Not too long ago, I found a post on
Wordplay HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com about rude chapter breaks. At first, just from reading the title, I was confused. How in the world can a chapter break be rude? But after reading (and watching) the post, it started to make sense.
Have you ever been reading a book and, for one reason or another, had to put it down? Of course you have. It happens even when we wish the rest of the world would leave us alone so we can find out what happens next. Eventually, you pick the book back up and continue reading, but what if it’s been a while since you last delved into the author’s world? What if you’ve kind of forgotten where you left off?
Author KM Weiland points out that one common, and easily fixable, error authors make when starting a new chapter or scene is starting with a pronoun. Sure, if the reader is continuing straight from the previous section that “He” “She” or “They” probably makes perfect sense. But if not, you could unintentionally be creating undue confusion. Quickly and subtly establish the who/what/where/when/why in the first few lines of the section and even readers who slowly move through books a scene at a time won’t get lost in the jump.
Weiland makes a good point, but this isn’t the only way to create a rude break. Jumping into the head of a new character without warning, falling into a dream or a flashback without some clue to set the stage, cliffhangers that continuously aren’t resolved… all of these have at one time or another annoyed me while reading a book. So, as an author, be aware of your breaks and use them wisely. Rules were made to be broken and, of course, all of these “errors” can be used effectively, but more often than not it’s better to keep from annoying your readers.
Have any pet peeves when it comes to scene and chapter jumps?