Monday, November 14, 2011

Chapters: Arcs and Complications

            So I get that a chapter has to move the character forward, and I get that choices and going far enough are ways to do that.  But when are my chapters supposed to end?  I mean, how far forward do you let the character move before making a break between one chapter and the next?  The answer seems to be explained by arcs.
            I feel like I get arcs.  I drew a bunch of little arcs to help me understand the chapters I studied, but explaining the specific arcs of each chapter in words was harder. These concepts helped:

• An arc is a small beginning-middle-end in a story.
• Tension rises in the middle.
• The character lands in a new place.
• That rise in the middle is caused by a complication. 

Chapter 11 of Wintergirls, a short, two-page chapter demonstrates how an arc can work.   
Beginning: Lia is in bed, unable to sleep, sure Cassie’s ghost is right outside her door; she even spins herself an imaginary cocoon for protection.   
Then middle: the fragrance of ginger, cloves, and burnt sugar which Lia’s come to identify with Cassie infiltrates the room, and Cassie appears addressing Lia in ghost form for the first time.  “Come with me,” she says to Lia.   
Finally end: Lia spends the rest of the night locked in Cassie’s gaze.   

The complication:  Cassie not only appears, but makes her demand propelling things forward.

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