Novel Writing Question No.6: Do we even need chapters anyway?

(Apologies for the bad image)

I’ve just finished reading Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. Like the other Discworld books, this one doesn’t have any chapters. You’d think that this would cripple a book, leaving no convenient place for a reader to leave off for the day and risking confusion when the scene changes.

Yet, in Night Watch, it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment at all.

Of course, this is mostly down to the late Terry Pratchett’s incredible writing (I think Sam Vimes has muscled his way into my top ten main characters list) but it got me thinking: could other books get away with it? Do you have to be as brilliant as Pratchett to be able to do away with chapters altogether? Are chapters really necessary as signals for scene changes or are they just signals to bookmarks?

I’d love to know what you think so feel free to leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Novel Writing Question No.6: Do we even need chapters anyway?

  1. Movies have fades to a dark screen, or sometimes a “wipe” across the screen for a scene change. Sometimes they overlap a scene and fade from one thing to something else similar. When a scene changes within a chapter, books have three asterisks or just an extra blank space. I think chapter divisions may have developed because stories were serialized and the publisher needed a title for each segment. The old fashioned chapter lead-in, such as “in which our hero meets a stranger”, acted like a little blurb for the next part of the story in case someone hadn’t read the earlier ones. We get along all right at the movies when there’s a scene change. We’re just accustomed to chapters, and in children’s books they’re a convenient place to say “Now go to bed.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An interesting and eloquent opinion. So, really, we could quit chapters, we just don’t want to.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Like

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