Which do you prefer: long chapters or short chapters? This was a discussion brought up by Cassie at The Anfractuous Bookaholic...
Honestly, at first I didn't think it really made a difference. A story is a story no matter how it's organized, but after she asked me that question, I really thought about how the length of the chapters can affect a novel, and I did some comparisons of the books I've read.
This past Christmas, I read Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans. The chapters in this book are lacking in length ~ some being as short as a single page. This little attribute made the book pretty fast-paced in regards to the information the reader was receiving, and for this particular book, it worked. Normally, I'd want to really dive deep into a scene before being thrust into another moment or memory, but there are benefits to these short chapters. In Finding Noel, there is so much history behind each character, that to allow it to be revealed naturally would take, well, forever, and while I'm not against reading a really long book, I feel like it would have made for a pretty winded read. Instead, we are brought to the memories of the characters, learning about them from actual flashbacks to their past. These recollections could last ten pages, or they could last just one. It kept things interesting and made for a really quick read.
Usually I would have said I don't particularly enjoy really short chapters ~ it can make you feel like the book is all over the place ~ but now I think breaking the novel up into small sections can really get the story moving and can keep the reader's attention to the point that the book is read in one sitting. Like every addicted reader, you'll say "one more chapter, then I'll go to sleep," but when it's only a page, that leaves something to be desired, so you just keep reading. :)
I will say, however, that I also felt disconnected from the story with the short chapters. I felt like, while my attention was held and I found everything that had to be said interesting, I couldn't really become immersed in the story because as soon as I'd become connected to one character, the story would lead me to the other end of the spectrum and I was thrown for a loop. There was only time to discover what had transpired in each character's past ~ there wasn't a chance to reveal who they were, their flaws, quirks, and strengths. It was like watching an overrated action movie ~ you love it, you can't look away, but do you really, truly care what happens to the character? Not really, because you don't really know who they are ~ you only know what's happened to them.
That's the thing with long chapters ~ you become enveloped in the mind of whoever is telling the story. You get to know not only what is or has happened to them but who they are, how they perceive others, and how their environment affects them. They become real, multi-dimensional people, and when you're able to get to know someone, it's more likely that you'll connect to them.
While short chapters can keep up the pace, they can also make a book feel choppy. The story flows a little more with long chapters. One book (or books) in particular comes to mind ~ Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire (the entire Vampire Chronicles, for that matter). The chapters are long, and we are taken completely into the dark world and incredibly complex characters she's created. We get the whole story, and quite frankly, sometimes more than we bargained for, but it feels genuine, which to me, is the most important quality a story can have. I need to believe it, and I think long chapters make that more possible.
I know some might believe that if a chapter is too long, it begins to feel winded and quite possibly, boring. I've never felt that way when it comes to long chapters. I actually prefer them, if I must form a definite opinion. To pinpoint why I feel that way... hmm... Everyone has their own preferences, but I would say it's because I feel that there is more to the story when the chapters carry on for a bit. We can become connected to the characters, what they are experiencing, and truly get a grasp on what is going on before moving on to the next part of the story.
So there's my vote: Long Chapters.
What do you think???