Allie kept her head down, trying to look as small as possible as she waited in the back of the line. Her face was covered in dried mud, her hair loose and disheveled.
Trembling with exhaustion, she peeked ahead at the front of the line beginning at the Palace gates. Two men stood on either side of the gate, one holding a sword while the other passed out food and water.
She didn’t recognize either of them.
She allowed herself a smile, thinking her luck had changed. If she didn’t recognize them, then they wouldn’t recognize her, and she wouldn’t have to worry about being caught.
All was silent as she slowly moved down the line, the still air punctuated only by coughs and shuffling feet.
A large stream of smoke arose from beyond the gate.
Allie’s mind drifted as she trudged farther down the line. She daydreamed about water; about her old bed in the pigsty. She thought about how much she longed to go back to the warmth of the farm.
All she wanted was to survive. She didn’t want to kill anyone. She didn’t want power or money. She just wanted to live. And yet, she couldn’t manage even that. Not without help.
Finally, she reached the front of the line, nearly delirious with thirst.
“Hands,” one of the guards growled down at her.
She held her hands out as her eyes focused on the pile of water jugs stacked behind the guards.
“Where’s the food?” She asked, her throat scratching from dryness.
“Just ran out,” one of the guards said as the other ran the blade of his sword across the back of her hand. “Only water today. Come back tomorrow.”
Allie winced as she pulled her hands back, blood trickling down her arm.
She was just about to reach for a water jug when she suddenly saw Frank walking up to the guards.
Allie quickly lowered her eyes, grabbed the jug, and spun on her heels.
“Next,” the guards said, moving on.
Terrified, Allie walked away as fast as she could without running, trying not to draw attention to herself.
“Allie?” Frank yelled after her, his voice uncertain.
She kept her same pace, not reacting to her name as she walked away, hugging the water jug to her chest.
“Allie!” Frank yelled again, more certain this time.
Suddenly, Allie gave up all pretenses and ran as fast as she could through the street and around the first line of homes.
She looked back just as she turned the corner and found Frank standing at the gate, looking on in concern.
Allie didn’t stop running, knowing that he would turn her in to Serenity if he had the chance.
She’d have to be more careful in the future, as they’d be looking for her.
Maybe I shouldn’t go back, she thought, gasping for air as she pushed herself to keep running.
Finally, she stopped running, collapsing against the wall of one the smaller alleys in the city.
Trembling, she took a small swig of water, nearly coughing it up as she was overcome with relief.
For a while she just sat there, catching her breath as she took tiny sips from her jug. The more she thought about it, the more certain she became that she shouldn’t go back to the Palace.
She had enough water to get back to the farm. She could go back to living in the barn and working for whoever was in charge.
Even thinking about the possibility of going back to her old life brought a smile to her lips. She could make necklaces for the pigs. And without a dragon to offer them to, she wouldn’t have to send them to their deaths.
With her mind made up, Allie straightened up against the wall. She’d leave that night.
And it was just as she made that decision that a roar erupted from above her, causing her to spill the water in her jug.
Allie threw herself to the ground, covering her ears as the roar became even louder, joined by the sound of giant wings beating above her.
Then everything went silent, the roars replaced by a loud ringing in her ears.
Trembling, Allie was curled up in a fetal position, trying to shut herself off from the rest of the World, when she felt someone standing over her.
“Allie,” Serenity whispered. “You disappoint me.”
For a Blog, my Chapters are a good length. But for a Novel, these Chapters are very short.
Part of the reason for this is because it takes forever to write Chapters, but the bigger reason for doing this is that I want these Chapters to take the same amount of time to read as a normal Blog.
The result is this:
These Blog posts are not Chapters, but are Scenes
Now, you could definitely write Chapters that are this short. And really, assuming you are publishing them all at the same time, it wouldn’t matter very much how short they are, because your readers wouldn’t have to wait a full week to read them one by one.
But in my experience, longer Chapters are better.
Not because dragging things out is better. It’s not. And not because over-describing your environment is better. It’s usually not. But because at the end of every Chapter, you are giving your reader license to pause. And the more pauses you let them take; the choppier your story becomes.
Example: Harry Potter.
If you are observant, you may notice that Rowling has a very particular style of writing in the Harry Potter series. There are not very many Chapters in her books. Instead, she strings about a dozen scenes together in every Chapter. And in-between each scene, she uses a couple of lines of space which signals tot he reader that time is passing without allowing them to pull out of the story. This is (partly) why it’s so hard (for most of us) to put that series down.
This is a very good technique and something I highly encourage, not only because it’s a smooth way to tell a story, but because it allows you to pick and choose the pacing of your book.
This is what I mean:
A scene should be a story in of itself. And a Chapter, which is made up of multiple scenes, should also be a story in of itself.
You Chapter should be so interesting that even though you’re allowing your reader to breathe, they will want to keep reading anyway. This puts a lot of pressure on you to make sure you write a dang good Chapter. And if your Chapter always consists of only one scene, then EVERY SINGLE SCENE you write needs to be really really interesting. (Which is what I’m trying to do with this Blog)
BUT if you have multiple scenes in a Chapter, then you can afford to have ordinary, slow-paced scenes in your story, because you implicitly have until the end of the Chapter to be interesting. It’s one of many subconscious understandings between writer and reader.
Write your scenes. Put them together. And when there’s a really good scene, end the Chapter there.
P.S. There’s a lot more to Chapters than this, but it’s a really good place to start. I will break down the mechanics at a later date.