What is a chapter?

Something that’s been puzzling me of late is the above question.

I’ve been reading various blogs and suchlike about developing your writing skills, where there is plenty of good advice about how to construct a scene. The lower-level construction of sentences (grammar) and paragraphs (one idea per, start a new one for a new speaker, etc.) were pretty well drilled-in at school. But nowhere have I come across a definitive concept of where a chapter ends*.

The approach seems to vary from writer to writer. With some, a chapter is essentially a scene, even if that makes their lengths wildly inconsistent. Others go for a (roughly) set length, which puts constraints on the development of the story. Still others eschew chapters altogether.

I’ve heard it said that “you just know” when to end a chapter. That’s fine, and I can accept it as a piece of advice, but I’m surprised that critical literary analysis hasn’t provided a more tangible measure.


* I’m mainly talking about fiction. Like paragraphs, chapters in non-fiction are fairly straightforward; a non-fiction chapter is essentially an essay on a particular sub-topic of the book.

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3 thoughts on “What is a chapter?

  1. Pingback: Cross-posting | The Reading List

  2. Pingback: Art vs. Craft | Semi-Coherent Musings

  3. Pingback: Nostromo | The Reading List

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