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jadijohnson

Is This True??

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While searching for the best way to divide a novel into chapters, I realized one successful novelist used her scenes to build up to a sort of mini-climax scene at the end of one of her chapters.  She probably did this with all of the chapters, but one in particular made it quite clear that this was what she was doing.  

 

Am I supposed to be doing this with my own scenes and chapters?  Or is it just an option?

 

Sometimes I wish I'd gotten into math instead of writing.  As far as I know, there is only one way to add, subtract, multiply,  and divide.  There are many ways to write a novel.  No wonder we're so confused!!  Maybe variety would suffer, but it would be a lot easier if there was only one way to write a novel!

Edited by jadijohnson
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Yes, that's particularly true with suspense and thriller novels, thought, but I think it's true for every story.  Rarely will you see chapter divisions without a mini-climax at the end, although it can be done for certain  literary novels.  

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44 minutes ago, jadijohnson said:

Am I supposed to be doing this with my own scenes and chapters?  Or is it just an option?

Yes, this is what you should aim for. But it's definitely not easy to do. The Story Grid is a great tool for analysing how to track this in your novel. In my work-in-progress, I'm trying to put these in at the outlining stage to save myself a lot of work later on!

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Thanks, everyone!  I've heard of ending scenes and chapters with cliffhangers, but I didn't know you're supposed to build up to big scenes within the chapters they occur in.  Just when you think you know everything...

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9 minutes ago, jadijohnson said:

didn't know you're supposed to build up to big scenes within the chapters they occur in.

Just to clarify: in my understanding, the scene doesn't necessarily have to be "big." And it doesn't have to be a cliffhanger as such. CS Lakin wrote a great article about what each scene needs to accomplish.

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1 hour ago, EBraten said:

Just to clarify: in my understanding, the scene doesn't necessarily have to be "big." And it doesn't have to be a cliffhanger as such. CS Lakin wrote a great article about what each scene needs to accomplish.

Thanks!  I'll check it out.  I need all the help I can get! 😃

 

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It's just one way to write a story. I give my scenes the same five components (which I learned from Shawn Coyne's Story Grid method): 

  1. An Inciting Incident  (Causal / Coincidence)
  2. A Progressive Complication Turning Point (Action / Revelation) - every scene needs to turn, and either turns on an Action or a Revelation.
  3. Crisis - every Crisis is a question which is is solved by a Best Bad Choice (if your Protag is on a cliff, does he jump for the water far below or does he leap for a rope ladder dangling from a helicopter at the limit of his ability to leap?) or an Irreconcilable Good (you're accepted to three different universities - they're all awesome but you can only pick one)
  4. Climax - the answer to the question raised by the Crisis.
  5. Resolution - the wrap up of the scene

There are writers who end each chapter on a Climax cliffhanger. That works for some authors and some stories but it's not something I am in the habit of doing, personally. 

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2 hours ago, jadijohnson said:

So if I didn't write my story this way, does that mean it's wrong and I need to start over?

I wouldn't say that you've written your story "wrong." There are lots of good books whose scenes don't follow that structure. It's just a principle aimed at ensuring that each scene is as impactful as possible.

 

I find it particularly helpful for the middle of the story, where it's easy to lose momentum. In the beginning of a story, many writers intuitively know how to set the stage and craft an intriguing inciting incident. And towards the end, most of us will naturally ramp things up as we head towards the climax. But speaking for myself, the hardest part of a book to write is the middle. I struggle with making sure that things don't get boring and hit a plateau. Tools like The Story Grid and CS Lakin's article help me work to steadily increase the stakes and the conflict in the book's middle scenes.

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Thank you, Johne and EBraten.  I was starting to panic, thinking I was going to have to rewrite my entire story because I didn't follow this pattern.  I do see that it makes sense to do it this way.  Who knows?  Maybe I did do this without realizing it! (Doubtful!)  I'll definitely read through CS Lakin's article again, and check out The Story Grid method.  Thanks again for the advice!

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2 hours ago, jadijohnson said:

I'll definitely read through CS Lakin's article again, and check out The Story Grid method.

So, funny aside - I met Shawn Coyne in Nashville the second week of September for the second Story Grid LIVE event, and met C.S. Lakin ten days later at her Plotting Madness Boot Camp in Lake Tahoe. I've learned really solid story structure principles from both (and Susanne came from right here way back in the day with Katie Weiland!).

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What a crazy coincidence!  Lucky you!  They both sound like wonderful teachers.  I have great respect for successful writers who take the time to help other writers. 😊

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The goal of every sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter = "And then what happens?" :oops:

 

Always work to keep the readers reading, because once they put it down, there is no rule that says they have to pick it up again.

 

BTW, as far as math goes? How much does the government take out of your paycheck? (More than one way to answer that question, so, yeah. Sometimes math isn't a given either.)

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You got that right, Spaulding!  I think every reader has had a book they couldn't wait to pick up again.  That is definitely the goal of every writer!  😃

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14 hours ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

Just add the cliffhanger to the end of each chapter.

Yes, this is a sure-fire way to get readers to keep reading.  If the chapter ends on a happy or peaceful note, the reader won't feel led to pick up the book in a hurry.  He won't be as eager to see what happens next.

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This is sort of off-topic, but I really need your help.  What is the best advice you can give regarding the division of a novel into chapters?  I'm really struggling with this.  HELP!! 😟

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28 minutes ago, jadijohnson said:

What is the best advice you can give regarding the division of a novel into chapters?

I tend to have a new chapter for every scene, unless the scene is very short.

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Changing time? Location?  Sometimes these indicate the time for another chapter.  Most of all, have you made a point?  Arrived at the next level of intrigue?  Big realisation? Then change the chapter.  

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On 12/15/2019 at 2:28 PM, jadijohnson said:

This is sort of off-topic, but I really need your help.  What is the best advice you can give regarding the division of a novel into chapters?  I'm really struggling with this.  HELP!! 😟

Sometimes it helps me to think of each chapter as a bump in the road that is overcome, and then right at the end, (usually) you can introduce the next bump (or maybe it was hinted at even earlier).

 

As others have mentioned, ending chapters with a little cliffhanger can keep readers going and make it a "I can't put the book down!" sort of situation. However, I've heard people talk about getting a little frustrated when every chapter does this. But your mileage may vary!

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I really like this advice, PenName!  It makes so much sense!  It's sort of the "cliffhanger" idea, but I like the way you put it.  Thanks! 😊

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I just read a book review that mentioned cliffhangers.  The reviewer did not say whether this was a good feature or a bad one, but they made me think.  A book needs resting points.  We are not all or nothing writers.  A few cliffhangers sprinkled among the escalating resolutions might be the sweet spot for readers. 

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