I was wondering about the use of separating fiction into "parts", similar to chapters but larger and spanning more text and using these to divide up books within a series. If I am unclear, refer to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Book 2, Hollow City. In this series, the second book is divided into two sections: part 1 and part 2, as well as chapters.

I was wondering where this is done in various works of fiction. I assume within a single stand-alone book it should be fine, but would it still be fine within a series where not all the books are divided into parts that way, such as the Miss Peregrine's book series? How about for a novella? Is it more advisable to keep all the content in one main body than to divide it in a smaller text?

  • You will get into trouble asking for opinions here. Matters of opinion are off topic. Still, I think there are enough examples of literature in this that we can attempt to form an answer based on observation.
    – user16226
    Aug 11, 2016 at 2:16
  • Don't ask for "recommendations," which are opinions (and frowned upon here). I changed your question to ask where this is "done," which is "factual." If you wanted to strengthen the "factual" thrust further, ask about what "has been done" (historically).
    – Tom Au
    Aug 12, 2016 at 3:53

3 Answers 3


Breaking a book into parts is very common, in series books and in standalone books.

I haven't read the books you mention, so I can't comment on those.

Just yesterday I finished reading Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King. He breaks the book into parts. Each time I got to the title page for a new part, I realized I was about to enter a new phase of the story. It sort of shifted my mood a little. Not a big effect, but a definite one. Especially for the final part, where the title made it clear that we were headed for the climax of the story. I definitely felt an added bit of anticipation.

For this story, breaking the book into parts worked well for me as a reader.

So that's one effect of breaking a book into parts. There are probably others.

The question is: Do you want to create that kind effect in the reader? If so, break your book into parts. If you'd rather give the reader a more subtle or continuous experience of the flow of the book, rather than announcing transitions so blatantly, don't break it into parts.

That's a question for each book, even each book in a series. Even if one book benefits from explicit breaks between parts, that doesn't mean you need breaks in every book. (I don't know whether the two following books in King's series are separated into parts.)

  • 1
    King's novel Christine is also set into three parts, and I found it fascinating that part 1(DENNIS—TEEENAGE CAR-SONGS) and part 3 (CHRISTINE—TEENAGE DEATH-SONGS) are written in the first person perspective (from the viewpoint of protagonist Dennis), while part 2 (ARNIE—TEENAGE LOVE-SONGS) was written in third person. This allowed the author the freedom to 'bounce around' and describe scenes that the protagonist would not have been privy to. The 'parts' made these noteworthy transitions easier for the reader to swallow.
    – Chowzen
    Aug 12, 2016 at 8:00

Stories are made up of incidents. Each incident is a distinct unit of storytelling. Incidents lead the protagonist closer to or further from their goal. Each incident has a structure of its own, its own build and its own payoff. In long works, incidents may themselves be made up of incidents.

Some incidents may be separated from others in time or in space. Some may place the protagonist in different places, circumstances, or with different characters. The larger the break in continuity between scenes, the greater the need for the author to signal the change to the reader.

There are many tools a writer can use to indicate the extent of the break between incidents, for blank lines to paragraphs. to sections, to parts, to books. How many of these you need and of which kind depends on the kind of continuity breaks you need over the full arc of the story.

So, not so much a recommendation as an observation, but the division of a work into large units, such as parts, would seem to be effective where there are large breaks in continuity between incidents.


Why is a text visually structured at all? Because it has an internal structure. And the outward, visual structure of paragraphs, sections, chapters, parts, and books represents that inherent structure.

When does a paragraph break happen? When the subject changes. When does a section break happen? When the place, time, protagonist, or narrative perspective change. When does a chapter break happen? When an action begun by the protagonist has led to an outcome and a continuous sequence of events is completed.

From paragraphs to chapters, all books are structured the same. Where they differ, is from parts, to books, and beyond. These breaks all happen when a story arc is finished. So why are some books divided into parts while others aren't? Because the book that isn't divided into parts tells only one story arc (or multiple parallel arcs), while a book that is divided into parts tells several sequential (sub-)story arcs, which together build one large arc.

Look at this graphic. Each rise and fall in the line represents a rising action, a climax, and a resolution and denouement. The smallest "bumps" are the chapters, the larger bumps the parts, and the whole mountain is the overall story arc of the complete book or other larger unit.

enter image description here

Not all stories have these (internal!) sequential substory arcs, so not all books have (visual) parts. It depends on the story that is told.

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