1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    What's your opinion on naming chapters?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, May 23, 2012.

    Years ago , I started this mammoth book that clocks out longer than the bible, ha! To keep the events seperate I named the chapters which I love - each chapter is like a mini book. However this project is like a Lorelei luring me away from others. Any how , I'm ignoring it's lure and working on something more manageable and was wondering if I should include chapter titles in this project. The book is a futuristic sci-fi. Is anyone totally for or against chapter titles? Have they ever rubbed you the wrong way? - or actually enticed you to read the next chapter?
     
  2. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    Generally it seems to be only children's stories and nonfiction books that really name their chapters. That's not an absolute rule or anything, but yeah. No reason not to, if you really think it'd help. Especially if your chapters are really long or something.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer not to see them. Chapter titles are more popular in the YA market, where they foreshadow the events in the chapter. Chapter titles aren't unknown in the adult book markets, but they are uncommon.

    As a means of keeping track of your chapters as you are writing, that's fine. But I would strip them out before submitting a finished manuscript.
     
  4. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    Forgive me, Cogi, but I can't help but reply to you with a very loud and annoying, "Lord of teh Rinnnnnnngssss....."

    ;)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Which was written the better part of a century ago.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The only book I can recall reading with chapter titles was Flowers in the Attic , I thought there was a Samuel R Delany though, or was it Stand on Zanzibar?
     
  7. Shaggley
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    Shaggley New Member

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    I think it depends on the reason you name your chapters.
    Named chapters usually works at their worst as spoilers of the content, and their best as another level of foreshadowing, so I'd say to keep in mind this effect more than any 'convention' of a sort about what one should or not should do.
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    As a reader, usually I don't care if chapters are named or not, or what they're called. There are two exceptions:

    Spoiler titles - Hate them! (Japanese mangas are especially bad for this, often blatantly sticking major reveals in the chapter titles.) I do my best to ignore them so I can still enjoy the surprise.

    Quirky thematic titles - My favorite kind of chapter titles. It's hard to describe what I mean by this, best way I can describe is to give an example, the book Life In The Fat Lane. The story focuses on a skinny weight-obsessed cheerleader who gets some sort of medical condition that causes her to gain a tremendous amount of weight, and ends up growing as a person because of it. Each chapter title is her current body weight. (This does result in several identically-named chapters once her weight stabilizes.) I thought it was genius because not only does it give you factual plot-relevant information fairly succintly, it also symbolically reflects her own concern over her weight.
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Eh, why be so stuffy about the issue? I use chapter numbers and witty chapter titles. What's the harm?

    If you can have elves, zombies and werewolves in a story and no one bats an eye, then you can name your chapters. Personally, I rather see a witty chapter title than an elf any day.
     
  10. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    I love chapter titles, i work really hard on them to find interesting concepts and stuff not just foreshadowing the obvious. I know most people do not care about them but to me, it's a great way to puzzle your reader, and make them think, why the help was this chapter called that way. does it mean something more than I can understand just yet?
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you name them well, it could intrigue the reader. However, it's like having to come up with about 20 very good book titles T_T Personally, I'd rather not have the hassle...

    But if you wanna, why not? Could always deleted them later if you regret it. It'd at its worst help you keep track of what happened per chapter lol. But in any case, you may wanna name each chapter only AFTER writing it - so the naming process may only come in the editing anyway, not the writing.
     
  12. Skodt
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    Skodt Member

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    I find myself just using the name of the character then a roman numeral to show chapter. Like one chapters name is ...I, the next time you see him it's ...II and so on. Mine is in several different POV's so that works for me. I say just do what works for you.
     
  13. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I name my chapters when writing fanfiction. That is because the chapters are short 1,500 ~ 2,000 words and are usually two scenes tied together to move the plot forward because together they form a specific plot point... Which I usually put in the title, sometimes in a riddle or in small sentence that will only make sense after reading the chapter.

    Now, to original fiction, I agree The Tourist that witty chapter titles are good. But in my case, they don't sit very well with my original fiction because my chapters not always make a clear point as they do in fanfiction (the readers already know everything about the characters and the setting anyway)... And, of course, sometimes the point will only make sense several chapters after or I want to keep it hidden from the readers. So no titles.

