breaks are one of them. One of the earliest books about how to write fiction that I ever read had a chapter called "I Just Couldn't Put It Down." I remember thinking, lo so many years ago, that I was about to find out what to do when I couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted to say. Instead, it was a reference to making the reader reluctant to stop reading, and the way to make that happen is to have each chapter end with a sort of cliff hanger. Gotta keep reading to find out what happened. Arline Chase from Write Words also talked to this topic in her blog, wherein she says that the scene/chapter ends when something changes forever.

Without even looking back at "Seer" in its first draft, I know I've broken this "rule" in places. I also have to catch myself being overly concerned with the number of pages per chapter. Personally, I find it annoying when a book has fifty or more chapters, some of them quite short. Often, a scene break would do the same job, but there's something about the white space and chapter heading that makes for a more profound stop in the action. It gets me thinking about why we use chapters in fiction at all, unless of course the story relies on multiple points of view or action in different locales occurring at the same time. Dean Koontz is one author who really mixes things up in this organizational area. Take a look at his "Strangers" as a good example. It's also one of my favorites of his works.

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