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Thread: Superstitions and Chapter Numbering

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW mickeyDs4's Avatar
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    Superstitions and Chapter Numbering

    I don't why this is bugging me about my the book I am working on right now but it is. The issue I'm having now is the numbering of the chapters. Why is this such a problem? One: It's set in New Orleans, the most superstitious city in the world (generally speaking.) Two: My main character's family has a deep rooted familiarity with voodoo. So here's my question: Given those two things, would it be jarring as a reader to see the chapter numbers go from 12 to 14, skipping 13 altogether? Or should I just leave the numbering as it is and not worry about it? These are the things that keep writers up at all hours of the night.
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    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    So the reader/agent/publisher is going to read chapter 12, turn the page, chapter 14... well, where did chapter 13 go? And then proceed to chuck the book at the wall.

    You are numbering the chapters for a reason, leave it alone. Or, you can title them.
    Last edited by WillSauger; 12-25-2012 at 12:24 PM.
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    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    Unless you're going to be making other concessions to the characters' superstitions, I'd leave it alone. If it was part of a theme, it might be cool, but just the one thing is going to confuse the reader. Gimmicks are only cool if the reader gets them without them having to be explained.

  4. #4
    [Insert something witty here] KateSmash's Avatar
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    I think only the old Wayside School books have ever gotten away with that - and only with a plausible in-narrative reason.

  5. #5
    Migam eyeblink's Avatar
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    The Strange Case of the Dog in the Night-Time has prime-numbered chapters.

    Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves opening section numbers its chapters chronologically. As there are several flashbacks in this section, the novel begins with Chapter 6 and returns to 6 a few times until the five flashback chapters have happened and we are now in the novel's present time.
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    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Unless your book is supposedly 'written' by a character with those beliefs, I wouldn't. The book is an outside artifact that the characters are in. They wouldn`t know that they are in numbered chapters, and therefore wouldn`t care about chapter 13.

    It would be like writing a book set in historic Japan: you can`t write it in English, and in columns going from top to bottom.

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    Name it Chapter Grabby-Boobies for now, and then when all's said and done, find-and-replace Grabby-Boobies with 13. Actually, find-and-replace can mess up things elsewhere, so you should probably use a less common word/phrase.

    Oops, never mind, I misread. I thought you meant you were afraid of numbering the chapter 13 because of your own superstitions. I'm sleepy.
    Last edited by SomethingOrOther; 12-25-2012 at 04:09 PM.
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    Out on the fjord Ellaroni's Avatar
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    If superstition is a part of the plot, I would think it rather cool if there was no chapter 13.
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    I find ur lack of faith disturbing mellymel's Avatar
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    I actually thought it was a cool idea, but to make the distinction, I might write the number 13 and then cross it off and write 14. I think it would be cute, but only if the whole superstitious thing comes through in the story. However, I do wonder about what frimble said, but ultimately it's your choice. But it will have to be VERY clear as to why you would do that so a reader/agent doesn't turn the page at the end of 12 and think, oops. the author mis-numbered (is that a word???) the chapters.
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  10. #10
    ^That's a cool suggestion.

    Otherwise, people will likely be either confused (like the first comment said, thinking you'd left it out by mistake) or won't even notice. Personally, I think it's a really cool idea, using superstition as a theme and leaving out a thirteenth chapter, but you need to draw attention to it in some way. Maybe your characters, in addition to being generally superstitious, have a particular phobia about the number thirteen.
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    I think everything has been covered, but I wanted to offer my reaction as a reader because this really intrigues me. As long as the superstitious theme comes through strongly in the novel as a whole and the number thirteen is mentioned as being bad luck at least once (readers are smart- they will remember), I think it should be fine. Actually, I like the idea very much.
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    illiterate primate Bing Z's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellymel View Post
    I actually thought it was a cool idea, but to make the distinction, I might write the number 13 and then cross it off and write 14. I think it would be cute, but only if the whole superstitious thing comes through in the story. However, I do wonder about what frimble said, but ultimately it's your choice. But it will have to be VERY clear as to why you would do that so a reader/agent doesn't turn the page at the end of 12 and think, oops. the author mis-numbered (is that a word???) the chapters.
    I vote for crossing out, too, and only if superstition is part of the story. But I'd suggest using "12.95" or "12B" or something like that instead of "14." Thus everything after 12B returns normal, until you reach chapter 66.

  13. #13
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    I could see doing the crossing out thing if it were written by the MC or a diary or something, but if it's done by the author, it might feel a bit gimmicky.

  14. #14
    8-armed cyborg tree WendyN's Avatar
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    Honestly, how many readers actually pay that much attention to the chapter numbers? I know I don't. I think it'd be kind of fun to have the chapter numbers skip 13 -- IF the superstition is an important part of your story. I don't think a lot of people will even notice, and those that do would probably say, "hey, there's a chapter missing... ooooooh... 13... I'll bet that's why!"
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    practical experience, FTW mickeyDs4's Avatar
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    Thanks y'all. For now, at least until end of second draft, I will leave it alone. As it stands right now, not that many of Briony's superstitions are making a big appearance. Which will change as I edit.
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  16. #16
    Crazy Young Cat Lady roseangel's Avatar
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    You going to do the same with page numbers and such as well?
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW mickeyDs4's Avatar
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    I was going to try but since they get numbered automatically with Word I haven't felt much like fighting with that yet.
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  18. #18
    Attack me with everything you have. Kim Fierce's Avatar
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    Like others have said, if the story is first person and the MC doesn't want to number the chapters like this and explains, or does the crossing out thing, it could be kinda cool.

    If it's not in first person but it's very obvious why 13 would be crossed out it could work, too.
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