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Chapter Titles or Not?

Crumbly Writer

Just curious. How many authors use chapter titles, and how many just name them "Chapter 1", "Chapter 2".

For those that do, do readers find them an help or a hindrance (i.e. do they often contain spoilers), or do you simply never glance at them?

I may have asked this before, but I'm debating whether to include them or not in a future story (normally I do).

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Generally, I used a chapter title that says something about the chapter's contents, but not everything, I hope. However, there have been times when I also used chapter numbers, because I felt it was needed in that situation, or it was a carry over from the author I was working with.

edit to add: The reason I use titles is I find it easier to remember the title of where I'm up to than the chapter number, and many people I've spoken with say the same thing.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Generally, I used a chapter title that says something about the chapter's contents, but not everything, I hope.

I'll admit, one reason I name chapters is simply because it's one of the few times I can inject a little humor into the story with either puns or understatements. Not sure how everyone interprets those, as few ever respond to chapter titles.

Slutsinger

Teo me, chapter titles are an avenue to tell a meta story; to frame the chapters and (although not so much on SOL) through the TOC, frame the work as a whole. When that seemed valuable, I've used chapter titles. When such framing didn't fall into place or didn't seem valuable, I did not. As an author I'm fairly new.
As a reader, I do notice chapter titles. Some works seem to use them effectively. It's not that I'm looking for spoilers, but I'll consider the author's suggestion on how to fit it into the overall structure. I can think of many works where the chapter titles didn't seem to add much, but none where they really detracted enough that I still remember.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I'm the vanilla "Chapter 1," "Chapter 2," guy.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I'm the vanilla "Chapter 1," "Chapter 2," guy.

To make room for longer titles (and hopefully fit them on a single line), I've done away with the "Chapter" altogether, using "01: The Introduction" (Note I lead with a zero so the chapters line up properly in a Table of Contents.)

While debating whether to name the chapters in my newest story, I'm considering featuring a circular graphic with nothing but the chapter numeric, just for a change of pace (though that won't work on SOL, obviously).

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Just curious. How many authors use chapter titles, and how many just name them "Chapter 1", "Chapter 2".


I use them on SOL but am moving to numbers only for published works outside of Lulu. If it matters, the trend in contemporary fiction (which I can state with authority since I've randomly pulled fiction volumes off our bookshelves at home to check) is to use numbers only.

EDIT: I use them on SOL out of habit and because seeing an index page with chapter numbers only seems pretty useless to me. Why click on Chapter 12, for example? If you're going to have an index page with chapters, it looks more finished to have chapter titles as well.

bb

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Not_a_ID
Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

is to use numbers only.


I strongly suspect that's because too many modern authors aren't prepared to put in the effort to come up with a chapter title, mind you the trend to use numbers only has been around for a long time, and may harp back to old printing costs.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

(i.e. do they often contain spoilers),


A chapter title can also be used to mislead the reader, and provide a surprise in later chapters.

I titled a chapter 'Goodbye Senator Belton' in Part 1 of a story. The MC laid a trap for the Senator and it is sprung, my readers think that is the end of the Senator in the story. Not so! Intended him to be a long-term foe, so in the next part of the story he returns with a personal vendetta against the MC.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

A chapter title can also be used to mislead the reader, and provide a surprise in later chapters.

I titled a chapter 'Goodbye Senator Belton' in Part 1 of a story. The MC laid a trap for the Senator and it is sprung, my readers think that is the end of the Senator in the story. Not so! Intended him to be a long-term foe, so in the next part of the story he returns with a personal vendetta against the MC.

I had a similar scene (*** Spoiler ***) where I titled a chapter "Fatal Encounter" to set the scene up, only it wasn't quite so fatal, the chapter ends with the main character seemingly dead, but he's hospitalized in the next chapter. I'd wanted something that captured the sense that something major was happening, deciding the course of the story (in the ongoing conflict) once and for all. It changed it, but it wasn't as final as I implied (the story continues for another 5 or 6 chapters, which anyone reading the TOC would know).

