Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Question from a Writer

Can you comment on chapter organization? I realize each chapter needs to stand-alone with its own beginning/middle/ending but its not instinctive for me to be able to tell where the breaks fall. I'm wanting to make each SCENE its own chapter.

Chapter breaks and scene breaks are always tough for writers. I do have to say, however, that I believe much of the time the writers that struggle with this are not plotters but pantsters. Not sure if you are one of those writers. In any case, I do believe the solution is fairly easy.

When I think of chapters, I think of each one as a piece of a puzzle. As we move through the book, we are learning something new and advancing the plot one step at a time. With that said, if a writer thinks about the single goal they want to achieve in that chapter, then the break becomes easy.

For example, is this chapter to introduce the reader to the central conflict between the hero and the heroine? Is this the chapter that shows us the heroine is a tough and independent character? Are we seeing the villain for the first time? You decide.

Now, with scene breaks, I still work with the same chapter theme idea, but I see the scene breaks within a chapter as a camera angle or POV shift. This is a place where the reader can provide layering of the story. Let's return to the conflict issue with the hero and heroine. Giving the reader a view of the fight between the two from the hero's POV and then watching the heroine storm out of the room gives us one perspective. Now we are on the other side of the door and get to hear the heroine's twist on what just happened. We are still working on the same theme of the chapter, just building the layers.

Hope that one helps!



  1. This is a helpful post, but could you clarify how many changes in POV/scene breaks within a chapter are acceptable? I get this concept confused with "head hopping."

    Also, I read your blog every day because of the great information you provide but it's hard to find specific posts when I need them. Is there some way you could put a "Search" function on this blog?


  2. Carol,
    Head hopping is simply when you are shifting between multiple characters within a single scene. If you use a scene break, for example the classic * * * and then shift to a new character you are fine.

    As far as the search function, I will have to see what I can do. Not sure on that one.

  3. Just added that SEARCH function!

  4. Perfect, perfect, perfect explanation. You've just given me an "ah-ha" moment. You're amazing.

    Can't thank you enough.