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The Effectiveness of Chapter Titles
J Boone Dryden
Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 5:22 AM
Joined: 5/7/2011
Posts: 42


So it's NaNo time and in order to procrastinate when I should be writing (though to be fair, I'm at 20k already, as of 11/10), I have a question or discussion topic.

I'm curious to get peoples' thoughts on the use of chapter titles rather than just numbers. What sort of titles -- if any -- do you use in your novels? And what was your decision to do so?

Lora Belle
Posted: Saturday, November 19, 2011 5:46 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 3


Good question. I can buy a book after just looking at the chapters' titles. It's like a sneak peek for the story. I think fiction writers should leave the boring numbering to memoirists and get into their creative saddles.

It's almost like a log line for a screenplay--try to capture idea of your chapter in fewer words.

I like using chapter titles as a working tool. I don't need to read a big chunk of text to remember what happened in that chapter, if I did a decent job naming it.

My friend uses "working" titles." They are not very creative, but for her jumping timeline they provide instant reference.

They can serve you as a barometer of purposefulness. If you can't tell in five words or less what's going on in your story at this point, you have to revise your chapter.

I'd love to get your feedback on how am I doing on my chapters' titles.

THE SPELL

1   HANALEE

2   SARAH

3   AUNTIE BELLA AND THE MESSENGER

4   WHAT HAPPENED?

5   PETER

6   CAT'S MISCHIEF

7   THE ATHAME

8   DARK NATURE

9   LOVED ONES

10  BUREAUCRATS

11  THINGS THAT MATTER

12  THE HEARTBEAT

13  WHO DONE IT?

14  CURIOSITY IS A SIN

15  LOVE, WINGS AND THINGS THAT DON'T MATTER

16  RATS, CATS AND GOOD NEIGHBORS

17  FOR A CAUSE

18  THE KEY, THE GATES, AND THE       GATEKEEPERS

19  PLAY AND PAY








LilySea
Posted: Sunday, November 20, 2011 10:07 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


I use them in the Scrivener file to be a sort of outline of the novel--each is a phrase or sentence that sums up the action of the chapter (I have the same type of titles for each scene, too). But in the manuscript, I just use numbers.

Except when I don't. In the ms I'm querying now, I have poker and tarot (except--before tarot, with a standard card deck) as "themes" in the story, so each chapter is a card that--in a tarot reading--would name a main theme of the chapter.

"Six of Hearts" for example, corresponds to the six of cups in tarot and in one reading, could represent childhood, or childlike innocence. It's the title for the chapter that begins the tale of the childhood sweethearts who are the MCs.

It's a young adult book, which, for some reason, seemed to call for chapter titles. I actually like them a lot when I'm reading, but felt I ought to restrain myself from writing them for fear of getting overly bogged down in them. (Like I said, except for the YA book, which had a fairly simple system anyway.)


LilySea
Posted: Sunday, November 20, 2011 10:07 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241


P.S. Lora Belle: I love your titles!

Timothy Maguire
Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 4:35 AM
Joined: 8/13/2011
Posts: 272


Personally, I'd avoid chapter titles unless you've got something useful to do with them. There's nothing wrong with simple numeration and many big name authors I read do that. That said, a good set of chapter titles can really add to a novel. For example, 'Soon I Will Be Invincible' has standard issue superhero quotes as its chapter titles which is really fun and gives you a sense of what sort of novel you're getting (the final chapter, for example, is entitled 'Curses Foiled Again').

For myself, the only time I've used chapter titles is in 'Orphans of Talos', but that was a deliberate stylistic formulation. Basically, the book's divided up into eleven cases, so each chapter is one case, making every title the name of the case (ie 'The Case of The Mysterious Visitors', 'The Case of The Unwary Priest' etc). I did this more for fun than anything else, but it did help me frame my chapters.
Halford
Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 9:34 AM
In my unending quest to constantly seem deep and poetic (which often fails miserably) I do name chapters. Of course, from an outside view it could seem quite tiresome naming every single chapter [there are maybe 40-50 in the first of the series] in every novel, and at sometime I might get bored of it or run out of ideas that sound sufficiently 'deep'.
 The names are usually an idea out of the chapter or the theme of the whole thing and in some cases a musical reference that just fits: for example, a chapter where staring at a sword causes an important and impulsive decision to be made is called 'But for a Blade'.
 I really don't know if having names alongside the numbers improves the book or not, it's just something I – for the moment – do as part of my writing process.

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 7:38 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662


I have debated whether I wanted to keep my chapter titles or not. I spend half the time changing the last ones, or leaving ones I'm still revising blank. I originally gave them chapter titles because I wanted to do artwork for each chapter that had the titles as part of the art, but I haven't drawn, let alone painted, in such a long time that might not happen. I would ask someone to check out my titles and see if they correspond with the action, but that would take up your time. I'm just torn. My titles are:

1. The Princess and Her Present
2. The Prince and The Vigilante
3. The Prince and The Messenger
4. The Mask to Hide the Hate Inside
5. Good Bye Solder, Good Day Priest
6. The Prince of Pain and The Prince of Hope
7. Desperately Seeking Refuge
8. The Outlaw Meets The Princess
9. Party Crashing
10. Another Thing Broken
11. Unwanted Convergence
12. Navigating Rough Waters
13. (no title)
14. (no title)
15. Kindling for Flames
16. Best Laid Plans
17. (no title)
18. (no title)
19. (no title)

These are my recent titles. I haven't changed them all yet. As I've said, they almost never stay the same.

By the way, my favorite chapter title is from a Christopher Moore book because I can't say it without laughing. (Warning, there is profanity.) It is: Heinous Fuckery Most Foul. Its from his book Fluke.
genfr1tzie
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015 4:32 AM
Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 12


Whether you use numerals or titles, it's up to you if you want to use the former or the latter. Chapter titles reinvigorate the readers' interest on the book they're reading. I've read various articles/books on how to make the perfect book, there was one statement about chapter titles that I apply until now. That is, to make people wonder. Often use symbolisms or objects, and never exceed 7 words whilst creating a chapter title.

 

Whenever we have our writing contests on our book club, I always, always tell them this before the contest starts. It never fails.


 

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