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Monday, 31 August 2009


I like chapters. When I read a novel, I like reaching the end of a chapter if it brings me to a momentous point in the story. I can put the book down at this convenient pause and look forward to the next piece of action.

However, I find the start of a new chapter daunting. It is fine if the action does continue from where it paused, but if the setting or viewpoint changes, it can dislodge me and make me feel unsettled until, inevitably, I plunge back into it as if there had been no break at all.

I think this means that new beginnings are difficult to penetrate. I have to get under the skin of the story all over again. Perhaps I treat a new chapter as a complete new story.

And do short stories have concealed chapters? When we construct a fresh paragraph, are we bringing in a change of focus or a new venue or a different direction? I don't think so. I think short fiction has to flow. There is no room for deviation or a sudden new face or an unaccustomed voice. My favourite stories take place in one shop, one cafe, one riverside or one room. There are usually only two or three characters. There is a brief time span - perhaps a day, an afternoon, an hour.

A complete story has no chapters and is not itself a chapter.

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