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Author Topic: Chapter Titles?  (Read 4652 times)

Offline Tiffany Kysis Tackett

Chapter Titles?
« on: December 15, 2011, 01:24:16 AM »
Part one of the question: How do you feel about titled chapters?

I, personally, enjoy titled chapters.  Something in me especially enjoys it when a chapter title has a double meaning which can only be discerned by reading the chapter itself.  I can't really explain it, but it's a lot like puzzling out a riddle.  I thoroughly enjoy this.

This is definitely why I use chapter titles in my own books.  This is also why my titles tend to have a second meaning, some of which can be figured out by reading the chapter, others which cannot truly be puzzled through until the entirety of the book has been devoured.

There is something about just seeing a 1 at the top of a page, or a 5, or a 27, which makes me cringe a little, and makes me sad.  I feel slightly cheated, the same way I feel slightly cheated when I see a term paper at the college I work at with the title "Essay 4" or "Research Paper".  Maybe it's just me.

On that same note, I generally have a very hard time concentrating when writing if the chapter I am working on does not have a title.  I can't just go fill one in later.  I need one now.  If I end up changing that chapter name half way through, fine, but it has to be there.

Second part of the question: How do you feel about a chapter sharing the same name as the book it is in?

This is a more personalized question.  The book I am working on right now, Hope of the Mirra has been a labor of love for about five years now, and for four of those five years, the final chapter was called "Sacrifice and Cycle" and, all in all, it really fit.  It was a very dark book with a pretty downer ended.  And then, last year, I changed the name to Hope of the Mirra (it was previously Mikara Falling), and the whole slant of the book changed.  Yes, it is still dark, but there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

So, now that the book is nearing completion (draft 6 is almost done, after a long year of work), I have come to the realization that "Sacrifice and Cycle" no longer fits as the name of the final chapter.  That chapter title implies that nothing has changed, and that it's just another cycle come to pass.  That's not how it ends at all!  This realization was horrifying (because I'd been set on this chapter title for four years) and liberating (it's been four years) at the same time! 

Not long after I had this realization, I also came to the understanding that the best title would be "Hope of the Mirra", which really backs me into a corner.  Is it cliche to have a chapter with the same title as the title of the book?

Offline Funky Scarecrow

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2011, 02:09:11 AM »
First question first: I always number my chapters, then subtitle them with little breakdowns of what occurs, sort of like this:-

Quote
Chapter One - Part One
An Unexpected Creditor - A Bored Guardsman - A Surprising Escape - On the Run - A Bailiff's Duty

Chapter One - Part Two
Here Comes the New Boss - A Life Without Pleasure... - Conjugal Rights - Catamite - Philosophical Discourse

A very old fashioned way of doing things, I think you'll agree. It helps me gauge the tone of the chapter, the order of events and, most importantly, it stops me droning on at length about one character when I have others to get to. It's also a good way to maintain a rhythm over the course of a chapter, where to put in the cliffhangers for POV shifts, where to allude to previous/other events etc.. As someone who finds heavy outlining to be the death of a story, anything which keeps timelines in order is a boon.

Second question: I don't personally think it's a problem. If it's the chapter title that works, then it's the one that works. It's also important to remember that working titles are important for you, the author, but your eventual editor may well decide that for matters of house style chapters will be numbered and that's that, or the title of your novel may be changed for sound and valid commercial reasons while your chapter titles remain as you originally wrote them. Anything can happen later, so do whatever you need to do now to make sure you finish with something you're happy to send out into the world.
I am NOT short. I'm further away than I look.

Offline GZidar

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2011, 05:29:54 AM »
I like chapter Titles also. I usually name the chapter and then have some kind of flavour text in the form of a one line quote that is relevant to the chapter in some way.

I think a chapter title that is the same name as the book is fine - especially if its the last chapter.


Offline AnneLyle

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2011, 05:53:23 AM »
Chapter titles don't bother me one way or another - it's just part of the book's style, like how long the chapters are or whether it even uses chapters at all. I title each scene within my working manuscript (I use Scrivener, so I can omit them when I export the finished document), but that's mainly as an aide-memoire.

As Funky Scarecrow says, it's possible that an editor might ixnay your titles if he/she thinks they don't work, though as they are part of the body of the manuscript, I think that's less likely than changing a book title. The book's title is a marketing issue - it has to sell the book to prospective readers - whereas chapter titles are a purely stylistic one.

