Tag Archive for Stephen King It

In Praise of Extremely Short Chapters

I remember in college reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. It contained an extremely short chapter that kind of blew my mind: 

My mother is a fish.

That was all, just five words — a playful idea that appealed to me enormously. I’m not sure why, because you could easily dismiss it as gimmicky. But to me, then and now, I thought of it as clever and refreshing.

Last week, I was in the midst of finishing up a middle-grade novel (a prequel/sequel to Bystander). During this late stage, the work was all-consuming. For example, last week I woke up at 3:40 AM, rolled over and jotted down additional notes toward the chapter that I intended to write later that morning. For this upcoming chapter, I had a clear idea about what I hoped to accomplish: I had notes, scribbled lines of dialogue, established goals. At the end of the chapter, there was going to be a brief but crucial exchange between siblings. I wondered if I should separate it, give that moment it’s very own short chapter. It would break from the format of the book — with chapters coming in around 1,000 words each — further highlighting its importance. But I fretted that it might be jarring and disruptive. Decisions, decisions.

For the record, I did fulfill a writing ambition with an extremely short chapter in Better Off Undead. The previous chapter, “Fight,” describes a confrontation between Adrian (who is a zombie) and a group of tough kids. The next chapter is titled, “Not Really.” The entire contents of that chapter: 


That’s it, one word.

The next chapter is titled “Actually,” which goes on to describe what really happened. Hopefully a reader finds it all playful and amusing, in the same way Faulker’s short chapter pleased me. 

Top that, Bill Faulkner!

What about you, Dear Reader? Can you think of other examples of extremely short chapters in literature?

I’ll give you one more favorite. This is from Stephen King’s It

Nothing much happened for the next two weeks.



FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #238: Jasmina Has a Scary Idea



Here we go . . .



I replied:

Dear Jasmina,

It’s a mystery: Your letter is dated 9/30/16 but the envelope is postmarked 28 NOV 2016.

Did it take you that long to find a stamp?

Thanks for your letter. I’m always glad to hear from a “Scary Tales” fan.



I think you are right about clowns. There’s something inherently frightening about clowns. It’s the creepy makeup, right? The big feet? Just the insanity of anyone who’d dress up like that? The famous horror writer, Stephen King, famously conjured a truly scary clown character in his classic book for adults, It. Maybe there’s room for one for somewhat younger readers. I’ll think about it. Thanks for the (free) tip. Btw, if I do write the book, I’m not sharing the money, Jasmina!

To date, I’ve written six books in the “Scary Tales” series. I don’t know if there will be more or not; it’s up to the book-buying public, to be honest with you. I am planning a new thriller/scary story for middle grade readers, where I take the fear to a new level. With “Scary Tales,” I always had to hold back. With this one, I’m hoping to raise it a couple of notches. Tentative title: Blood Mountain.

Can you handle it?

Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

James Preller