In this blog post I want to talk about the different ways books are set up. This is something I usually don’t think about. I was surprised by the many possibilities! I managed to come up with 7 categories:
1. No chapters
Some books are not divided in chapters. A nice example is The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. This story is made up of letters, so there is no need for chapters. A “problem” with these kind of books is where you should stop reading. I like to stop at the end of a chapter. So when reading books without chapters there is a risk of accidentally reading the whole book…
2. Numbered chapters
This is a simpel way to divide the story. But variety is possible. While looking through my books I discovered a few different ways to number the chapters. It can be a number like ‘2’, or the number is spelled out as ‘two.’ Sometimes the word chapter is added. In my edition of The Secret Garden Roman numbers are used. I don’t really have a preference, but I think Roman numbers make a book feel older.
3. Count down
Counting down really can add something to the story. Especially if I don’t know what is going to happen, I become more curious every time I see the number. This was the case in Looking For Alaska:
When time is important in a story, each chapter is dated. This is sometimes the case with mysteries or historical fiction. For example in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Each chapter starts with the day(s) of the month when the events in that chapter happen. Although dates gives a book structure, I usually like it more when time is less obvious.
5. New chapter = change of POV
I just read Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3). This book has at least five different points of views. Despite the many characters, I never mixed them up. This is partly because Marissa Meyer did a great job in giving them all different voices. The different POVs are also separated by chapters. This makes it clear when the POV changes.
6. Chapters titles
I love chapter titles if they are well done. Just look at this one from Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3):
But chapter titles can also accidentally spoil a part of the story. One of the last chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is named ‘After the burial’. If I look through the book, I already know somebody is going to die. So I like chapter titles best if they are a bit cryptic.
Next to chapters, sometimes stories are also divided in parts. Often a new part signifies a change of location or the end/beginning of an important event. I like it when a new part is introduced with a small poem or quote. My favourite example is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The first part starts with the words: “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well”.
Do you prefer chapters or no chapters? And do you know other categories I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!