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Writers Workshop > Chapter Titles

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim Bowering (arjaybe) | 86 comments When I'm writing a novel I give the chapters titles, but when I publish it I'm not sure whether to leave them in. Which do you prefer?


message 2: by Heather (new)

Heather Licano (heatherlicanogmailcom) | 2 comments I leave them in, but also considered taking them out. I just like chapter titles.


message 3: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
This is a style choice. You'll be told some false rules here and there that chapter titles are for children's books and whatnot, but they aren't. Some authors like them, some are happier with just numbers.

Personally, I like chapter titles. But, I have enjoyed many books that didn't have them, too.


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim Bowering (arjaybe) | 86 comments That's encouraging so far. Maybe I'll put them back in.-)


message 5: by Bill (new)

Bill Greenwood | 38 comments I've read books with them, and without them. Whether or not they work seems dependent on the writer's style, as much as anything. My chapters have titles that are essentially timeline headings.


message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim Bowering (arjaybe) | 86 comments I see how that would work. My titles always have something to do with what's happened in the chapter, so they only get them when they're finished.


message 7: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (last edited Sep 04, 2019 10:59PM) (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 694 comments Mod
If you're going to self-publish, choose whichever fits you best. That's the power of freedom.

By the way, I am in the chapter name club as well (well, my WIP is...)


message 8: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 530 comments I have put chapter titles in some of my books and I think it helps because browsers get to see a some exciting titbits.

However, with ebooks the chapter and the titles take up an awful lot of pages on a Kindle.

I'm at the same stage i.e. I'll soon be considering whether or not to add chapter titles. It would suit the style of my book, so I might. As Dwayne and Tomas say - freedom!


message 9: by Peter (new)

Peter Martuneac | 97 comments It's really just a matter of personal preference. For me, choosing the names of my books is the hardest part, so choosing chapter titles would just be another part of writing that I don't like, so I go without.


message 10: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 779 comments I like giving my chapters titles. One, as I write it helps me remember what the plot will be about, it's easier for me to go back and check something cause I remember the title over the number. I think it's a good way to have a little fun with it and readers sometimes enjoy it.


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim Bowering (arjaybe) | 86 comments It looks like a consensus is building. I used chapter titles in my first three novels, but not in the fourth one. I think I'll go back to them in this fifth one.


message 12: by Dan (last edited Sep 05, 2019 02:49PM) (new)

Dan Burley (danburleyauthor) | 112 comments I've put chapter titles in every book I've released (which are part of a mystery series), and I use them as either clues as to what might happen in the chapter or to lead reader perception a certain way (like as a misdirect).

That said, if it didn't fit the work, I'd just use numbers.

TLDR; You do you.


message 13: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 694 comments Mod
Justin wrote: "I like giving my chapters titles. One, as I write it helps me remember what the plot will be about, it's easier for me to go back and check something cause I remember the title over the number."

Yep, it works great as navigation during edits.


message 14: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 843 comments As Dwayne said, this is a style thing where you get to decide what you want to do. On some book, I like titles, others just chapter numbers. On one, I have bits of poetry/song lyrics (all public domain or composed by me). The nice thing about being an Indie, you can experiment about what you feel is best for that book.


message 15: by Dylan (new)

Dylan Callens | 193 comments I like using chapter titles, especially for ebooks, because they look better when you link the TOC to the chapter. And I enjoy coming up with something unique for the titles. (Though I am struggling with that in my WIP.)


message 16: by Phillip (new)

Phillip Murrell | 367 comments I tried chapter titles once, but removed them. I don't enjoy trying to think up different ones for each chapter, so why punish myself? I'm agnostic to whether authors use them or not.


message 17: by Kat (new)

Kat (katwiththehat) | 3 comments I guess I can go either way. I don't have a problem with titled chapters in principle, except I think it can be pretty tricky to think up titles that don't give away a chapter's contents at all, and as a reader, I don't like being spoiled.


message 18: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments I've used chapter titles, and not used chapter titles. It really depends on the book's tone. Don't force it is all I'd suggest. If the titles come to you easily, or if you think they enhance something, then use them. Otherwise? Don't. Ain't no thang.


message 19: by Micah (last edited Sep 09, 2019 08:45AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Kat wrote: "I guess I can go either way. I don't have a problem with titled chapters in principle, except I think it can be pretty tricky to think up titles that don't give away a chapter's contents at all, an..."