    To answer the OP, I believe that naming chapters are entirely on the writer's desire. If you wish to name them, name them. Whatever floats your boat.
     
  14. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    In YA 12- 14 books, yeah, in pretty much anything else, no. I used it for my YA book, but for my epic I don't.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's adult fiction, naming chapters is not recommended... as a professional editor for decades, plus a lifelong reader and bookbuyer, i'd consider a contemporary adult novel with chapter titles to be the work of a clueless amateur... but it's ok for YA or children's chapter books...

    that it was done by many authors in eras past, or may have been done more recently by a rare few, doesn't count as justification, imo...
     
  16. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    The only time I've seen it is in YA texts. One that comes to mind is Meg Cabbot's "Avalon High" (I read it for a course on Arthurian Legend in Children's Literature). However, Cabbot used it as a purpose to introduce the YA market to the Idylls of the King by Tennyson.

    Now just because you've only seen it one way doesn't mean you CAN'T do it, but I think if you are going to send it to an agent or publisher you may want to take it out (if it's for an adult audience). That's more of marketability and conventions than anything else.
     
  17. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I think the only thing getting in the way of putting in chapter titles is if you can come up with 20+ chapter titles (or however many chapters are in the book), then go ahead and do it. Because I used to be on the Pro-chapter titles crowd, and then when it actually came down to coming up with the names it was hard to think of a good name that didn't either spoil the events of the story before you got to them or doesn't make sense as a title at all in hindsight.
     
  18. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Some people obviously take stuff too seriously.

    For example, you have twenty chapters of zombies eating every elf in sight and it's the chapter titles that aren't realistic?

    I have a chapter entitled, "Betty, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore."

    Betty is the name of the character's motorcycle, which is a darn sight more realistic than mottled flesh and a time warp.
     
  19. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    My personal opinion is that if you title something before you even write it, you've really constricted yourself as to what you can write. I prefer to let what I write generate the title on its own. However, titling chapters either way still feels like a restriction of thinking to me.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just finished a book by Scott Turow which had each chapter named with the character whose POV it was, plus the date the events occurred. Normally, I pay no attention to chapter titles but I learned to look at these - otherwise it was several paragraphs into the chapter before I knew for sure which character's POV it was. This points out two things to me - 1) don't expect readers to pay any attention to chapter titles (at least not at first) - they may not realize there's any significance to them at all; 2) don't use chapter titles as a crutch, to explain something that should be evident in the text itself (see #1).
     
  21. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    ^^^
    Truth. I've never paid much attention, if any at all, to a chapter's title. If a chapter is titled, it shouldn't give glaringly obvious clues to the plot or give the reader "tunnel vision" as to the point of the chapter. Let them make their own assumptions/connections. This is all assuming somebody reads the title ;)
     
  22. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've done this too , read a he-said , she-said narrative, which was tipped off in the chapter titles that I hadn't paid attention to either. I guess everyone just takes chapters for granted. I still might keep mine - they're whimsical without giving away too much of the action.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see that as chapter titling... more just 'setting the scene' info... to me, 'chapter titles' are phrases or sentences...
     
  24. kamikazepilot42
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    kamikazepilot42 Member

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    In my mind, there's a simple way to answer the question (With another question, of course) ...

    Does it serve the story in some way?


    If you are simply naming chapters because you like to or to keep things straight in your mind during the writing process, more power to you, but there's a good chance the titles are not necessary and probably should be stripped from the final product. Are you just coming up with titles to prove how clever you can be?
    However, if those chapter titles assist the narrative in some way (changing POV? changing time periods? thematic jumps? changing regions?, etc.) then I say go for it. You also see this sometimes when perhaps every chapter isn't titled, but the book is additionally broken down into 'parts' and each part is named.

    I don't know that there's a right or wrong answer, but that's how I would approach it. Don't do it just for the sake of doing it.
     
  25. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    True enough. But then don't stop doing it because a bunch of unpublished hobbyists in a writing forum forbade you to do it.

    I don't know who makes up these universal rules, but if it serves my story, I'll do it. I'll also wear white after Labor Day, that is, if I own anything white.
     

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