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Section markings in stories, and why you use them.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

There are two subject in this and I'll start with the second, because it's shorter.

Why you mark sections of stories apart.

Traditionally you cut stories into section because there is a change of subject, or a change of act, or a change of scene, or a change of location, or a change of time, or s change of point of view. When and how you cut to or from any of these changes is another subject, and will vary between authors and style manuals used.

An extremely important time to change is when you change the center of focus or change the point of view. This most important if writing in the first person. When you change from Fred's POV to Jack's POV you need a very clearly marked change point so the reader doesn't get confused. A change of POV is like a change of speaker in dialogue, it must be well marked and clearly identified, but with a change of POV it must be marked at each change.

I don't do this much, but did do it in Rough Diamond where I used a new chapter or sub-chapter for each new person when I changed the POV from the main character to another person. I made sure the title I assigned let the reader know who's point of view it was when it wasn't that of the main character, because the story is in the first person.

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Types of change markers used

The most common types are chapter headings, sub-chapter headings, section headings, horizontal rules (full or partial), or other substitute characters for a horizontal rule - like a line of stars or dashes or an image. With some major works they also do it by having it as another book - got to be huge and well written to make this one work for you.

Part of the problem today is more and more people are writing for on-line display, and thus the more traditional choices of chapter, sub-chapter, and section heading are being ignored due to them not working out how to translate them into an on-line display. Thus horizontal rules and their variants are becoming more frequently used.

With a small extra effort you can use on-line equivalents of chapter, sub-chapter, and section headings. It simply requires setting up a suitable style sheet for you work in whatever you use to write your story. If you use a word processor it's easy to do by setting heading and paragraph styles.

NB: If you wish to create an e-pub or similar e-book from your work you need to be wary of what styles you use. For chapter, sub-chapter headings, and section headings. Most word processor programs will have a style for Heading - Heading 1 - Heading 2 - Heading 3 - etc they go down to Heading 10 in most software. If you use H1, H2, and H3 the software will recognise and swap them over into HTML or the XHTML used for most e-books, but it won't always handle the first level Heading (note no number) the correct way.

Also, some e-pub software eliminates some format code from the text, so you need more than just the H1 or H2 designator to differentiate them. This is also true for the HTML display through some sites.

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It's been my experience that using the full range of the change markers provides a greater flexibility in the delivery and presentation of the story with the maximum amount of clarity for the reader of the story.

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I write all my stories in a word processor (Libre Office) with a pre-set format of my own that uses chapter headings (H1 in bold red text), sub-chapter headings (H2 in bold blue italic text), section headings (H3 in bold) with all the headings centered in the line. I also use a half page ruled line to break up some scenes and other divisions I feel I need within a chapter / sub-chapter / section for something like notes etc. - Not all chapters need or have a sub-chapter and not everything requires a section, either. They are used as the needs of the story dictates. Also, in most software the different headings display in different sizes with the lower number being a bigger font.

The centered title helps the reader to know there is a change, and also gives them some clue as to what the change is about or for, especially if the title is well chosen.

Each chapter and sub-chapter starts on a new page within my book format. This carries across to the e-pubs I make.

edit to add: In a web page display of the html it displays as one long page unless a specific effort is made to make them different web pages - which i don't do. Thus the headings show as varied sized coloured titles in the middle of the line in the story text.

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To make a html file from the book format I simply 'Save as' .html and the software adds the html code. However, I do need to use a suitable edito (not the word processing program) to strip out some excess code because word processors format each paragraph where html tends to format only changes. The result is way too much code in the file as first saved in html. Using a 'Find and replace all' makes removing it easy when you replace it with nothing.

One other thing I do to get my story file ready for SoL is to change the H3 to H5, the H2 to H4, and the H1 to H3 - in that order, because SoL already uses H1 and H2 for other things. Change the H3 to H5 first or you can get the H1 ending up as H5 as well. You also need to include the command to center and color some of the headings. There is a little more I do with some of the other things, but that's for other presentation aspects.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Also, some e-pub software eliminates some format code from the text, so you need more than just the H1 or H2 designator to differentiate them. This is also true for the HTML display through some sites.

A few additions:

I've used < h1 > and < h2 > html definitions for ePubs multiple times, and I've never had a problem. The biggest issue, as Ernest notes, is that SOL uses the h1 - h3 definitions for it's own display purposes, so those designations won't transfer to SOL (instead I use { t } for h1 section breaks and { p } for chapter breaks (or { p } for h1 breaks if you don't care about sections).

