Curse of the Chapter 3

Monty Pytho

Disclaimer:  I actually misread my note that said ‘Ch. 3 Curse’.  I thought I meant to make a post about curses that come in 3’s, which I thought was odd.  So, I got the above picture and sat down to realize I read the thing wrong.  Oops.  Funny little side story there, but on to the big event.

I have a problem with Chapter 3’s.  Not counting the prologue, I always seem to trip up or slow down immensely at Chapter 3.  The 3rd book of a series too.  This has been happening since high school and it’s weird.  I noticed other people talk about having similar issue though, so decided to think more about my issue.  Then I forgot about it and mistook this for a post about magic . . . Give me a minute.

Chapter 3 hits bumps regardless of the notes and outlines.  I have to take breaks, look back at the earlier stuff, and check for what’s going on far ahead.  This doesn’t happen with the other chapters.  At least to the extent that it does here, which results in my pacing getting horribly thrown off.  I typically have to take a day to recover from this because it leaves me scratching my head.  Other times, I have to triple check my outline to see if all parts are still viable.  Occasionally, this happens later on.  Strange thing is that I noticed it happens on chapters 6, 9, or 12.  Why is this?

I think the answer lies in the following word:  TRANSITION

From what I can tell, I use Chapter 3’s and multiples of 3 as transition points from one set piece to the other.  It happens at other chapters, but I may be more consistent in using this pattern:

  1. Prologue sets up everything, so it doesn’t count.
  2. Chapter 1 introduces at least one main character, their life, and adventure beginning.
  3. Chapter 2 is where things begin to push the characters on the story path.
  4. Chapter 3 is where things explode into action and events move forward.
  5. Chapter 4 is character coming to grips with events or pushing ahead with the first challenge.
  6. Chapter 5 is continuing with that challenge or facing a new one.
  7. Chapter 6 may be where you have a character-growth interlude or move to another area.

I build things up to the 3rd chapter, which is where things come together and a lot of foreshadowing/propelling occurs.  It involves several characters, plot points, and changes to juggle in order to make the story flow.  The original flow can’t remain because events have to jog the serenity that I typically start with.  It also can’t stay at a rapid pace because characters might not grow and audiences can become desensitized.  This turns Chapter 3 into a pivot point where the story turns in direction.

This is an issue that I’ve known about for years, but never thought about until right now.  I hope figuring this out and writing about it helps me make things easier going forward.  Got a feeling that it won’t do much.  Looking at the first Tales of the Slumberlord outline already makes me feel like history will repeat itself.  Maybe that’s a big part of being an author.  Those quirky habits that stick around regardless of what you do to get rid of them.

So, have you noticed any unique patterns in your writing flow like chapters that are always difficult to write?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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11 Responses to Curse of the Chapter 3

  1. Well, they do say that troubles come in threes, Charles, so there seems to be a Murphy’s law type of logic to your issue 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you. Any of those transitional chapters seem to slow me down. Three is about right. The world is established, the character is solid, but probably in a state of shock by then, and it’s time to evaluate.


  3. It sounds like Chapter 3 isn’t a problem so much as there’s just a lot to think about.


  4. Hadn’t thought about this. Going to go back and look. Thanks, Charles.


  5. L. Marie says:

    That is an interesting dilemma. I usually have trouble with the first chapter. If I make it to chapter three, that means I triumphed over chapter 1! 😅


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