1. MasterOfHisOwnDomain
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    MasterOfHisOwnDomain New Member

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    Naming chapters - Powerful or pretentious?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MasterOfHisOwnDomain, Nov 26, 2009.

    I've begun drafting a science fiction novel, but I'm divided entirely over whether or not to name the chapters or simply use numbers; I can't decide if it would actually add another dimension to the narrative or appear slightly gimmicky amongst the sombre storyline that unfolds throughout. Any thoughts? What do you do?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I personally am not a chapter namer.

    I think it falls into a group of writing behavior that I call manhandling the reader.

    It's the kind of writing behavior that attempts to tell the reader, "This is what I want you to think about this," instead of letting the actual story do it.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I prefer just to use numbers. To use names seems to me to be to either give away the events of the chapter, or just be verbose.
     
  4. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    If you insist on naming the chapters, do so after you've finalised the novel. It will allow you to view the finished piece in totality and can name the chapters more purposefully. In saying that, for a sci-fi novel, I'd say stick with numbers...
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just pulled a few books off my shelf. The ones with titles for each chapter are: The Titan's Curse; Anne of Green Gables; Take Me With You; I'm a Stranger Here Myself--so children's books and non-fiction books. My other fiction books only have numbers. That might help you make your decision.
     
  6. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    Chapter names seem to be mostly in older books and children's books... the current trend for adults is to use numbers only (of course, some do not even mark the chapters at all).

    I'm writing a young-adult book, and currently expecting to name the chapters...
     
  7. TimAyro
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    TimAyro Member

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    I wrote numbers when I wrote little books. You don't really want to summarize something before they read it.

    I don't think I've seen named chapters in quite a long time. Except for Harry Potter maybe, which I never actually read, but skimmed through.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ok for children's books, but if it's for the adult market, it would seem silly and childish... stick to numbers for adults...
     
  9. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    I've noted that most fantasy fiction has chapter names, even adult fantasy fiction. The First Law Trilogy (which is supposed to be adult fantasy) has them, as well as The Lord of the Rings.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just took a sampling of novels on my shelf above my computer. Of the SF/Fantasy:

    Brust, Turtledove, Zelazny, Saberhagen, Hambly, Brooks, Ringo, Moorcock had only numbers.
    Donaldson had titles for chapters.

    My novels (one published, one under consideration) only have numbers for titles. If you do decide to go the title route, I think A2theDre's suggestion to name at the end is sound. Of course many novels are written with working titles, so chapter maybe could be the same.

    On the whole my opinion is that unless there is a strong reason for including titles, it is better not to use them with adult fantasy/SF. And in the final analysis, unless you're intending to self-publish, keep in mind that your first readers will be agents and/or editors. Will the titles be something to sell them on the project or be more likely to detract from their interest? Maybe a tough question to answer (as if anything is done well, it will be positive) but nevertheless something to consider.

    Terry
     
  11. LadyLazarus
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    LadyLazarus Senior Member

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    Naming chapters can be powerful, if done right. Unfortunately it seldom is. In any case, I reiterate what the others have said - don't do it until you're done if you're going to.
     
  12. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    sometimes, I go back to a book and I want to reread specific chapter or look for some specific passage in a chapter to reread - knowing the chapter name helps with me finding what I want to read.
     
  13. MasterOfHisOwnDomain
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    MasterOfHisOwnDomain New Member

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    Thanks everyone, I think I'm going to probably just number the chapters.
     
  14. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    I like titled chapters. I didn't realize it was such a big deal, but I had always wondered why some chose to use numbers vs titles. I just like titles because they're fun, kinda like a glimpse into the future. After I read a chapter I go back to the title (if it wasn't an obvious one) and go 'ooooohhh, so that's what that meant'.
     
  15. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I'm inclined to agree with Wrey. And I have noticed that it's mainly YA, kids books and nonfiction that have titled chapters. Another poster noted that a lot of fantasy has titled chapters as well, but that's becase most of those books are marketed to both adults and youth. Most popular fantasy is very "kid friendly," even if it seems like an adult read.

    Just look at Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. The main characters are all terribly naive and the theme of good vs. evil is childishly simplified, like a fairy tale. The whole thing screams YA. And yet, the writing is overly verbose, often boring as hell, and even avid readers like myself are tempted to skim chapters. That's the only "adult" element--the reading level. The content is suitable for preteens. I read it as a preteen. And of course, it has titled chapters.

    George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series was written more simply, since the author never felt the need to include every word from the Dictionary of Pointless Vocabulary. But at the same time, the content is much more mature in every aspect. Martin's chapters weren't even numbered. They were named according to POV character--Tyrion, Jon, Catelyn, etc.

    It does seem to be directly tied to the content maturity level--demographics. I'd suggest you figure out who will be reading your books and make your choice based on that.

    I never title chapters.
     
  16. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    I don't think chapter names are pretentious. I always smile when I read a refreshing chapter name.
     
  17. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I like titles to chapters. It gives me an idea of what to expect. (Sometimes that is a bad thing, if the title is something like, "Angst and Drama Unfold".)


    Furthermore, I have seen chapter titles with names that really give the story a solid feel, like the author really knows what he's on about.

    I intend to name the chapters of my book. Also, it can help a person if he is trying to find a particular part.
    If he knows it has to do with a certain thing, he can find the name that matches that.

    Fun stuff.
     
  18. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I don't care if the book I am reading has chapter titles or not. Not sure where I stand on whether to include them in my own writing. Sometimes I give chapter titles and sometimes I don't.
     
  19. hszmv
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    hszmv Member

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    I name my chapters, but my chapters are more episodic short stories about the same characters, rather then part of a whole (If you were to convert a TV show's DVD season into a book, that's the best way to describe it).

    As a writer, named chapters tend to help me remember what happened (or if not yet written, what will). I couldn't tell you what chapter six of my book is about, but I can tell you that the chapter "Just Like You" is about a clone conspiricy.
     
  20. Sreimund
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    Sreimund New Member

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    My observation is that most titles of books and chapters describe a thing involved in the chapter/book, heck even in movies or games. Generally if you write a book or story about a special planet you could use it's name. It's totally unrelated to the story but if the name sounds interesting enough people accept the title.

    example:

    a girl sees a rainbow in an event and thinks about it alot while in a story, in the end she gets to see another one for closure.

    then if you make a title such as ''The girl who saw a rainbow''

    You might have a real diamond or cannon fodder.

    Generally titling works best when you have the story and try to describe it or title it without revealing it but also keeping people intrigued, perhaps even trying to understand the title!
     
  21. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    Another one for the don't really care camp. I am never going to stop reading a book because it has named chapters instead of numbers, or vice versa. Though do I think that if your going to do named chapters you should include a table of contents, it makes the book easier to navigate (if that's the right word).
     
  22. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I also don't care if the author names chapters or not. Just don't give stuff away in the names of chapters.
     
  23. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    If I bother to separate chapters I number them. I don't want to waste my time/energy coming up with a witty/clever/whatever name for every chapter, especially when it will often mean nothing to the reader or give something away.
     
  24. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    I don't know why, but I'll always remember the chapter name Riddles In The Dark (From The Hobbit).
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the point is, agents and publishers WILL care if you use chapter titles for an adult market book, since most adult readers prefer to not have their reading flow interrupted by intrusive chapter titles...

    so, unless you're writing for children, or the younger YA market, you'd be wise to stick to the more acceptable numbering only...
     

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