Monday, January 14, 2013

What's in a Chapter Name?

Do you use chapter names in your novels?

I admit I have a haphazard way of naming chapters in my rough drafts. Some are named, and some remain unnamed. Why? Well, it has to do with that crazy half plotted, half pantsed writing style I use with my rough drafts. Some chapter names from the plot sheet work, and others just don't, so I end up with a mish mash.

However, while formatting and polishing my book for publication, I've had to make a decision.

To name or not to name?

I liked the chapter names I had, but I couldn't decide. So I went to my favorite books.

The Bible - has book names, but not chapter names . . .although modern Bibles have section headings like: The Faith of the Centurion

The Hobbit - has chapter names, like: An Unexpected Party, and Roast Mutton.

Ender's Game - has chapter names, like: Third. (but no Table of Contents aka ToC)

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe - has chapter names, like: Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe

Winnie-the-Pooh - has chapter names, like: In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin

Much Ado About Nothing (a play by Shakespeare) - no chapter names, but it's a play that's easily sectioned off into acts and scenes.

Family Favorite Books:

Dragon Slippers - has chapter names, like: The Brown Dragon of Carlieff. (but no ToC)

Open Minds - no chapter names.

Ranger's Apprentice - no chapter names.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - has chapter names, like: The Boy Who Lived

The Mark of Athena (by Rick Riordan) - each chapter names the POV character, no ToC

So, my decision hadn't been made for me since some of my favorites had chapter titles, and some didn't. I had to decide if and why I like chapter titles.

I decided that I do because I like being able to go back into a book and find my favorite parts easily. I re-read my favorites regularly, but sometimes I just want a quick fix of my favorite part from one of my favorite books. If I can find that favorite part through the use of a Table of Contents, and/or chapter names it makes my life easier. True, I can leaf through the book and find the part based on where I know it comes in the story as a whole, but again, if I'm short on time, ToCs and chapter names really help.

I don't know if Champion in the Darkness, book one of the Champion Trilogy, will ever be anyone's favorite book. (I can hope.) But I still decided to go with chapter titles and a fully linked, somewhat long, ebook ToC. I hope that this isn't daunting to readers, but helpful instead.

Besides, it's been fun naming the chapters that were unnamed . . .and I usually don't like naming anything.

So, are you for chapter names or against them? What about fully linked ToCs at the front of ebooks?




29 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Either works, although I don't use them in my own books. Summing up the chapter in one short line would stress me out.

Stephen Tremp said...

I have chapter titles but not chapter numbers. And I do not use a Table of Contents. But I like to lead the reader a bit. Tempt them. tease them. Especially if something bad is going to happen.

M.J. Fifield said...

I don't use them. I don't mind them though.

I have a fully linked ToC in my ebook. I don't know that anyone other than me will ever use it, but it's there, just in case.

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm for names, it give a book character - as you've pointed out. I don't write the chapter names until the book is done though, it's a little easier that way :)

Brinda said...

I name all my chapters in my Whispering Woods series. Then on the MS I'm currently submitting, I didn't know any. Go figure. :)

Laura said...

I love chapter names, if you name a chapter well it can stick with a reader for a long time. For example, I remember a lot of the chapters from Harry Potter by their chapter names; The Lightning Struck Tower, The Forest Again (my favourite!).

Laura said...

I often think it depends on the novel, sometimes chapter names work, other times they don't. I tend to use them in fantasy or paranormal novels when I write, and they usually get added in the editing phase. But I don't use them when I write contemporary, I'm not sure why.

Ink in the Book said...

For me, it depends on the book. Some books I've read the chapter title really added to the intensity. In others, I was so engrossed in the book I didn't care about stopping to read the chapter title.

That's how I write mine. Sometimes with chapters, sometimes without.

kmckendry said...

I'm not against them, but I don't use them myself. I agree with Alex, too hard to come up with something short to sum up the whole chapter.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Alex - it can be challenging to sum them up in one short line, but fun sometimes too.

Stephen - yes, that's why I like chapter titles too.

MJ - good to know you don't mind them

JA - that sounds like an easier method than mine . . .and I have found it a great deal easier to name chapters after finishing the book

Brinda - I think it can definitely be different for each book. It just may depend on the project.

Laura - That's good to hear. I love some of those names too.

