Season 2, Episode 11: Chapters and Details

In this episode:

What makes a good chapter beginning and ending? Abby feels constrained by the linear passage of time in her story. But first thing in the morning doesn't necessarily make a good chapter beginning and going to bed doesn't necessarily make a good chapter ending. So the question is, what does?

Kemlo suggests that at the beginning of a chapter, you want the reader to anticipate what your protagonist is anticipating. You want to give the readers something to root for.

But you also need to give the readers a little memory jog. Say your reader set your book down at the end of chapter 7 yesterday. Today she picks up at Chapter 8. You have to give her the teensiest bit of context, so she goes, "Yeah! That's where we are."

Kemlo and Abby pick these ideas apart for a little while, as well as the concept of each chapter showing a change, and at the end, you have the result of the change. Or the decision that's made because of the change.

Abby continues to look for ways that she can incorporate the Book World and its magic into the ordinary world of her protagonists' middle school. But here's the catch. While the Book World is an open secret to her readers, what if they haven't read that particular book? Does not getting a reference confuse her readers or stop them cold?

This is important for any writer with "expert knowledge" to consider. How do you feed your reader enough knowledge that it moves them forward without jerking them out of the story?

As an example, Abby brings up Howl's Moving Castle. It's a book she references in her novel. Abby thought she had brilliantly incorporated a Howl reference into the story, it took Kemlo right out of the reading.

Abby wants to include other references to books that aren't necessarily easily recognizable (like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland or Willie Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). What about Mr. Pignati from The Pigman? Or the Wizard Howl from Howl's Moving Castle?

Kemlo says you should always refer back to story. What does your protagonist need to know to move the story forward? More specifically, what does she need to know NOW? And if it doesn't have a place, then maybe you don't need it. (No matter how awesome it might be to have green slime ooze down the staircase because a wizard is upstairs throwing a tantrum!)

Abby uses this information to drive some of her other decisions about which characters and events to include as she weaves her Book World magic into the real world.

We also want to make sure to include a link to Author Accelerator Maine writing retreat that we are holding in September. If you want more information on joining Abby, Melanie, Jennie, and Kemlo (as well as the brilliant ladies from the #AmWriting podcast) for a retreat, you can find it here:

If you’re interested in Howl’s Moving Castle, you can find it here! If you read it, let Abby know what you think about the book. She was PRO Howl, while the entire rest of her book club was ANTI Howl! (Her children are also pro Howl, for the record!) BTW, there’s a movie, if you want to cheat!

Howl's Moving Castle
By Diana Wynne Jones

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