Spoiler titles are a sign of weak writing, IMHO. The best ones are titles that relate to something in the chapter, but in a clever twisty way. Like you read the title and you're expecting one thing, then have it twisted into something else. Or where you read the title and think, "What's that all about?" And then there's a kind of reveal and you go "Oh, I get it. Nice."


message 20: by Tom (new)

Tom Bradley | 1 comments I follow a standard format for chapter titles by both numbering and titling them, as in

Chapter One: The Way People Live
Chapter Two: The Creativity Agent

I usually pull the title from a line in the chapter.


message 21: by Xanxa (last edited Sep 10, 2019 08:41AM) (new)

Xanxa | 39 comments I love chapter titles. I like to think up what I hope are witty ones that don't give too much away. Here are some of my favourite examples (not in any particular order and from different novels):

Mothers and Murderers
Locks, Logic and Love
The Confession of Ghenlys Probyt
The Price of Friendship
The Making of a Madman

They give hints but not total spoilers. I like to think of them as more of a tease than a true spoiler. You can't tell from these who gets murdered, how locks and logic go with love, what is being confessed, what the cost of friendship might be or what exactly goes into creating a madman.


message 22: by Milly Jane (new)

Milly Jane Maven | 18 comments I like chapter titles that give a hint of the tone of the chapter.


message 23: by Leah (new)

Leah Reise | 350 comments I like chapter titles too. I’m using them in my current series.


message 24: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
John Irving just posted the following on Facebook:

Dear Readers,

I’ve just titled the 37th chapter of my novel-in-progress, Darkness as a Bride. I love titling my chapters — if you look at my past novels, you’ll see I’ve always done it. My predilection for chapter titles is yet another influence of those 19th century novels I love. Moby-Dick has 135 chapters, all of them titled. Chapter titles are not just a writerly quirk.

A novel develops in units; chapters, to me, are like mini-novels, with their own architecture. When you put a name to each unit of the story, the reader can recall the most salient aspects of each section. I hope something of each chapter’s architecture is suggested in its title, and the architecture of the novel as a whole becomes more tangible with the accumulation of chapter titles.

Among my favorites in the 37 chapters I now have:
"Smallness as a Burden"
"The Snowshoer Kiss"
"What the Stone Sparrows Saw"
"I Saw Me in Your Eyes"
"My Second Most Unmarriageable Girlfriend"
"Where Have the Bananas Gone?"
And, because I’m writing a ghost story, "Melancholic Enough."

These titles say something about my main character, Adam, and parts of the narrative can be gleaned from them. A reader might think of them as signposts along the journey.

Each time I write a novel, I try to have one chapter title that contains a semicolon. I like this title from Darkness because I managed to sneak in two semicolons: "A Little Behind Girls Her Age, Socially; Definitely Ahead of; Definitely Behind." Well, my thing for semicolons may be just another influence of those 19th century novels I love. It’s certainly more than a quirk!

— John



message 25: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 843 comments I'm 50/50 on chapter titles. Some books have them, others don't. Like Irving, I'm a fan of the classics where they used titles for each chapter. Today, with the easily distracted younger people, I'm not so sure it's a good idea, so I pick and choose the books where I put in titles based on the group I believe will enjoy it most. As for semicolons, I avoid them like Bush did Broccoli.


message 26: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
You make a good point, B.A. But, you've read enough of my work to know that I don't write for the easily distracted. I have always liked chapter titles and I enjoy using them.


message 27: by T.E. (new)

T.E. Stouyer | 10 comments Milly Jane wrote: "I like chapter titles that give a hint of the tone of the chapter."

