One reason for this blog is to teach myself components of writing. Like what the heck actually are chapters, and how should they work?
The issue of exactly how to use a chapter has haunted me for years like a deranged yapping poodle. Chapter One is easy. But when do I break for Chapter Two? Does the break have to be at a specific location in the story? What exactly is a chapter when you come down to it?
Chapters serve several purposes. When there is some transition in the story, such as a change in location, point of view, a chapter break sits well. Sort of like the old saying, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch”. If your chapter takes place on the prairie with cowboys and then the story shifts back to the dining room of the ranch, it might be a good place for a chapter break. So, any type of shift in the story; time, place or narrator even works.
But you can do more with chapters to improve your overall novel. Increase the narrative tension, for instance. A chapter can end upon a major revelation, a dramatic development or some danger. This may compel your reader to keep turning the pages. Not every chapter needs to rise to a concluding tension point, but a novel without any tension could be boring. So, when your prime character is kissing this beautiful woman when he suddenly discovers she is his wife’s sister, that can reveal information and increase tension. It’s a little pop along the storyline.
Few people read a novel in one sitting without taking at least a bathroom break. So, sort of like the television commercial breaks, chapter breaks are a nice resting place for a reader. Some scene or situation is resolved and the reader can put the book down to pick it up later at a new chapter.
Below are some links about chapters I found useful.