Emerging author, teacher, and child wrangler
After coming back from the KidLitVic Conference I was challenge to re-look at my current writing project and edit for chapter length as there were some inconsistencies within the text. So as a topic for this month’s session, I chose to research articles which discussed both ‘chapter length’ and ‘dialogue length’ in fantasy fiction. I felt that this would suit our group as we all write in this genre.
The articles presented discussed a variety of texts and the differing lengths of chapters. As I am currently working on a fantasy fiction, we looked predominantly at Jefferson Smith’s articles.
Article One, Analysing Chapter Length in Fantasy Fiction looks at popular fantasy fictions texts using a more mathematical approach plotting chapter lengths from individual texts to see what patterns they form. We were surprised to discover that the longest chapter was The Last Unicorn with 23,000 words.
Article Two, Analysing Dialogue Length in Fantasy Fiction by Jefferson Smith, discusses the total percentage of dialogue in a variety of popular fantasy texts also noting the amount of characters which are given ‘speaking’ roles within the texts.
It shows the longest utterance, the shortest utterance, and the average amount. It goes into dialogue density, how many speaking characters there are, etc. So, if you want a new and different way of looking at dialogue, this is for you. Sorry, it won't help you write great dialogue though.
Article Three: We then looked at another more general article by Brian Klem on the Writers Digest , How Long Should Novel Chapters be? which examined a broader approach to chapter lengths in novels. According to Brian, ‘There are no hard-and-fast rules on how long or short a chapter needs to be. It could be three pages. It could be 22. It could be 40. You shouldn’t set manuscript guidelines for yourself on chapter length.
'Each chapter in your book tells a mini-story that forwards your overall plot.’ Brian Klem
So there you have it, Overall the general advice was that there is fixed rule about specific chapter length targets, although the important thing to keep in mind is pace and flow of the text. You need to ensure you are using chapter lengths to enhance and compliment tension and the events of the text.
Using your chapter breaks much like a TV show would use ad breaks either to encourage the reader to read on, as you have left events when tension is high or once a problem has been resolved, allowing the reader to sit back and absorb significant events.
These articles gave the group some interesting approaches to the question of chapter length in texts. With this in mind, we should always remember that through texts we are telling a story. By using the tools of chapters or breaks effectively, we can regulate pace and tighten tensions thus enhancing the experience for our readers.
Megan's two cents: Personally, as a reader, I enjoy short chapters. It allows me the ease to say to myself, 'Just one more chapter before I go to sleep,' when I look ahead and see only three to six pages in the chapter. But, I will still read a book with longer chapters, and bookmark my spot as my eyes begin to close. As Jacquie said, it is about the pacing of the story itself.
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