When writing a novel, it is essential to find a way to indicate in the text that a new chapter is underway. The process of changing gears in your narrative, so to speak, is crucial to making the transition from one scene to the next seamless and gripping. A common technique in creative writing to achieve this is through the use of chapter headings.
The problem is that, in the best of circumstances, chapter headings can be somewhat stilted and dull. That’s right – sometimes it’s better to just tell the reader that scene is now scene two, or that they’re now at a new location, or that the action has shifted to a different character. This is especially true if you’re changing gears midstream and the chapter heading doesn’t reflect that. In these instances, the narrative can become somewhat confusing to the reader, especially if they’re not familiar with the genre or you don’t want to spoil the plot twist at the end. In the worst case scenario, a poorly worded chapter heading can even cause the reader to skip over or forget important information.
So how do you indicate that a new chapter is underway in your narrative without resorting to dull, overly explicit chapter headings? There are a few options available to you, all of which can be used to great effect. Here are just a few of the best ways to indicate that a new chapter is underway in your creative writing piece.
1. Use Sub-Headings And Paragraph Breaks To Gently Foreshadow Chapter Changes
Many authors use one or two phrases at the beginning of each chapter to notify the reader that this is a new segment and that it will not be replayed verbatim from the previous chapter. These phrases, which are often just a few words in length, are known as sub-headings.
If you take a close look at the opening paragraphs of each chapter in your work, you’ll notice that they usually contain some key information that will further develop the theme or plot of the work. Sometimes this information is directly related to what just happened in the prior chapter; other times it serves as a subtle foreshadowing of what is to come. Either way, these opening paragraphs are vital to the storytelling process and should not be disregarded or skipped over in haste.
This is why many authors use sub-headings at the beginning of each chapter. It allows them to foreshadow key themes or developments while not having to resort to overly explicit or cumbersome chapter headings. Using sub-headings and paragraph breaks as a form of narrative foreshadowing is an effective way to indicate that a new chapter is underway without having to resort to a dull, repetitive chapter heading.
2. Change The Name Of The Chapter
Sometimes it’s more effective to change the name of the chapter than it is to indicate through the preceding narrative that the scene has shifted gears. Depending on your work flow and the style you’re aiming for, you might end up changing the name of the chapter after you’ve already written the content. That’s why it’s preferable to do this as late in the process as possible, once all the editing and revising is complete. Doing this late in the process means that you can essentially rename the chapter at will and without having to worry about any of the content being affected. This is the preferred method for those who like to carefully monitor the progress of their work.
This is similar to the first method, except that instead of using sub-headings to foreshadow chapter changes, you’re changing the name of the chapter to indicate that something is different. This is a simple yet effective way to signal the reader that a new chapter is underway without having to resort to overly descriptive or cloying chapter headings.
3. Use Images And Figures To Imply Changes
Sometimes it can be difficult to concisely describe the transition from one chapter to the next within the text of the narrative itself. That’s why many authors turn to the use of images and figures to represent these changes. These are tools that have been around since the beginning of print publishing and are used with some frequency in comics to portray time in a different way. For instance, if you’re writing a story set in the present and you want the chapters to have a distinct feel, you might use present tense throughout, only switching over to the past tense for the chapter titles. Or, you could start every chapter with a quote that symbolizes the theme or ideas that will be explored in that particular segment of the story. These are just a couple of examples of how you can use images and figures to imply changes in a narrative.
The advantage of using images and figures to imply changes in your work is that you can show the reader at a glance what is happening without having to describe it in great detail. This is important for those who want to keep the suspense flowing in their stories and avoid any unnecessary downtime while reading. When used effectively, images and figures can add some spice to the text and make it more interesting for the reader without having to resort to overly descriptive chapter headings or awkward sub-headings.
4. Use Lists To Set Off Important Points
Sometimes it’s more efficient to list important points instead of retelling the events of the chapter in great detail. This is especially true if you’re writing an investigative report or an academic paper, where you might have a lot of detail to go over. For example, if you’re writing an exposé on corporate corruption, it might be more effective to simply list the names of the companies involved in the scandal, followed by a few bullet points explaining the details of the fraud. In this manner, you’re using the list to highlight important information while still having plenty of white space available for the reader to study what they’ve been told.
This is a simple yet effective method used by many journalists and academics to keep the information in their articles concise and easy to understand. In some cases, the information itself might not even be that important; what’s more important is the way the writer has chosen to present it. The concise format of a list allows the reader to keep their attention focused on the essential information while not having to worry about missing important details. Lists also allow the writer to set off important points within the text without resorting to sub-headings or chapter titles – something that can be difficult to do if you’re not experienced in crafting lengthy pieces of non-fiction. Lists are a great choice for articles that will be read by a general audience, as well. The information can still be presented in a concise manner, while the overall feel of the writing is more casual and accessible.
5. Open With An Overly Genareal Comment Or Quote
Sometimes it’s helpful to open a narrative with a brief comment or quote that will further develop the theme or ideas that you’re exploring in the piece. You could use the first sentence of the piece to provide some context for what is to come, or you could opt to open with a famous saying or quote that will serve as either a commentary on the themes you’ve introduced or as a transition to the next segment of the narrative. Openers like these are vital to keeping your reader engaged in your story – even if it is just for a few paragraphs.
There are a variety of ways that you can indicate the shift to a new chapter in your narrative without resorting to a dull, un-engaging chapter heading. Remember that more is not always better, especially if your goal is to keep the reader intrigued and turning the pages as fast as possible. When used effectively, less is more – especially when it comes to the chapter heading.
As you can see, there are multiple options available to you when it comes to how to indicate a change in a narrative. It’s important to note that this is not an exclusive list and that other methods may be better suited for your writing – no matter what your preferred method is, there is an effective way to start each chapter.