As for having the same title as the book, I'm not sure I've seen it happen often enough to call it a cliché - but maybe that's because I don't pay chapter titles that much heed in the first place.
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Gothos

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2011, 11:55:58 AM »
I do like chapter titles, I sometimes think of it as like being a scene in a film, the chapter title setting the scene. That way you know when the chapter has ended. I do like the way Erikson does it as well though, where he gives a title heading for the whole section of the book. I find its also a good way of keeping track on how the books moving along just by going through the chapter titles.

It usually depends on what type of book your writing as well though. The Wheel of Time for example worked with chapter titles and Among Theives worked without. As long as the titles are there for a reason and not just for the sake of it.


I like the idea of having a chapter title with the same name as the book as long as the chapter is one that fully captures the soul of that book and that it works well with the whole.
I saw them on the shores
the deepening pits of their gaze
vowed immortal war
against the sighing calm
of Jaghut seas . . .

Gothos’ Folly
Gothos (b.?)

Offline xiagan

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Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2011, 08:54:46 PM »
Chapter titles can do much for anticipation and if a chapter is named like the book, you are automatically gripping the book tighter, thinking "oh wow, what will happen now?!".
On the other hand I find them more often distracting my reading flow than not. I'd say they work for some books but not for all - it is your job to find out if it fits for your's or not. :)
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2011, 10:21:25 PM »
My main problem with writing chapter titles is getting to say chapter 23 and having no idea what to call it...

I once accidentally sent a book out to betas with the chapter title for said chapter 23 being 'WTF do I call this chapter?'

:D
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Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2011, 01:53:30 PM »
My main problem with writing chapter titles is getting to say chapter 23 and having no idea what to call it...

I once accidentally sent a book out to betas with the chapter title for said chapter 23 being 'WTF do I call this chapter?'

:D

lol That sounds like something I would do. ;D

Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2011, 05:53:35 PM »
I don't use chapter titles in general, mostly because I have enough trouble picking a title for the book, without multiplying the process 30-odd times.  As far as reading's concerned, chapter titles can be nice, but I never miss them when they're not there.

Offline JoshuaPSimon

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2011, 03:40:12 AM »
I don't use chapter titles in general, mostly because I have enough trouble picking a title for the book, without multiplying the process 30-odd times.  As far as reading's concerned, chapter titles can be nice, but I never miss them when they're not there.

I agree on all counts.  To be honest, I rarely pay attention to chapter names anyway.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2011, 08:01:28 AM »
I once accidentally sent a book out to betas with the chapter title for said chapter 23 being 'WTF do I call this chapter?'

Could be worse. Some big company (I forget who) launched an iPhone app with an error pop-up that still had the placeholder text "Crappy content goes here" :)

/derail
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Michael Sullivan

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2011, 02:05:56 PM »
I LOVE having chapter titles. I think its a tremendous amount of fun coming up with them and I like looking over the book as a whole just by reviewing them.

Offline Jon Sprunk

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2011, 02:22:04 PM »
I don't use chapter titles in general, mostly because I have enough trouble picking a title for the book, without multiplying the process 30-odd times.  As far as reading's concerned, chapter titles can be nice, but I never miss them when they're not there.

Yep. This is where I fall. I suppose if I was inspired with some really great chapter titles, I would use them, but that hasn't happened yet.

Offline Douglas Hulick

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2011, 10:50:50 PM »
I don't use chapter titles in general, mostly because I have enough trouble picking a title for the book, without multiplying the process 30-odd times.  As far as reading's concerned, chapter titles can be nice, but I never miss them when they're not there.

This.

A lot depends on the tone of the book, voice, number of characters, etc. Mind you, when there is a large cast and the author begins each chapter with the viewpoint character's name? That I often appreciate.

Offline DRMarvello

Re: Chapter Titles?
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2011, 10:57:43 PM »
Hmmm. Viewpoint character name. I like that idea. I start a new chapter when viewpoint changes, but explicitly naming the viewpoint character at the same time might be a good idea. I've read books that do that, and it does help with the transition.

During story planning, I've been giving each scene of the book a title that consists of a single word or phrase. At first, those names were for my info only: they made it easy to remember what the scene was about when I saw it in the outline. In my most recent draft, I added them into the book, and I like them better than the classic *** or ### separator.

I'm not sure if I'll actually publish the book with them in it yet.
Daniel R. Marvello
Blog: The Vaetra Files
Books: The Vaetra Chronicles

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