Hi people! Here’s a guest post I did for writer friend Maya Tyler about how I judge what is a perfect chapter. The excerpts are from my wip Tahir and Samara’s story. I’ve put them in bold.
Guest Post from author Summerita Rhayne
Guest week concludes with a post from the talented Summerita Rhayne with some writing pointers. Enjoy!
Five pointers for your perfect chapter #writetips
Hi Maya, thanks for inviting me to your blog. Lovely to be here. Today I’m feeling rather pleased with myself and I’d like to share why.
Often writing is full of setbacks and frustrations. Characters veering away from the story. Dialogue dragging. Descriptions ballooning into essays…we have a phrase in India – sleeping, weeping and eating (sona rona khana) can be stretched any length and so can the descriptions. You name it, you got it. All writers know, the troubles are innumerable. And let’s not even mention the pov woes. Sometimes I have started on a character’s pov and nearly written almost a whole book. Some characters have lots of internal dialogue 😉
But then there’s the rewarding aspect of writing. When you go back and read something you have written and it’s perfect. You know when your writing says exactly what you want to say in the same tone and without the description of it taking away from the flow of the story. That moment is what you write for! This happened with me yesterday. I was reading a book and as usual comparing myself to the writer and bringing myself down. Thinking I could never get to THE point. Then I closed the book, in a woeful mood and began to reread the work in progress. I came across what is at present chapter seven. And voilà it was there. I had written a perfect chapter. One that satisfied my logic seeking mind and also was re-readable. There are parts in my ms which I like, love or hate and some which could be done better (thank God I’m editing) but this one I’m not going to retouch.
So how do I measure perfection?
Here are the things I look for in a perfect chapter.
This is the absolute, foremost must for me. If the story drags, reading slows down and becomes weighty to the reader. In this, dialogue is a handy tool. Smart dialogue sprinkled with what action characters are doing, adds to the pace.
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter I’m currently liking too much (no knowing tomorrow it may show up some flaw 😉 I like the way the dialogue adds pace to the reading. Do you agree?
‘Samara. Inside. Now.’ Tahir paused a nanosecond near her desk on his way to his office to deliver the imperative.
There was no reason her hackles should rise, she was used to his brusque ways, wasn’t she?
‘I’ll just finish typing this letter and come.’
‘I said this instant.’ A sharp tap of a blunt index finger on the glass top of her table punctuated the words. He didn’t wait for her response, striding off beyond his office door.
2) Conciseness Next thing I work on is brevity. This is a bit tricky because you need to write the necessary action without being clipped. I’d say for emotional reaction, just show small changes in facial expressions or some telling gesture relatable to the character. You want to show anger? Write terse, pithy phrases. Want to show surprise? Just have your character drop something.
Here’s another snippet in which the hero’s mood is conveyed through short pithy phrases.
‘Have you prepared the due diligence report I asked you to?’
‘It’s in my drawer.’
‘What’s it doing there? Laying eggs? Why don’t I have it?’
‘Because you hadn’t asked for it.’ Mutiny sparked through her, her pulse rate increasing as she waited for his reaction, sure he would come up with something sarcastic.
He didn’t disappoint. ‘So I have to ask before you’ll do your work?’ His tone was loaded with sarcasm, as soothing to sensitive nerves as a needle bed.
3) Description without detraction This is just a follow-on from the above point. Since we don’t want to just leave the reader scratching their head, some description is necessary. Just stay close to what is needed. If we want to feel the breeze, focus on a single object like your heroines hair whipping across her neck, rather than describe the effect on each and every thing the wind is blowing at in the scene.
Soon they were weaving out of Delhi traffic. He turned on the road to Manesar. She slid up her sun glasses, attempting to enjoy the breeze on the open road, finding her eyes straying to him as he leaned back, handling the controls with ease, looking deadly with those aviators and those spikes. Thank God he couldn’t see behind her glasses.
4) Show characters’ motivation and emotional state without passive telling Does your chapter focus on their behaviour in synchrony with their internalization? If your heroine is tired, does she misplace things? Put the cookie jar lid on the mixer instead?
In this portion, the beating of his pulse is the external sign of his anger.
‘Do I pay you to cross-question me?’ His brows lifted in what looked like mildly inquiring expression but she could see by the pulse that beat at his jaw that she’d angered him. This man was living breathing fire. She didn’t want to get in the way of his blast.
Or maybe she did.
‘It isn’t easy when you keep on trying to find fault in everything I do.’ She told him, meeting his glance.
5) Interaction between the characters propels the scene forward A punch should mark the end. Something you need to establish or change or the charcaters react to. A chapter – not even a first one – can’t just be there to set the stage for your story. Have the characters act the change or react to the change.
A short time later they descended the lift and came out on the compound. Samara hesitated as he led the way to his silver Audi. She knew he drove it himself. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been in the car with him before but on those occasions they had been in the backseat discussing work. Driving with him seemed much more informal somehow.
‘Let’s go.’ Tahir directed.
‘But the team?’ Maybe she could travel in the company car.
‘They’ve left. I just feel like a drive today. Why are you hesitating, Samara?’ He moved to the driver’s side, a sudden edge appearing to the apparent soft voice, ‘Not afraid to be in the car with me, are you?’ His drawl sent her hackles up, combined as it was with a mocking grin.
‘Of course not. It just feels odd to be driven by my boss.’ she said coolly and climbed in beside him, determined not to give him anything to get hold of.
She drew her legs in and shut the door, her skirt riding up in the process. ‘Aren’t you wearing your skirt shorter than usual?’ She’d been about to draw it down but now she resisted the urge out of a mutinous impulse she hadn’t known she could have. It arose from the censorious tone he’d used. And the deliberately personal nature of the comment.
‘I don’t see it’s any business of yours.’
‘So it wasn’t for my benefit?’ he fired the car and soon they were turning out of the gates.
So this is my take on the necessary ingredients to whip up a pefect mousse of a chapter J
Since I don’t often feel like this about my writing, this chapter did a huge uplifting of my spirits…Read more on Maya’s blog