Monday, October 24, 2011

Four Things that Make a Chapter

            I went back and raided my notes from Patti Lee Gauch’s Highlights Founders Workshop called Starting Your Novel, and I pulled out four statements about chapterness.  At the time these statements had seemed obvious enough, but now with my novel spread out in note cards, they were real food for thought.  Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls had was also out on the table, and I decided to study her book using these four statements:

1)    A chapter moves the character forward in his/her inner and outer life.
2)    Going far enough (emotionally) and giving the characters choices moves the story forward.
3)    Arcs in the story rise in the middle because of a complication.
4)    Arcs clump to form chapters.

Wintergirls is not one of those books with short, pearl-like chapters, nor are the chapters consistent in length or structure.   I was going to have to really analyze what Anderson was doing with her chapters.  So I read Wintergirls a couple of times, took a lot of notes, and made a lot of little drawing to describe the chapters.  These were chapters that developed organically, each with its own needs, and many providing great examples of the principles above. 
            Watch for my next post in which I tear apart some of Laurie Halse Anderson's expertly crafted chapters to see how they work.

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