Secrets of Chapter Construction

Each chapter is a mini story in its own right, so to work properly, just like any story, each chapter must have, as a bare minimum, a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Or to put it another way every chapter needs a three line plot. This consists of:

  • A premise – what is the scene about.
  • A complication (one per scene) – (But) what difficulty do the characters have to overcome and how do they overcome this complication.
  • A trigger – How overcoming the complication triggers the next complication that needs to be overcome in the next scene.

Each chapter may be a single scene which follows a simple story arc, or may comprise of several simpler scenes, each with a beginning. Middle, and end, that together form the story arc. I prefer to use a variation on the classic eight-part story arc.

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3.  Quest
  4.  Complication
  5.  Choice
  6.  Climax
  7.  Reversal
  8.  Resolution

However, unlike the overall Story Arc, most chapters do not end with a Resolution, but with the trigger for the next scene in the flow of the story. This keeps the story moving and the reader turning the pages. The trigger would normally by a consequence of the complication or difficulty tackled in the scene/chapter. If it is the last scene in a chapter, then classically the trigger could be a cliff-hanger to the first scene in the next chapter or the next scene involving that character.

Here is a Scene Flow infographic from my article on Creating Good Scene Flow that applies equally well to structuring chapters.

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