Each chapter has a story arc. You've heard that, right? In view of some comments about pacing in my own writing, I did some studying in The Hunger Games. Look at these chapter endings-
Ch 1- Effie trinket crosses back to the podium, smoothes the slip of paper, and reads out the name in a clear voice. And it's not me.
It's Primrose Everdeen.
Ch. 2- Peeta looks me right in the eye and gives my hand what I think is meant to be a reassuring squeeze. Maybe it's just a nervous spasm. We turn back to face the crowd as the anthem of Panem plays. Oh, well, I think. There will be twenty-four of us. Odds are that someone else will kill him before I do.
Of course, the odds have not been very dependable of late.Okay, is that enough to get an idea of what she does?
Ch. 3- Just then, Haymitch staggers into the compartment. "I miss supper?" he says is a slurred voice. Then he vomits all over the expensive carpet and falls in the mess.
"So laugh away!" says Effie Trinket. She hops in her pointy shoes around the pool of vomit and flees the room.
Ch. 4- All of the pieces are still fitting together, but I sense he has a plan forming. He hasn't accepted his death. He is already fighting hard to stay alive. Which also means that kind Peeta Mellark, the boy who gave me bread, is fighting hard to kill me.
Ch. 5- Peeta is planning to kill you, I remind myself. He is luring you in to make you easy prey. The more likeable he is, the more deadly he is.
But because two can play this game, I stand on tiptoe and kiss his cheek. Right on his bruise.
Ch. 6- I pull the covers up over my head as if this will protect me from the redheaded girl who can't speak. But I can feel her eyes staring at me, piercing through the walls and doors and bedding.
I wonder if she'll enjoy watching me die.
Ch. 7- the arrow skewers the apple in the pig's mouth and pins it to the wall behind it. Everyone stares at me in disbelief.
"Thank you for your consideration," I say. Then I give a slight bow and walk straight toward the exit without being dismissed.
My big breakthrough came when I realized that if I were writing THG, my chapters would have kept going. On. And ON. Primrose's name is called? I wouldn't have started a new chapter. I would have made that whole scene, with Katniss climbing the stairs and Effie congratulating them one continuous scene.
Suzanne Collins doesn't follow the classic story arc inside her chapters. She is continually cutting us off right at the climax. Then the next chapter finishes the scene up, if necessary, or if the reader can easily guess what will happen, she starts at the next scene.
Her chapters tend to be briefer than I go, also: 17, 12, 13,12, etc. Low teens, not low twenties.
I was giddy as I read through and figured it out. I promptly printed the last page of each chapter with the plan to find those high tension moments and insert a page break! Except the moments weren't there. They were back a page or two...or five.
Sometimes I found that the end of the scene was necessary and kept it. Other times, it was just me trying to wrap up all my loose ends. Which is exactly what I don't want to do! Delete! Delete! Delete!
No loose ends=no tension. No reading on to find out what happens next.
I'm not suggesting that we all have to structure our chapters that way; every story is different. But Suzanne Collins knows how to keep the reader turning pages, and I found it helpful. I hope you do too!
Any other tips on pacing? Any other authors to check out? Thanks for reading.
PS- My kitchen is now pistachio pudding green, and the foyer will soon be a buttercream. I love it. Plus the two hundred bulb I bought are in the ground. Yay!