You don’t even need chapters anymore in some novels, but then you might simply have a lot of chapters.
Normally a Chapter in a Novel is three to five scenes. What then makes the difference between a chapter and its scenes? And why is this important in planning a novel?
In planning your novel or screen play, first you want to create every possible scene or event. Visualize putting each scene or event on a paper card, whether you actually do this or not.
The above exercise, even if you are not a writer, can show you if you can produce an exciting story out of your imagination and life experience. Take an evening and just writing on small cards a series of story-events and see what you come up with. You might be surprised at your creativity!
A scene-event is a dramatization, usually with characters, that happens in one place. It has one action, its reaction, reflection and developmental choice.
Keep this formula in mind and use it over and over again. The formula applies to both characters and plot developments.
The action may be from one of the characters or an outside event like a bank robbery. Thus developments happen both to and in characters but also in the time-line called a plot.
A plot is a time-line of character development and resolution combined with a time-line of action and event development and resolution. Keep this is mind as another primary writing structure for both the novel and the screen play.
The developed writer knows and uses over and over the writing craft structures that work in dramatizing story.
Know your fundamentals. You are the writer using craft tools to tell story. Your readers and viewers experience your story vicariously as real to them because you have used writing craft tools successfully in telling story.
Know your writing craft!
It’s a short and simple message, but true.
Story development and resolution is a time-line of scenes, one right after another. Each scene causes another scene to happen, usually sequentially. As a writer you are little different from a scientist. A scientist investigates cause and effect over and over again in his and her research area. You as a writer get to construct cause and effect sequences over and over again in creating dramatically your story.
Thus use scene development and chapter development to keep the story development happening in the most involving ways possible.
Do we need chapters if we have scenes? Do we need acts in plays if we have scenes?
A chapter is a collection of interrelated scenes around a common theme or sub-theme. A story theme is a life issue and life insight dramatized. All great story has a life theme that is dramatized. Story-goals and story-themes are elements of the dramatization of the main story-theme that the story is all about.
Love triumphs over hate, or does it?
In the movie about the theme: pay it forward, the boy who invents and practices this is killed in the end at school, almost accidentally in a knife attack by two other boys. The theme is a great one of good doing more good in the world despite evil that would destroy the good in life.
However, the writer of the novel and the movie is unclear how to write story to theme and so fails the story potential despite a new and strong theme.
In a nutshell, the boy who does acts of kindness in paying it forward gets killed for no reason. Why his attackers hate him enough to kill him is never developed, nor is a character behavior of the good boy dramatized in such a way as to cause murderous hate in another boy.
Killing the boy at the end makes no sense. It gives the wrong feeling to the viewer and reader. It makes one feel the message is ‘do good while you can for bad will eventually or quickly overcome you.’ I don’t really think this is the story message that the writer wanted to convey. If so it is interesting but contradictory to reality and to the story theme of pay it forward, which is to do good deeds to those in need because good deeds have been done to you by others.
Our point here is that you need to be aware of good story-craft in writing up your stories.
Events as scenes are singular. Chapters are families of scenes and so are multiples which cluster around sub-themes of your main theme and story.
In the full The Writer’s Interface, a 92,000 words document, you will find a lot more craft tools and ideas that go with scene and chapter development.
While scenes, one after another, give the stepping stones development of your total story, chapters give the cluster development of sub-themes dramatized and leading to main theme development in theme resolution.
Do the good guys win out over the bad guys, the main story archetype? Well, mostly the answer has to be yes because of reader and viewer psychology. Resolution to the tension of good versus evil, with good winning out over evil, is thought of in the human mind as positive and healing.
Thus again in the Pay It Forward novel and movie the hero boy getting stabbed to death as a resolution to the story does not make sense internally or externally in life. Are we supposed to think that in thousands of grade and high schools in the country there are killer boys with knives out to kill at least one other student before they fully grow up? Absurd, but here done and ridiculous. Thus again we say this writer has no good knowledge of story and theme and how it all works to produce and really important novel.
You don’t have to be as unconscious or stupid, do you?
Learn your craft then. This is what we also are devoted to. We give a few important ideas here. We give around 2000 writing craft ideas in The Writer’s Interface as a service to serious writers who want to do an effective job in writing their novels and screen plays.
Comments To Make
What are your views on writer imagination versus writer craft knowledge in creating novels, plays and stories? What now stands in your way as a writer from producing good work that will sell to lots of readers and viewers?
Strephon Kaplan-Williams is a well-published writer with over 350,000 of his books in circulation in eight languages. He is also a professional dreamwork psychologist and now specializing in writer creativity and writing craft tools. His The Writer’s Interface is the first comprehensive collection of writing craft tools ever published that is sure to gain wide acceptance among writers and in the field of writing software. He uses the WriteItNow software as his primary writing organizer for his novel, now with 100,000 words and undergoing a major revision.