Saturday, December 19, 2009


Despite my basic worship of the writing of George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien (or anyone with R.R. for middle initials?), my manner of writing is very different from both of them. They tend to write quite significant chapters, telling a full story in each one, while I like writing small chapters. I am not sure that my style works professionally, because I can not think of other writers who use this 'snapshot' style that I like.

I view it as if I am showing photographs, that when shown all together tell a complete story. I don't worry about whether any individual chapter tells a tale or not. The reaction from those who have read the book has been mixed on this element, though mainly positive. Several of the readers have specifically told me how much they liked the short chapters. It was only when I tried the Share Your Work pages on Absolute Write that I got some negative comments.

These comments basically stated that my small chapters did not have enough character development. I don't disagree that this is the case; I just disagree that it is necessary. I prefer to be faithful to my Point of View character and describe things completely realistically, and thus have my character development spread out through multiple snapshot chapters. I can't, for instance, have Midas describe himself in his intro chapter, because he is the POV character. He also is not in the mood to be talkative (not to mention it is not in his character to be so) given the scene he is viewing, so I can't develop much of his character through dialogue in that intro chapter either.

So, a critic may ask why even include that chapter? Well, to me the point of my snapshot chapters is to hit important moments, and what could be more important at the beginning of a book than to show the moments that completely changed the life of the POV character? When Midas is gazing at the dead at the edge of the forest, he knows that the 800 years of peace the lands have known is cracking, if not shattering completely, and he is internally despairing, because nothing matters more to him at that time than to raise his sons and daughter to be healthy, happy people.

Is it wrong to do snapshot chapters? I honestly would like to know. I do it because it feels natural to me, and I enjoy unfolding the story in this manner. But, I can see why many readers could be put off by it.


  1. Ted,

    Snapshot chapters have proven ineffably successful for Dan Brown. Use them. (And copy Dan's use of supreme suspense at the end of each chapter --- e.g., "... there was a knock at the door." End of chapter.)

    ENJOY! --- Gary

  2. Gary, I can't really do the suspense at the end of chapter thing, because I am rolling between three characters in actual time sequence. A knock at the door means that the next action follows right then, which doesn't work for this style. I chose to emulate George R.R. Martin's method, even though it does mean that I can't leave many cliffhangers at the end of chapters. He does it better than me, of course, but I am learning.