26 October 2012

Creating Strong Chapters

I had an opportunity to attend the FloridaWriters Association conference in Orlando, Florida this year and I had the best time. Meeting other writers, some published, some not, made me feel so at home. I found myself selecting sessions which intrigued me, looking for that next morsel of knowledge which makes it all come together in this mystical journey toward weaving the ultimate tale.

Here are some tidbits we gained about creating strong chapters. I think we already know these things, but have we seen them in a list, jumping off a page, or passionately lectured at a writing conference? I am not sure, but I will share it here. This was such a refresher and I was enthusiastic when I sat down to map out chapters six and seven!

Before you start your next chapter, ask yourself these questions and then proceed. Keep in mind, each character needs to have a goal, a desire for a favorable outcome.

These were questions asked in our session: How to Structure Your Fiction by Janice Decker

Who will be in this chapter and what are their goals/desires?

You will obviously have your protagonist or POV character, along with other known characters and characters you wish to introduce. List them and their goals. Every character in your chapter must have a desire or else why are they here? When every character has a goal, go to the next question.

What is each character's physical, emotional, and psychological state coming into the chapter?

The reader needs to know this so that when the story unfolds, there is a transformation which happens while you write your chapter. By knowing this information, you are able to write a natural story line and make your fiction more believable. Readers relate to your characters' emotions and psychological makeup, so long as they are believable, you can let the fiction flow!

Where do you want each of your characters to be with respect to their physical, emotional, and psychological state when the chapter ends?

If you know character A is anxious because she suspects her husband of cheating on her, then she cannot be anxious when the chapter ends. She will either be relieved to have discovered she was wrong, or she will be distraught to discover she was right. Either way, there has to be a change by the end of the chapter. If there is no distinctive difference, then your characters will come across as flat and your chapter a dud!

With all three questions answered, you will be able to move from point A (beginning of chapter) to point B (ending of chapter), keeping your chapter tight and strong. That was the lesson and I plan to put it to use from here on out. Thank you, Janice Decker!


  1. Great info! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Great advice! Thank you for stopping by my blog and your encouraging words.

  3. Diane, I think this is great because outlines alone can't map out emotional and psychological drama!

  4. Thanks for stopping by all. I like that I'm able to share with those who were not able to attend.

    Yes, Eve, the outline I'd created wasn't helping me at all because I wasn't able to get a handle on this type of growth, the whole emotional and psychological growth is new to me, but it makes a whole lot of sense. The conferences help me, but typing up my notes on the blog makes it stick too! I'm such a newbie. :D

    Welcome, Debra!

  5. This is one of those perfect posts that everyone should read. Knowing the answers to the questions you've listed is so important in the crafting of a great chapter.

    Nicely done, and I'm glad you had fun at your conference :D

    1. Thanks randi! It was well worth the 5 hour drive. :)

  6. The conference sounds fun and informative but if I were in Orlando I would be tempted to go to Disney World instead!

    1. Well, my husband came with me to Orlando, but he didn't have anything to do. I told him to go to Disney, but he didn't want to go alone. lol

  7. I love the tip about identifying the emotion each character comes into the chapter with and making sure it changes through the course of the chapter to something else. I'm trying to find ways to identify and create more emotion in my writing, so this was a fabulous find - thanks for sharing it!

    1. Anytime, Lara! Learning is great, but sharing is even greater. Hope you can attend next year, we could hang out. :D

  8. Diane,
    As always thank you for stopping by my blog.

  9. Deb,

    If you were at the conference, I don't think you'd get the urge to go to Disney. At least not if we did our jobs right.

    It was great seeing you, Diane, if only for about 12 seconds, and I'm glad you found it useful. Janice's session got rave reviews. I wish I could have attended, but I was busy hauling in chairs for the overflow.


    1. Disney never even came to mind for me, so I agree!

      I wish I could have stayed for the banquet, Chris. You guys put on a wonderful conference. I will be sure to come again next year. :)


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