Formatting Tips: Scene Breaks

About Formatting Tips.

There are two types of scene breaks: hard and soft. Hard scene breaks are denoted by a visual separator between paragraphs. Typical identifiers are lines and stars. Soft scene breaks are created by putting white space between paragraphs. They both serve the same purpose but some authors prefer one style over the other.

Lets start by setting a style to create print formatted paragraphs. This makes seeing the distinction in the scene breaks easier.

p {
    margin-bottom: 0;
    margin-top: 0;
    text-indent: 5%;
}

There are two ways to create hard scene breaks I’m going to cover but they are very similar. Using a hr tag with a width set to 25% will create a nice line between paragraphs. We also want to set the top and bottom margins to 2em to give some space around the line so it’s easily visible. Another method is, instead of an hr tag, we can put three *’s in a p tag. In this case we don’t touch the width; we set the text alignment to center. This gives the centered three dots many books use for scene breaks. I use a CSS class .hb for the * method.

hr {
    margin-top: 2em;
    margin-bottom: 2em;
    width: 25%;
}

.hb {
    margin-top: 2em;
    margin-bottom: 2em;
    text-align: center
}

As with hard scene breaks I’m going to cover two methods for soft scene breaks. The easiest way to create a soft scene break is to use three empty paragraphs.

<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p>

Another method for soft scene breaks is to use a single empty paragraph or an existing paragraph and set the top margin to 3em. Following is an example CSS style. To have a scene break before a paragraph set it to use this style.

.sb {
    margin-top: 3em;
}

One consideration with scene breaks is converting to another format. Using the above scene break methods the scene breaks will convert from one format to another if you convert using calibre. It is difficult for a conversion tool to understand intent such as a blank paragraph representing a scene break. However, calibre understands and looks for scene breaks using the above method. So, if you plan to convert form EPUB to another format using calibre you shouldn’t have any problems if you create scene breaks using these methods.

The best way to illustrate this concept is with an example. Download ft-scene-breaks.epub. Opening the file with Sigil you will see the example chapters and the external CSS that is referenced by each XHTML file.