S.G. Browne

Fiction Friday: Short Chapters Rule, Long Chapters Drool

I’m not a big fan of long chapters.

I prefer my chapters short and manageable. Chapters that give me some dialogue, some action, some character building, some plot movement, and don’t screw around with excessive description or weighty exposition or ten-page flashbacks.

Call me a product of Hollywood movies.

Plus short chapters give me a definite place to stop. With long chapters I always feel like I’m being forced to keep reading to the end when sometimes I just want to roll over and go to sleep. At least give me a break in the middle of the chapter, a space or a line of asterisks or some fancy little symbol so I don’t have to pick up the book mid-scene and try to remember where I stopped and what was going on. It’s like stopping in the middle of a conversation while you’re at a bar and trying to remember what you were talking about before you did another shot of Jagermeister.

Writing a chapter is like giving a speech. You really only have 3-5 minutes before people lose their interest. But because I’m being generous, let’s say you’ve got 10-15 minutes. Tops. After that, eyes are turning glassy and people are wondering where to take their next vacation and what to have for dinner and and how to kill their boss without going to jail.

Book chapters should be governed by the same rules. 10-15 pages, max. You exceed that and I’m flipping forward, wondering how much longer it’s going to take me to finish this damn chapter so I can feel like I have a sense of closure.

Yes, I’m a little bit obsessive compulsive. But so are you. Admit it.

Right now I’m reading Look at Me by Jennifer Egan, which at 415 pages and 20 chapters averages nearly 21 pages per chapter. To make matters worse, the book is written in 10-point Times Roman so there’s more than 400 words per page. Come on! That’s a good 100 words per page more than Carl Hiaasen’s Star Island, which is written in 12-point Times Roman and, at 354 pages and 31 chapters, comes in at a much more reasonable 11.4 pages per chapter.

Bing, bang, boom.

In this age where e-mails and text messages and Facebook status updates have replaced hand-written letters and phone calls and actual conversations, where in another generation Twitter will have made it impossible for anyone to have any kind of interaction that’s longer than 140 characters, I think short chapters are definitely going to be in demand.

Fortunately I’m already ahead of the game, as Breathers, with 310 pages and 58 chapters, comes in at 5.3 pages per chapter (PPC), while Fated (352 pages and 54 chapters) has a PPC of 6.5.


After going through a random sampling on my bookshelf, I discovered that the majority of my favorite novels have short chapters, with The Great Gatsby being one exception to the rule with a PPC of 20. And nearly every novel written by Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, and Kurt Vonnegut comes in with a PPC of less than 10.

True, Slaughterhouse Five has only 10 chapters and a PPC of just over 20, but each chapter is broken up into as many as 80 separate sections and some of the chapters even have pictures. Bonus! So it’s still technically in the club. And then there’s Cat’s Cradle with 191 pages and 127 chapters for a PPC of 1.5, which is by far the lowest PPC of any novel I’ve ever read and sets the bar for ADD readers and Twitter-philes.

Can I have a hallelujah?

Conversely, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has nearly 35 pages per chapter for the entire trilogy, which probably explains why I never made it past The Fellowship of the Ring. You ask me, it needed more pictures.

Here are some other notable books I own and their PPC quotient (based on the copies on my shelf):

  • The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (214 pages / 26 chapters / 8.2 ppc)
  • Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk (218 pages / 31 chapters / 7.0 ppc)
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (309 pages / 36 chapters / 8.6 ppc)
  • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler (231 pages / 32 chapters / 7.2 ppc)
  • Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro (288 pages / 23 chapters / 12.5 ppc)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (143 pages / 35 chapters / 4.1 ppc)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (322 pages / 43 chapters / 7.5 ppc)
  • High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (323 pages / 35 chapters / 9.2 ppc)
  • The Stand, Stephen King (817 pages / 66 chapters / 12.4 ppc) *The original version, not the complete and uncut version, which has a PPC of 14.8

So where do you sit? Long chapters? Short chapters? Tequila shots instead of Jagermeister? Have at it. Or not. It’s a free country.

Filed under: Fiction,Fiction Fridays,Just Blogging,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 9:19 pm

That’s A (Comic-Con) Wrap!

Another year, another San Diego Comic-Con.

I say that like I’ve been going all my life, or at least since 1970, when the first incarnation of the event took place at the U.S. Grant Hotel. Back then, the one-day convention drew 145 attendees. This year, the number of attendees was closer to 145,000.

I’ve only been twice, in 2009 and this year, but I think one of the most enjoyable aspects of Comic-Con is that you have nearly 150,000 people in one place bumping into one another, waiting in line, crowding into limited spaces, and no one has an attitude. Everyone’s happy to be there. It’s like one big family.

But to be truthful, if you’ve never been to Comic-Con, it’s kind of hard to explain what to expect. It’s like the Matrix. No one can tell you about it. You have to see it for yourself.

However, for the uninitiated, here’s a sampling of what you would have found during the four-day event at the San Diego Convention Center:

  • A harem of slave Princess Leias
  • A battalion of Klingon warriors
  • Multiple Spidermans and Batmans
  • Lines of fans waiting for an autograph from George R. R. Martin
  • Panels on LOST, True Blood, and Family Guy
  • A William Shatner Star Trek documentary hosted by Kevin Smith
  • Full-contact medieval armor battles
  • A mechanical shark ride
  • And Conan O’Brien marching through the Gaslamp Quarter

Personally, I had the chance to meet a lot of great people, spend time with friends, do a couple of signings, and sit on a panel with six other authors discussing the challenges of having a relationship with someone who’s not human. Most of the standing-room-only crowd was there to see the next panel for the Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, but it was still a fun and lively panel.

