Thursday, May 08, 2003

A Break in the Continuum

Chapter Breaks are one of those archaic formalities that most authors simply donít think about. A novel must have chapters, we are told, Miss Dalloway, The Hearing Trumpet and Fahrenheit 451 aside. Or else all chaos will ensue; the marketing team will loose their minds and Ma Kent, her place. But honestly, it is rare that a novel will be serialized these days so why must we all imitate Charles Dickens? A novel is a unit; it should be considered as an artistic whole (or in the case of John Grisham, an artistic hole).

And what with the prevalence of film and television, most readers are savvy enough these days to handle jump cuts and montage. There are some authors and critics who exclaim, ìNo! Film and the Written Word must remain separated by a mighty wall of verbiage, like Church and State!î

Well, itís a little too late for that. Movies have conquered the world. We think now in montage, editing our daydreams according to the whims of Hitchcock and Kurasawa; Burroughs and Joyce.

The advent of a-linear storytelling, devoid of the convenient breadcrumbs like chapters is a huge leap forward for literature. I mean honestly, we all know that chapter five comes before chapter six, that chapters fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, etc will be later on and that it all starts at one. And titling chapters is so seventeenth century. Why is it that film can be innovative with its editing but writers cannot? I see no reason other then convention, snobbery and laziness. The three things to be avoided at all costs by anyone who even has a pretense at being a writer.


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