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Posted on September 4, 2011

Most books are divided into chapters – some are divided first into parts, and then subdivided into chapters – but why? What purpose does this serve? My first novel – A Feast of Carrion – had not chapters, merely breaks in the narrative; no one complained about that, although after the success of Dan Brown I was pressurised into copying his style and writing in short chapters.

There is some logic to this – given the ever decreasing attention span of the human species – but, as so often in writing, it is a matter of common sense. The purpose of the chapter is analagous to that of the scene in drama; it is to change the perspective (and therefore refresh the reader) and, imperatively, to move the plot forward. It is the plot that must be uppermost in the writer’s mind – they must be plot-driven and used for no other reason; chapter breaks inserted for no good reason result in a disjointed narrative. Like commercial breaks in TV programs, they shouldn’t be intrusive.

As to whether or not they should be captioned, that depends on personal choice.

Tags: chapter breaks, plot driven