Chapters distinguish scenes, or a scene, as being a notable part of a greater story. There are many ways to break scenes into chapters, so the important aspect is to focus on what the chapter is supposed to accomplish for the reader.
Chapter breakdown is a common writing-advice topic. As a reader, the best chapters for me are the ones that start off immediately engaging me in something that’s happening – whether following from a prior chapter or a brand-new scene, then keeps me wondering through-out the chapter in the seat of an observer, and finally, ends with something that thrills me – whether through a sense of wonder, astonishment, pride, or suspense.
Chapters can also be like very short stories that make up a larger story when put together, similar to song tracks on an album. Don’t overtell, but share the reality of the world that’s being included in each chapter so readers stay engaged with what is happening. Each chapter is a chance to draw the reader in again and again, to make them fall in love with the characters, world, and story.
In this perspective, each chapter should have its own Beginning, Middle and End. There should be a chapter-based climax offered to the reader to continue that thrill of reading instead of demanding or expecting patience from an unknown stranger that they’ll drudge through a chapter where nothing seems to be happening.
Chapters are oft a necessary structure of fiction novels and provide opportunity for authors to present a long or complicated story in a discernible way that captures a reader’s attention and continues to engage their imagination until the conclusion.
A quick bullet-point list of checking whether a chapter is fulfilling its potential:
- Is the first paragraph/page engaging? Active? Intriguing?
- Is the world/aesthetic represented through additions woven into the narrative?
- Does it keep the reader wondering about what is going to happen next?
- Is the conclusion thrilling or astonishing?
- Does it tie into the larger story? Does it evoke the reader-known past while also suggesting the future course of events?