Chapters Begin, Chapters End and There are Ways To Do That

This week we’ve been talking all about chapters. Check out the tag CHAPTER to navigate to the other posts and today we’re talking about…

How Do You Begin a Chapter?

There’s a few things you want to do here.

You want to start in a way that makes your reader want to read the story.

You want there to be continuity from the last chapter so it doesn’t feel jerky and episodic.

You want to have a good first line to pull the reader along for the whole length of the chapter. It is the Oreo cookie or potato chip of the writing world. You want to make it so delicious that the reader just can’t eat/read just one sentence, but send them on a gobbling frenzy.

Usually, you want to:

  1. Show where the characters are.
  2. Have some action.
  3. Actually have a character. That should have been #1.

You can start A CHAPTER BY oR WITH:

  1. With setting the scene.
  2. Dialogue, but this isn’t a big hot thing to do right now. If you do this, make it exciting and give us some physical grounding and characters pretty quickly.
  3. In the middle of the action. If you want to be fancy say, in medias res. That’s fancy.

You want to make sure THE CHAPTER Is:

  1. Not boring.
  2. Makes sense with the rest of the story.
  3. That we readers know where the characters are. You don’t want them just floating out in the ether (usually). That’s why you want to give us the who, what, when, where, why of the story, too.
  4. That the chapter has a point. If you took this chapter out, would you still have a story? If so, the chapter needs to go. (I made that rhyme.)

That’s really such an important question that I’m going to repeat it:

If you took the chapter out, would the story still make sense?

If it does, then you want to take that chapter out.

Or — If so, the chapter needs to go.

I really can’t resist a dorky rhyme.

Along those lines, your chapter should do a couple things:

  1. Help the character transform.
  2. Give the character a goal and show movement or loss towards that goal.
  3. Be part of the novel’s cause and effect that creates the novel’s plot.
  4. Have an ending that compels the reader to keep reading after the pause.

This is really part of what it means when I say that your chapter needs to have a point.

Chapter Endings.

These little babies are what worry a lot of writers. How do you end things? You’ve been in a relationship with this chapter for a long few pages, hammering out the words on the keyboard, spending time together.

It’s so hard to let go!

But seriously, when should your time together end?

Good times to end your chapter are:

  1. After a big turning point in your story. If you’re following a beat sheet or outline, those turning points are great places to pause.
  2. Right before a big turning point in your story.
  3. Right after something scary happened.
  4. Right before something scary happens.
  5. Right after something emotionally resonating happened.
  6. Right after something is figured out.

Look at your favorite books and the last three paragraphs of each chapter. What just happened? What’s about to happen? You can learn a lot about chapter breaks and structure this way.

A lot of times you’ll see that where The Chapters end are:

  1. Moments of suspense. Something big is about to happen.
  2. Moments of reflection. The character is thinking about something big that just happened.
  3. Moments of questioning. The what do I do or what did I do times.

There! I hoped this helped a bit!


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And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about bears in outhouses and chapter titles, click here.

Bear in the Outhouse. Chapter Titles and You

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Bear in the Outhouse. Chapter Titles and You

This week on Carrie’s blog,, she’s talking all about chapters and so we’re talking about them on the podcast, too, because Carrie’s controlling like that.

And what we’re talking about specifically is chapter titles.

You can divide your books into chapters and just label them numerically, 1, 2, 3… But you can also give them a title like:

Chapter One

Surviving the Podcast

Here’s the thing.

Chapter Titles Help Your Readers

How do they help your readers? In a lot of ways.

Grab attention.

You put these bad boys at the top of the chapter. And the reader thinks, “Ah! Look at that! I am paying attention.”

Tell readers who they are focusing on now.

If you have a story with multiple point of views, you can put who this chapter is focused on here.

Show location or time changes.

You can give the reader some help. If you have a time jumping, place jumping novel. You can use this space to say, “Hey, we are in sexy Scotland in 2021.” Or you can say, “Look, we’re in Zambia in August.”

Show theme or the future.

It’s like a happy little spoiler where the reader goes, “Oh, that’s what this chapter is about.” This can be about theme, too.

Show Echoes.

A chapter title can be a first sentence.

Summing it up: And there you go. A quick bit about chapter titles and what they can do for you.


Chapter titles are good tools. Use them.


Use whatever you can to communicate things to your human. Wag. Growl. Bark. Spin in circles. Hit them with your paw. They are stupid and need a lot of help understanding what you’re putting down.

In our Random Thoughts We Talked About

Bears in the outhouse

Snake in an Inhaler


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about spontaneous combustion and poop styles.