A special thanks goes out to Penguin, Mysterious Galaxy Books, and Geekscape for their support and general awesomeness. See you next year!

Filed under: Conventions — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 6:39 am

Fiction Friday: Zombie Gigolos, Luck Poachers, & Dream Girls

For the past month I’ve been working on a collection of short stories that I plan on releasing as an e-book sometime later this year. Some of the stories were written between 1997-2004 and some of them have appeared in anthologies and collections, but never before have they been collected together. And several of them are brand spanking new.

The collection will include the following:

“A Zombie’s Lament” – My two-thousand-word short story about a newly reanimated corpse that was the genesis of Breathers.

“Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel” – One of my newest creations, a cautionary tale about what happens to a writer when he purchases words from a drug dealer.

“Dream Girls” – A futuristic story about sexual obsession, extraterrestrial intelligence,the death of Marilyn Monroe, and the assassination of JFK.

“Softland” – A family of luck poachers living in central California deal with the consequences of their actions. This story spawned my next novel, Lucky Bastard.

“The Sodom and Gomorrah Shore” – The Seven Deadly Sins in the original reality television show, set back during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This one was written after Fated.

“Zombie Gigolo” – The shortest story in the collection, this took third place in the Gross Out Contest at the 2008 World Horror Convention.

There are four other stories, including “Dr. Lullaby” and “My Ego is Bigger than Yours,” both of which are sneak peeks of two novels I’m currently writing. The collection will also include an introduction and author notes for each story so you get some kind of background information on how the stories came to be written.

I’m excited to have the chance to share these with everyone, so I’ll keep you posted as to when you can expect the collection to be available. And thanks for reading!

Filed under: Fiction,Fiction Fridays,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 9:55 am

Comic-Con Schedule

I’ll be attending Comic-Con in San Diego from July 21-24 and will be appearing at the following signings and panels:

Signing: Geekscape Booth (#4016)
1:00pm – 2:00pm

I’ll have bookmarks, postcards, and a limited supply of 11″ x 17″ posters of Breathers and Fated that I’ll be giving away. While I won’t have any novels with me, feel free to bring along your copy and I’ll be happy to sign it. You can also purchase Breathers and Fated at the Mysterious Galaxy Booth (#1119)

Panel: Room 6A
1:45pm – 2:45pm

Vampires and Others – How to make a relationship work when you or your significant other lack a pulse, or face other mortal-challenged issues.

Relationship advice from: Patricia Briggs (The Mercy Thompson series), Nancy Holder (The Crusade series), Linda Thomas-Sundstrom (The Golden Vampire), S.G. Browne (Fated), Clay & Susan Griffith (The Vampire Empire series), and Christine Cody (Bloodlands).

Autograph session for the panel to follow:

Signing: Autograph Area 8
3:00pm – 4:00pm

At this point I don’t anticipate any additional appearances, so if you’re at the convention on Thursday and/or Saturday, swing by the Geekscape Booth or the panel and say “hi.”

Filed under: Breathers,Conventions,Fated — Tags: , , , , — S.G. Browne @ 7:51 pm

Movie Review Monday: Summer Movie Sigh

When I saw the slate of films scheduled to be released this summer, I found myself filled with anticipation for more than a dozen upcoming movies, including Super 8, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, Horrible Bosses, Cowboys & Indians, and The Tree of Life. While I haven’t seen all of these films yet, I have to say that so far I’ve been underwhelmed.

Super 8 was fun and entertaining, but I felt it lacked the emotional resonance of the Spielberg films to which it paid homage. Horrible Bosses wasn’t nearly as funny as I’d hoped it would be, especially considering the cast. And while I appreciated the acting and what Malick was saying in The Tree of Life, if I want to spend half an hour watching the evolution of life on Earth, I’ll turn on The Discovery Channel.

Maybe it’s because I have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly. Maybe it’s because I’m too familiar with the actors and directors. Maybe it’s because I read and hear too much hype about these films so that by the time I actually see them, they can’t possibly live up to my expectations.

I remember going to see movies and not knowing anything about them except maybe a little word of mouth buzz. I didn’t know anything about films like Big, The Untouchables, or Beverly Hills Cop before I saw them other than who the stars of the films were. I had no idea what the movies were about or who was directing them or what critics were saying. I don’t even remember seeing any television commercials. Or billboards. Or ads on the sides of buses. I just went to see films and enjoyed them without any preconceived notions.

I didn’t even have any expectations when I went to see Star Wars for the first time in 1977. And I didn’t have a clue what Raiders of the Lost Ark was about until I saw the film on video a year after it left the theaters. But today, the advertising is impossible to miss.

I don’t know if the saturation of information and hype is partially to blame for my less-than-enthusiastic response to some of these films, but so far the best movie I’ve seen this summer has been Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which had no significant marketing or hoopla surrounding it but which was a fun, intelligent, and creative film. And which should at least get Allen an Oscar nomination for Best Original Script.

Filed under: Movie Review Mondays,Movies and Books — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 8:00 am