1. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    Chapter titles

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jonp, Apr 22, 2011.

    Just wondering if many people bother with them, what people think with them and so on.

    I've not used them in my book yet because I don't know what the chapter's about until it's finished, but I was thinking of maybe going back and doing it once the book is finished.

    I'm thinking something like
    Chapter 1: An Unexpected Occurrence
    Chapter 2: An Unpredictable Event
    Chapter 3: A Surprise Circumstance
    Chapter 4: An Unforeseen Happening

    And so on.
     
  2. Cynglen
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    Cynglen Senior Member

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    I'm not a huge fan of chapter names. If the chapters could stand fairly well alone or are distinct enough to have a title as some sort of "preface", then I think it's ok, but naming for naming's sake is a no-no in my opinion.

    Also, if you're going to be naming your chapters, I don't think you shouldn't use such similar titles. All four of those basically say something unexpected happens in the chapter, so unless your book has a plethora of surprises, I wouldn't go with that arrangement of titles.
     
  3. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whether chapter titles fit or not totally depends on the story. I think they fit children's novels better than adult ones. Howl's Moving Castle does the chapter titles very well and I think they are absolutely lovely.

    Are those titles actual chapter titles? It seems like a parody of an action novel :p

    I only put in chapter titles to know which chapter is about what while writing, but if I ever try to have something published, I doubt I'd keep them.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This question comes up often. Try the search function, and you will find plenty of threads that have discussed this to death.
     
  5. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    The ones I listed were jokes :)

    Sorry :(
     
  6. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    Usually chapter names don't matter, but if you prefer chapter names, it's okay to use them.
     
  7. MidnightPhoenix
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    MidnightPhoenix Contributing Member

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    No, I don't. Because when I come up with titles I normally end up thinking of stories that will go with them, so I have a lot of stories to write. But many people do, it really up to you. If you like the sound of it, and if it easy for you, then why not?
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have started to use them on my second draft to help with continuity and keep my head straight.

    I really like creative ones - one of my favourite author's does it and I may keep them for my detective stories purely because I am loving my first three lol
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    From a personal standpoint, as a reader, I don't care whether the chapters have names or not, or even whether there are chapters to begin with.
     
  10. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    When author's use them in fiction it often makes me think of YA novels (which is irritating if that's not what I'm reading). I don't want a heads up. Just tell the story. I don't want to have to think about what the title of the chapter means and if I would have named it differently, or whether or not it makes sense.

    If it's non-fiction that's a completely different animal.
     
  11. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use numbers. Chapter titles annoy me: I've read books by multiple authors who aren't good with subtlety and end up giving away the plot with chapter titles. Especially if they put an index with full chapter titles at the start - from an index it's easy enough to figure out all the twists and the ending without even reading page one.
     
  12. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    It depends on whether you want to do it or not. John Steinbeck used amusing chapter titles in Sweet Thursday. Margaret Atwood also used them in The Blind Assassin.

    I personally use chapter titles to tease the reader despite knowing that it runs the risk of giving away some of the plot. Though it depends on the type of story I'm telling. If I feel that it will be counter-productive, then I don't use it. It's really up to your discernment, since it's your story. :)
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ok for children's chapter books and the younger end of YA market, but they don't do well if you've a novel aimed at the adult market...
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    totally agree. Authors giving away the story in the beginning of the chapters are really annoying. I use numbers too. But i do find it irritating too when the chapters doesn't even have a number, especially when they aren't even starting on a new page, but just two (or something) lines under the last one. I've read at least a couple of books like that.
     
  15. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm reading a book like that at the moment: My Name Is Sei Shonagon by Jan Blensdorf. It's one of the few aspects I dislike about it. There's a little graphic separating each scene/chapter rather than numbers/titles/page breaks/etc.
     
  16. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    I prefer numbers rather than titles, though when I'm writing I'll make up chapter names so I know what I'm doing.
     
  17. Vance
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    Vance Member

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    One important thing to note is that many mystery writers, both old and new use Chapter Titles in order to highlight a certain happening in the chapter.

    Van Dine did it in all of his novels, Christie did it occasionally(and her titles have been cut from some editions for some reason) and if I recall correctly Chandler was quite apt of doing it as well.

    It's a good way to tell your reader "don't forget this!" in case you are trying to give him a hint about your mystery. Note however that using chapter titles as clues is frowned upon. Clues and hints are completely different.

    If you are building up to a plot twist, then even if your genre is not mystery, you might want to toy with chapter titles anyway. Of course, you don't have to play with titles. They are just one more thing you can use to decorate your story. But in the end, even in mystery novels, that's all it is. Decoration.
     
  18. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    CS Lewis did that quite a bit in the Chronicles of Narnia. A lot of children's authors like George Seldon and EB White are also guilty of it.

    For the record, I don't like doing individual chapter titles. But the series I'm writing follows a three part format with each part being ten chapters long. And I like to come up with clever word plays on movies, books, song titles, etc to give people the idea of what's happening in that section of chapters.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My favourite is one author who used songs from the musical Sweet Charity to name her chapters in a prostitute story, think she used Shakespeare references for another.

    She has inspired me to try and do Socrates quotes for Socrates' Children. Just weighing it up - some people have enough trouble recognising that it is the name of a character and not a Greek philosopher (although in my current time travel series think he may become the real Socrates lol )
     
  20. LucyVMorgan
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    LucyVMorgan New Member

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    Chapter titles are a bit of a pet hate of mine. More than anything, half the time, they give away bits of the story before they happen and wreck the suspense!

    If they are themed and stylised, they can work. Sometimes. For the most part though, I find them unneccessary (unless it's a children's book).
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't mind them. I think they make a book feel old-fashioned, like a 19th century novel. If that's your artistic aim, then use them. But if you're going for a modern, cutting-edge kind of feel, then I think you should avoid using them.
     
  22. The Soul Man
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    The Soul Man Member

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    The best decision comes down to the story and what you want to convey with the title. Some lighter hearted tales have some excellent humorous chapter titles that sum up an event in the chapter that sounds completely ridiculous of context. Others can skillfully take advantage of subtle foreshadowing with vague or detailed titles.

    of course there is merit in the simplicity of a standard title such as 'Chapter 1'

    You could always go with the no chapters option, even if it makes English teachers assigning your book as homework that much harder ;P
     
  23. Dark Dyer
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    Dark Dyer Member

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    When I think of chapter titles, I think of stories like "The Boxcar Children" and other children's early reader novels. And that was fine, because back then I would be all intensely awaiting the part of the story highlighted in the title.

    As I got older, however, I realized that I don't even pay those attention anymore. The last book I read with those that I enjoyed was Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind. And I didn't mind it in the least because the titles were so cryptic that I really didn't understand it until the end of the chapter as I digested it.

    I use numbers. Plain and simple.
     
  24. author97
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    author97 Member

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    Sometimes chapter names work well for the book. (Harry Potter off the top of my head.) Sometimes they aren't nessescary, and it doesn't matter at all.
     
  25. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Usually in each chapter there is at least one major event, so I'll name the chapter the same as the event.

    If the hero's buddy dies, I'll name it something like "The Death". If a large earthquake happens, I'll name it "The Quake" If the hero beats the villain, I'll name it "The Triumph". Afterwards when the hero defeats the villain some more, I'll name them stuff like "The Glory", "The Victory", or if the hero beats the villain but suffers a major loss, "The Double Blade".
     

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