Laura - I agree. I think it depends on the book, and I've noticed they are used less in contemporary and more in fantasy novels.

Ink in the Book - that makes sense!

kmcekendry - it definitely can be hard. I have a few chapter names that I'm not madly in love with . . but then I like the rest so far. It's good to know that you're not against them.

T. Drecker said...

I like chapter names, especially if they're clever or foreshadowing. And although I really want them in my MSs, I find them very difficult to come up with - almost as hard as that first sentence.

Donna Hosie said...

I love chapter titles, they're fun. We used to have great fun when I worked on a Harry Potter website with guessing the plot from the released chapter titles.

Tyrean Martinson said...

T Drecker - good to know. I think it's easier to name them when the book is finished.

Donna - I think they're fun too!

Nate Wilson said...

Chapter titles can be fun or useful when page-flipping, but if the book is gripping enough, I'll skip right over even the most clever of titles. And as others have said, they're not the right fit for every book.

Fully linked ToC in eBooks, however, are. Without them, I'd need to start using bookmarks. And I'm too lazy for that.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I name all my chapters. It helps me to outline.

Cherie Reich said...

I've never bothered naming chapters, but it could be because I rarely look at chapter names when I read. That's not to say I wouldn't use chapter names if the book called for it, though. :)

mshatch said...

I like chapter names but I don't always use them myself. I did with my last two but not with my current.

Trisha said...

I usually don't use chapter names, but for one of my stories I do because the chapter names are kind of part of the story. They're humorous. But generally, no. Lately I've even stopped using basic "Chapter One", etc.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Nate - glad you like fully linked ToC books . . .I'm going with that way.

Michael - I wish I could do that. My plot morphs too much mid-write for me to be able to hold all my chapter titles through the process.

Cherie - yes, sometimes I think books need them and sometimes they don't.

mshatch - it's interesting how each project works.

Trisha - Wow! No chapter 1, etc? I would have a tough time writing like that . ..but maybe I just haven't gotten my writing skills to that level yet. I have a tough time staying organized without some kind of chapter separation.

Hannah Kincade said...

I rarely notice when there are chapter names. The only reason I remember that Harry Potter had them was because they had pictures as well. :D

Morgan said...

I wish I was cool enough to do chapter names! I should try it... haven't done it before...

Nickie said...

I've never bothered doing chapter names. It's fun in other books, but not for me. I've avoided Twitter use because I can't write something in 140 characters. I don't think I could sum up a chapter in a few words, lol.

Julie Flanders said...

I didn't use them in my book, but now reading this I kind of wish I had! It was hard for me to figure out where to end chapters sometimes, I think it's something I am going to have to think more about with my next book.

Tara Tyler said...

i like them. game of thrones books name the pov and when one stops, i look ahead to see who i have to read in between to get to them again. love that series!

i name them for myself to keep track if i need to go back when i edit. and i might use the titles in my mg book, they're fun & give hints of what to expect =)

more have them than i realized!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Hannah - good to know, although mine won't . . .oh well.

Morgan - it's actually kind of fun, but I don't know if it's cooler or not. I just decided to.

Nickie - I just finished rewriting my book blurb about 20 times, so I totally get what you mean.

Julie - I have a tough time with that too. My hubby thinks I have too many chapters, and they are ver short . . .but I kind of wanted them to be that way.

Tara - they are fun! And more have them than I realized too, but I think I may have just picked up that particular set from the shelf . . .

michelle said...

I like reading books with chapter names...
When it comes to writing, chapter names could be helpful during the outlining process... I've never really given it serious thought but it's something worth looking into...

Misha Gericke said...

I don't have anything against chapter names, but I kind of forget to look at them as I read, so I'm not very bothered with putting them in mine.

Still, if someone worth listening to tells me to put them in, they're as good as in. :-)

Jeff Hargett said...

I love chapter titles! Always have. I use them for all my chapters in my epic fantasy. Sometimes I use a quote from the chapter or just something that sets the mood for the chapter. At times, it may refer to an event early in the chapter or late. So many possibilities. Titling the book, however, I find much more challenging.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Misha - I have a tendency to do that to on a first read, but when I go back for a re-read I find them really helpful.

Jeff - they can be really fun. I like the idea of using quotes from the chapter as chapter titles! And yes, titling for the book is really challening.