It’s time to do some homework!  I know, I know.  But this is valuable homework that can help you become a stronger writer by breaking down and analyzing a published author’s work.

The Assignment

Pick a book – preferably one you’ve read and enjoyed – then choose a random chapter.  Read the chapter from beginning to end two or three times, familiarizing yourself with the style, genre, story points, etc.  

Now, it’s time to dive deeply into the chapter and get into what makes it tick.

The Questions

Ask yourself the following questions as you dig into the chapter.  You may want to write down or type your answers as go:

  • What characters are present in the chapter?
  • What are the relationships between the characters in the chapter?
  • What is the POV of the chapter (first person, third person, third person limited, omniscient)?  Whose POV are we in?
  • What’s the main conflict in the chapter?
  • What information is known at the start of the chapter?
  • What new information is provided or discovered by the end of the chapter?
  • Is there any subtext in the dialogue between the characters?
  • Does the chapter deal with the main plot or a subplot?
  • Does the chapter end on a cliffhanger?  Does the end of the chapter compel you to keep reading?
  • If you’ve read the book, how does this chapter fit into the overall narrative structure of the novel?
  • Are there any weak points or areas of the chapter you feel could be improved?

What’s the Point?

By taking time to analyze a work you enjoy, you can see how the author has structured each chapter as building blocks or puzzle pieces that fit together to create a complete story.  While this is an exercise to delve into one chapter, you can also do this for an entire book to deconstruct the structure, conflict, story, etc.  

You can also do this with screenplays, plays, or short stories to really get a sense of the structure and other elements that make the story work.

Happy Reading and Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

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