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I am editing my first novel and wherever I find a natural break in the story, I add a few spaces. I want to go back and adjust what types of breaks those are, but how best to represent those spaces in time?

What is the difference between using an extra space, asterisks, or a chapter break?

My guess (and feel free to correct me): an extra space is used when it's some time later in the same scene, or when switching POV with characters in the same scene; asterisks are used when it's essentially a different scene, with either the same characters in a different time or place, or switching POV with different characters; and a chapter break could indicate either, but it comes at the end of a dramatic scene.

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3 Answers 3

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In addition to your guesses:

A chapter break can also be mostly for dramatic purposes; the scene can continue over the chapter break with the same characters and POV. (Think of a commercial break, which then returns to the same moment.)

I would also use an extra space to indicate a scene change: different characters at the same time in a different location, different characters at a later time with location irrelevant. (Think of a scene change in a TV show: the scene just changes, and you have to figure out from context like time of day and scenery when and where we are.)

I actually don't care for asterisks or hash marks. The only time I would use them is at the top or bottom of a page to indicate "If this were falling in the middle of the page, I would just use an extra space, but since you can't tell that from where the copy lies, I'm throwing in these markers to let you know the next bit of copy is a new scene."

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I tend to think asterisks and extra spaces can mean the same thing (be used in the same way), to indicate change of scene. I wouldn't always say, though, that you have to use this for every scene. In my experience it's sometimes difficult to pinpoint the ending of a scene, and if it runs into the next one and a space would look odd, I don't break it at all.

I agree about chapters. They can either be finished at the end of a scene or in the middle of a scene, I don't think it matters. Just as long as it's not in an odd place, like the middle of a normal conversation. Perhaps at the end of a particularly dramatic line in the scene, and it could continue on into the next chapter.

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Asterisks are used to indicate the end of a scene

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