Question 33: Making chapters longer

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CarolineBarron123 asks: A friend and I are writing a book together, but she said she struggles with writing chapters as long as mine (but I am guilty of rambling occasionally). I suggested she 'show' things instead of 'telling' (using some of the advice you wrote), but I'm curious if there are other ways to write long chapters without rambling too much. Any tips and tricks you could lend me?

The first thing to remember is we all have different writing styles. Some people are more to-the-point, while others like to delve in flowery, descriptive language. Each style will have its own following of readers. Trying to bend one's style to match someone else's isn't impossible, but bear in mind that it may not come naturally. Some compromise may be needed. One author can try to write more, while the other can try to write less, meeting in the middle.

That said, here are some suggestions for filling out chapters:

Describe the setting. In a lot of classic literature, they'll spend pages describing how the light filters through the leaves to create dappling shadows across the dewy ground. There's no need to go overboard like this (though you certainly can, if you want to. Some readers like that stuff.) This might be why I find a lot of classic literature so boring. I want to get on with the story. But do describe enough so we can picture where the characters are relative to the things around them. Without it, it may seem like everything's taking place in a blank world. (See chapter called "Tailor Your Descriptions".)

Explore emotions. Some of my favorite books delve deep into the emotional world. It connects readers to stories. On the surface, a good story may seem like a compelling sequence of events. But underneath, there should be an undercurrent of what the characters feel. Riding horses and fighting bad guys and going on dates may all seem exciting, but not everyone knows what those things feel like. However everyone can identify with emotions. Shame, elation, embarrassment, hope,  disappointment... these are all things people understand. Readers connect best with characters they can relate to, and one way to do this is through emotions. (See Question 22: Conveying Emotion.)

Add personality. What I mean is a story doesn't have to only be about the plot. It's not about getting from Point A to Point B. It's also about the journey there, and the people in it. Show the reader little quirks that characters have. Maybe Charlie repeatedly flips a coin when he's nervous, or Jane likes to snap her gum and it annoys everyone around her. Insert little moments like these to give characters dimension. During dialogue, have characters get side-tracked sometimes, like real conversations often do. Don't stretch the tangent too far, but just enough to make the reader smile at how these characters talk just like someone they might know.

What are some other things you writers like to add to fill out your chapters?


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