One important thing to remember is that color changes, like Ernest uses, don't work with everyone. Many people are color blind (such as seeing red as black), while many graphic features like colors don't translate for blind readers using text-to-speech software. (If you use html, using the "alt" or "title=" field allows you to specify what the blind hear when a file is read aloud.)

Instead of a 'half page' divider line, I tend to use 10 underscores, so they'll fit on any size display with any user selected font. the html < hl > command allows a "width=xx%" parameter which works as well.

I've mentioned dividing books into sections, but these are generally for special uses only, such as if the book is divided by topic or focus. In my newest book, I have several flashbacks by various characters, so those chapters are broken into separate sections so it's obvious there's a distinct break in the story (with section titles clear marking each change). This might also work with POV changes in a first person story, but only if you maintain the POV changes across multiple chapters. (Note: this violates the notion of a "limited" viewpoint in 3rd person stories (i.e. if the entire story is told from one person's POV, even in 3rd person, then you can't introduce someone else's POV because it breaks the flow of the story.)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I've used < h1 > and < h2 > html definitions for ePubs multiple times, and I've never had a problem. The biggest issue, as Ernest notes, is that SOL uses the h1 - h3 definitions for it's own display purposes, so those designations won't transfer to SOL (instead I use { t } for h1 section breaks and { p } for chapter breaks (or { p } for h1 breaks if you don't care about sections).


At SoL the command { p } is the Partition Command and is used for a hard page break to start a new web page at that point and is usually done as:

{ p }Chapter xx

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Most epub software will recognise the H1 and H2 commands as headings for new pages, but if you just use those commands they will often display exactly the same in many epub readers. Which is why I do one in red text and one in blue italic text - some epub readers will carry across the colors and some will carry across the italics, while few will carry across both. That way the reader can see the difference between the chapter heading and the sub-chapter heading. I also have a note to that difference on the bottom of the copyright page on the epubs.

REP

I have used Word for many years and am happy with it.

I recently decided to use the Heading 1 style as my Chapter heading style, so the chapter breaks show in my navigator window when using a Master Document. I haven't posted a story since making that decision.

Is Word's Heading 1 the same thing as SOL's ? If so, will it cause problems, since I don't know how Lazeez uses the code?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@REP

Is Word's Heading 1 the same thing as SOL's ? If so, will it cause problems, since I don't know how Lazeez uses the code?


see:

http://storiesonline.net/author/posting_guidelines.php

quote

File formats accepted for submission of works through the site are: Plain Text (.txt, .asc) and HTML files. (All open formats, no proprietary formats are accepted -- No Word, Wordperfect, MS Works, AppleWorks, or Lotus Word) If you need to submit styled text like italics and bold, convert your document to HTML. All the popular word processors support one of these two.

end quote

as long as you convert to one of the accepted formats above then the SoL Submission Wizard will sort it out for you. Having the chapter headings as a H1 style in the word processor will see it listed as that if converted to html, and the Wizard will change that to H3 for you.

As I said above, I've been using the H1 for chapter headings for many years, but I've converted it to Tagged Text commands up to very recently when I started lodging SoL friendly html files where I convert the H1 to H3 before submitting the html code. I need to do that to ensure my other H2 and H3 headings are correct relative to the H1, but if H1 is all you use, then the wizard should handle it.

Like all things at SoL, if in doubt ask Lazeez through the Webmaster link on the site.

REP

Thanks EB. I always convert to HTML for submission, but haven't used direct formatting tags for close to 40 years. Wasn't sure how the HTML conversion would handle the Heading 1 command.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@REP


I always convert to HTML for submission


If you don't use the same file to create an e-pub format, then the easiest thing for you to do would be to use the Word H3 heading and set it up with the size etc you want, that way the heading SoL friendly from the moment you save it as html.

http://storiesonline.net/doc/Text_Formatting_Information_Guide#htm

says:


HTML files

If you feel like submitting your own html files you can do so. However, keep in mind that all html code gets stripped from your files with very specific exceptions, and your files get reformatted from scratch.

The exempted html codes carried over to the site are:

italic < i >
bold < b >
bold-italic < b >< i >
emphasize < em >
strong < strong >
superscript < sup >
blockquote < block >
horizontal rules < hr >
H3, H4 and H5 header tags < h3 >< h4 > < h5 >

The site's conversion utilities try to support centered and right justified text, but it doesn't work very reliably due to the different ways this may be acheived.


There area few other commands the wizard will accept (ask Lazeez about them), but all the rest are stripped out. To ensure there is no confusion I take the time to use an editor to strip out the excess code by using the 'Replace all' command to replace the code with nothing.

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