I also prefer to add chapter titles, and I'm of the same opinion as Milly Jane.


message 28: by W. (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments Jim wrote: "When I'm writing a novel I give the chapters titles, but when I publish it I'm not sure whether to leave them in. Which do you prefer?"

I have lots of chaps, sub chap, sub sub chaps, etc as I write, putting up a rough word count for each section.
When I get ready to publish this gets severely pruned to keep the chapters within some reasonable length and renamed for dramatic reasons. My second novel the chapters were a hand of poker, the third was a climbing expedition, the fourth was the wizard of Oz.


message 29: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 779 comments I also use them as a way to give the reader something to look forward to. By giving a chapter a creative and catchy title they likely think "hmm this chapters gonna be good!"


message 30: by Edward (last edited Dec 17, 2019 06:26AM) (new)

Edward Bowman | 30 comments Interesting discussion. As a poet, there are a few different directions to go in for me.

In a large poem that is basically all one poem in a couple hundred pages, I would use Cantos, which are basically chapters in a poem, with each Canto containing a story arc, or topic. For instance, The Faerie Queen is one big poem, but contains 7 books. Each book is about a single human virtue.

In an anthology of poetry, I generally try to group the poems by a unifying theme, which I name. This way the reader knows the general topic of the poems in that section. A good example is The Modern Muse, which contains 7 divisions.

I think that if I were to publish I novel, I might well name the chapters. The other option would be to write novels short enough that they can be more easily consumed. I suppose that the larger point there is knowing your audience. If you are writing for an easily distracted audience, then the shorter and simpler you can make each consumable morsel the better. If you are writing for those that can make it through The Faerie Queen, you can make your consumable morsels a LOT bigger.


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim Bowering (arjaybe) | 86 comments Edward wrote: "Interesting discussion. As a poet, there are a few different directions to go in for me."

Interesting perspective. Thanks, Edward.


message 32: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Jeanmougin | 29 comments Thinking of titles for the chapters is part of the fun for me as a writer so I leave them in.

As a reader, it doesn't bother me when a book doesn't title it's chapters BUT usually I prefer if it does. If I want to go back to a part, the title usually helps me find the part I'm looking for, so I think it makes it a little easier to navigate.


message 33: by Lila (new)

Lila Diller E.M. said: As a reader, it doesn't bother me when a book doesn't title it's chapters BUT usually I prefer if it does.

I agree. I read a lot of lighthearted romance, and they rarely title their chapters. But some of them will put a quote at the beginning of each chapter, and that's cool. Except that then I'm trying to figure out how the quote summarized or tied in with the chapter's theme, and that usually pulls me out of the story.

I think it may have to do with genre. In my Biblical fiction, I'm titling each chapter just one word with a definite article: "The Commission," "The Betrayal," etc., to keep me on track more than anything else. If my editor or perhaps a future agent ask me to remove them, I won't be terribly upset like I would have if I had put a lot of thought into a quote or something. But if I self-publish, I will likely leave them in there.


message 34: by C.M. (new)

C.M. Rosens | 3 comments For me, it depends on whether the titles make it easier to navigate or give clues about the content of the chapters or reference stuff. I use titles for mine, but that's because I want to link timelines with other stories, so there's a title and a date so the reader knows what's going on at what point in the story's timeline.

I think it depends, though - numbering chapters is fine for navigation, and for other genres, scene breaks using white space and no headings and no chapters at all is also fine. That's what bookmarks are for! :p


message 35: by W. (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments It depends, I think, on how important the chapter structure is to you. I have a lot of moving parts for my books and if I just numbered them people would be numbed into inattention. Instead there has always been an over-arching structure. The first was a hand of poker (ante, shuffle, cut, bet, show, pay-out), the next was a mountain climb, (low camp, high camp, assault, crux, fall, retreat) the third a storm (hurricaine weather, high attitude winds, etc). Each over-arching chapter has some expicatory heading and each section one to three scenes, which are indicated but not headed.


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