Jun 3, 2011

Chapter Arc


This is for Ruth, who asked me what a chapter arc looks like.

This is a general model, so not every chapter will look just like this, but it's always where I start.

Every chapter has a place and a purpose in the book.  Together, chapters blend with and reflect each other to tell the bigger story of the novel.

I often see the larger story taking shape around a series of Aha! moments.  It's the purpose of the individual chapter to show how a character reaches that moment and how the response builds to the next rising action (and the next Aha!).

Sometimes I don't end with the resolution itself, but rather with the promise of a resolution. The reader has to move into the next chapter to find out what the character decides and what problems arise--and thus the action rises again.

Even when this is the case, I plot with the resolution of the chapter on the card detailing the chapter purpose. I can always go back and change the chapter divisions later.

With this model, every chapter has a strong internal structure and a purpose within the novel. Even though I'm seldom able to envision all the details of a novel at one time, I'm always able to see the details of an entire chapter.  If I know the chapters flow together well to tell the story, I can focus on making that chapter the best it can be. Strong chapters make strong novels.

Many thanks to Ruth for asking the question

4 comments:

  1. This will help me alot better when it comes to writng the story that i have started working on

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  2. Thanks for this diagram. I am dealing with a naughty chapter right now that doesn't know exactly why it's there. This will help me screen it, save it or trash it. I hope.

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  3. That's the clearest explanation of an arc I've seen to date. Thanks, Johanna. It's a big help.

    Take care,
    JC

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