Monday, August 17, 2009

Chapter Titles?

I have to ask, what do you think of chapter titles? As a reader? As a writer?
As a reader I like them, though I don’t always pay much attention. Recently I’ve notice that the vast majority of books I read don’t have chapter titles. 1, 2, 3…seems to be enough. As a writer, though, I do have fun with them.
Because one plotline in my book is about the possibility of miracles and angels I decided to have all of my titles be plays on religious or Biblical terms. It was easy and fun when I started out, but I must say I didn’t think about how hard it would be for some chapters. :)
Revelation was an obvious one to use (mysteries always have a “revelation” chapter anyway). My personal favorite is “To Die Is Gain” because it’s just such a fun play on what happens in the chapter, though my editor didn’t seem to get it. :P
Then there were some that I had to rely on more obscure terms with a religious history, like “The Inquisition.” I’m not sure everyone will get ones like “Wrestling The Angel”(reference to the story of Jacob and the Angel of the Lord). It just fit so well.
There were chapters that went untitled up until the last minute because I couldn’t think of anything good. I’m not exactly satisfied with them, but I am happy that they are titled. :P
The funny thing is I’ve actually had people tell me how much they liked the chapter titles. I never expected that. It really just started as a fun little project and ended up making the book feel more complete for me.
But what do you think?

3 comments:

Elisa said...

I'd have to say, it all depends on a particular book or author, whether or not I'm inclined to pay more or less attention to the titles as a reader. In your case the way you describe it, I'd love how you sort of play with the words to underline the meaning of a chapter. But I'm sure it isn't always easy to decide for the right quote and it is a big effort in itself if you want it to be The right fit.

One of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, used 'The book of counted sorrows' as verses/quotes to some chapters, or a particular book itself. As far as I know 'The book of counted sorrows' originally didn't exist, he just sort of wrote it as he went along. But he later issued the book itself out of the collection for his readers became increasingly curious about it all. I found and find that an extremely interesting aspect and great idea :)

Sarah Scheele said...

I love chapter titles. A book seems sort of dead to me without one. The idea of playing on words is a really good one. (It was so funny people sometimes didn't seem to 'get it' :P)I guess the key is to make titles a sort of punchy summary for what's going forward in the chapter.

I don't play on words much, but I have used chapter titles that sort of comically understate what is happening. For instance in one story the protagonists have to borrow something from a guy without his permission. When he finds out he is really mad. So I called that chapter 'Hector is More Helpful Than Planned.' :D

I'm glad to hear your book has chapter titles. They add a special dimension.

Jules said...

As a read I love chapter titles but as an author I hate them. I have enough trouble coming up with a title for the book let alone for twenty chapters as well. I like your idea of using Biblical titles.