1. Jacco
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    Jacco Member

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    How do you come up with chapter titles?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jacco, May 4, 2013.

    I'm finalizing my manuscript now and I have named chapters. But I decided the final chapter titles is a bit too spoilery so I want to change it but I'm having trouble thinking of something to change it to.

    So if you name chapters, or even the title of your works, what is your process for coming up with title-names to use?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Most of the time, there is no use for them and they just end up spoiling the chapter...
    Why not just leave them out? Just a suggestion.

    But back when I did do them, I used 1-3 words that summarised the whole chapter and put it into a sentence...
     
  3. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Chapter One

    Chapter Two

    Chapter Three...
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    agree with both answers, I imagine chapter names as the opening titles on Fraser.


    I use chapter titles at the moment whilst writing my book but thats just so I know what's contained therein. If it ever gets finished I know I'll delete the titles - save yourself a few headaches and just number them
     
  5. Jacco
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    Jacco Member

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    But I like having titles. It's a good way to hook the reader if you do it right.
     
  6. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Chapter tiles were used to keep the reader reading back in the 1800's. Like: oh don't stop reading now cause, in chapter three, "What I saw at the circus that will haunt me 'til my dying day." it gets really exciting boy, I'll tell ya.

    So if you need to use them use them in that way. Which means don't name them 'til after you write them.

    But these days, we (writers) are expected to write in a way that keeps the reader reading anyway so therefore, there's no need to name chapters.
     
  7. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to use chapter titles when I posted a graphic novel online back in 2005. It had around 3,000 followers and I would add a title consisting of about three words (making use of alliteration) to make it easier for people to notice when there had been an update.

    However, I don't see a need for them in a novel. I remember getting annoyed at one author when I was eleven because the index right at the start listed all the chapters titles - and they were so detailed that they gave away the entire plot. I already knew which character was going to give birth in a boat at the end before I'd even read chapter one. And she wasn't even pregnant in the prequel so that was another spoiler. This was book 5 or 6 in a series, I think.
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe chapter titles are mainly used in Fantasy and YA fiction, so think carefully if your work doesn't fall into this category. I suppose chapter titles are generally not used because they are outdated/unnecessary/break the flow, so make sure your titles don't have this problem. Really, there should be a good reason for them, like adding humour or giving a time line, so if yours don't add anything to the story, why use them?
     
  9. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    The opening line should hook the reader not the chapter title. Same goes for the final line in a chapter.

    As for names I don't use them except for working purposes. I typically name the chapter after some random object or situation in the chapter because it helps me remember what is where while I'm editing and shifting things around. Once it's finished it's just chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, and so on.
     
  10. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Double post. :/
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But, but, in Harry Potters the chapters were named... :(

    Personally I love chapter names, and I love that the author has taken time to think them up, and I love to make them up myself (omg, does this mean I'm using a crutch to keep my non-interesting chapters interesting? Wait, come to think of it... never mind.). The dystopian novel I'm reading right now, Metro 2033 also has chapter names, and it's not YA or sword-and-damsels fantasy. I love to work it out what the chapter name is referring to and why the author has maybe possibly picked it.

    The name can be something that your character says. In my French character's chapters, all the names are in French. Maybe the name can be the first thing that comes to your mind about the chapter, then just dress it prettily and use it.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Harry Potter was not written for adults, even though adults read the series, and fantasy is fantasy even when there are no swords and damsels. You just proved my point.
    The other reason you see chapter titles is when the novel originally appears as a serial in a magazine or on a blog. Dickens' and Trollope's works were usually serialised in magazines before being published as full novels.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    they almost always come to me unbidden... make themselves known either before [book title] or as i write [chapter titles]...

    but i wouldn't be using chapter titles unless i'm writing a children's chapter book, or non-fiction...
     
  14. Jacco
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    My take on it is that of course your writing should hook the reader. If the writing is not good, then no amount of interesting chapter titles will keep them. I personally like to use chapter titles because if it is done correctly, it can give you the gist of a story without actually revealing anything- kind of like previews for a movie or "next week on..." for TV. Sure the book jacket is there to do that, but its alot faster and easier to read the table of contents than a long and exceptionally vague excerpt.

    The key is that is has to be done right though. I tend to try and use either the title of a character (one of my chapters is called "The Emperor's Advisor") or a play on a well known but related phrase to what happens within the chapter (my final chapter is titled "What Once Was Lost").

    So I really think, as with all writing mechanics, it comes down to personal style and taste. Some people dislike chapter names, some like them, and some just don't care.
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I suppose you are correct. Personally I like to smack my readers upside the head with the plot and give them no hints. :p
     
  16. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I don't use them, think they're unecessary. But then I got hit with a bombshell from Amazon which I still haven't got around to addressing. They wanted a table of contents, or apparently a reader did. At that point I tried to explain to them that a TOC for a book without them would look something like chapter numbers linked to page numbers, or put another way a double column of numbers seperated by dots. I've let the matter drop for the moment in the hope that it will all blow over. But if it doesn't I suppose in order to give them a TOC I'm actually going to have to come up with some chapter titles or else my opening page will look like a complete accountants wet dream! So maybe there's one reason for them.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Metro is actually a Russian novel, so maybe they have other conventions in fiction there. It's clearly an adults' novel (surprised me a bit when a high schooler actually recommended it, oh well). The novel does other things "wrong" as well (oh the poor reader has to remember so many long Russian place and character names, why weren't they "Westernized" for us, the dumb, short-attention-spanned folk) but it's been a huge success, I think they even made a video game of it, and so far the novel's been absolutely amazing. Goes to show that not every recommendation or rule out there is worth heeding.

    Of course if a publisher went like, "the titles have to go or we won't publish your book", yeah, they would go. And then maybe return for Amazon if they wanted a TOC...
     

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