By Jeanne Marie Leach

 I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.

                                                            —Thomas  Jefferson

One of the most difficult things a new author has trouble with is determining where their story needs a break.

 There are three types of breaks that can be used in a work of fiction:

Chapter break – This is at the end of every chapter, and there should be either a chapter break, section break or a page break inserted here. This starts the next chapter on a new page, regardless of how many more paragraphs or pages you may insert or remove in the previous chapter.

  • Soft breaks (No, you won’t find this term in a writer’s help book. I coined this phrase myself.) – This can occur when you need to break a scene into separate sections. Soft breaks are used when there is no time lapsed in a scene, but the author switches from one character’s POV to another, or if continuing in the same scene and same character’s POV, but there is a bit of time that has elapsed. When you read a book and you sometimes see an empty line between sections of a scene, it is a soft break. In order to show this in a manuscript, you center (space) on a blank line between the sections where there should be a break.


There may be times you’ll be reading a manuscript and in one sentence, you’re reading about how Margie planned to go to town, then in the next sentence, she’s in a store. There is no explanation of how she got there, or how much time has elapsed, but it is obvious that some details are missing. This would require a soft break.

Some authors will argue that there is no need to actually write the word “space” in their manuscripts. But I will argue back that there are times during the typesetting process that a soft break may occur at the bottom of a page or at the top of the next, and therefore, would go unnoticed by the typesetter. This happened in one of my books, and the editor knew there was supposed to be a break because I had written (space), so she changed it to a hard break (see #3 below), which was better than having no break at all.

  • Hard break – This occurs when there is either a large amount of time that has gone by, more than just a few hours—it could be the following day or week—or when starting a new scene in a different place within the same chapter. You’d also use a hard break when switching POV characters and they are in a different place than the previous scene.

An example of this would be if the first part of the chapter was written in Missy’s POV, and she is in her house talking to John, and then the author switches to John’s POV, but this scene occurs after he’s left her house, and he’s already back at work.

For a hard break you center no more than four characters called dingbats on a blank line. A dingbats can be any symbol the computer can create. An example would be:

# # #


~ ~ ~ ~

In my most recent book series about loggers and their brides, I found an outline of an ax and shrunk it down to a very small size and use that instead of ordinary dingbats.

            It really doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t too big or intrusive.