Replies:   REP
REP

@Crumbly Writer

(the story continues for another 5 or 6 chapters, which anyone reading the TOC would know).


That might be a good argument for not providing a TOC.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

That might be a good argument for not providing a TOC.

Not really. With a large cast, readers wouldn't know if one of the main characters died or not, as the story could conceivably continue without the one figure. Plus, "fatal confrontation" could imply anyone. Or, conversely, the "fatal" might apply to either the hero's or villains plans. The phrase is generic enough, it's open to many interpretations.

Though your point gets back to my initial question: might it not be better eliminating chapter titles altogether (at which point to TOC which says only

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

is pretty pointless.

Just a quick question, though. For all those 'older books' without chapter titles, is it possible the stories were taken from magazines or magazine serials (a chapter a month), where titles might not have been required or overly helpful?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Just a quick question, though. For all those 'older books' without chapter titles, is it possible the stories were taken from magazines or magazine serials (a chapter a month), where titles might not have been required or overly helpful?


Although some, like Dickens, wrote serials that are now novels, I don't think that was the norm.

And I would think a chapter title would be appropriate for a magazine since they title short stories.

Not_a_ID

@Bondi Beach

If it matters, the trend in contemporary fiction (which I can state with authority since I've randomly pulled fiction volumes off our bookshelves at home to check) is to use numbers only.


Ok, I can attest to that. Kind of.

J.K. Rowling did chapter # and named chapters in Harry Potter.

Veronica Roth (Divergent) only did chapter numbers.

Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) did numbered chapters, but also had the chapters themselves in named groupings.

So it certainly seems U.S. Publishers at least will skip chapter names for every chapter. (Sample size 2) Although if it were me, I'd probably do what Suzanne Collins did and do named "arcs" instead.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Not_a_ID

So it certainly seems U.S. Publishers at least will skip chapter names for every chapter. (Sample size 2) Although if it were me, I'd probably do what Suzanne Collins did and do named "arcs" instead.


Hmm. So I did a further randomized sample, albeit from a single bookshelf.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr, chapter titles
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson, chapter titles
The Sinister Pig, Tony Hillerman, numbered chapters

So much for the trend. None of the three had a table of contents, however.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

So much for the trend. None of the three had a table of contents, however.

I agree about the TOC. If you only have numbered chapters, then there's not much use to having a table of contents, though often, with ebooks, the TOC is actually a way to link to the individual chapters (in case you lose your place, or your ereader doesn't save 'the last read page').

richardshagrin

Depending on how much creativity you have to spend, naming chapters can be a fun game. On the other hand, this reader prefers more of the story so expend that creativity in writing more chapters. I suppose at editing time, when no more story is going to be produced, it is ok to play around and spend time and effort on devising clever or not so clever titles for chapters. It might affect how many lines the chapter titles take in a printed book. A book with twelve chapters could take only four or three lines if three or four chapters are grouped on a single line. Not an issue on SOL but if readers are paying per page they might appreciate having to pay less. I notice it on Smashwords where I get a sample of 10% of the story and the first couple of pages of the sample are the chapter listings.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@richardshagrin

I notice it on Smashwords where I get a sample of 10% of the story and the first couple of pages of the sample are the chapter listings.


Doesn't Smashwords let the author decide what pages are shown in the sample? Lulu does. For eBooks on Lulu, the author prepares a separate document for the preview.

For a printed book, if the author takes the Lulu default the "preview" is likely to be half-titles, copyright, "Also by," and other stuff rather than text, but it's easy to set up a preview that has as much or as little as the author desires.

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Doesn't Smashwords let the author decide what pages are shown in the sample? Lulu does. For eBooks on Lulu, the author prepares a separate document for the preview.

No. On smashwords, it's an automated process (as opposed to lulu, where if an author doesn't remember no preview is available). However, SW authors get to select how much of the book appears in a preview. The default is 15% of the book. For a 20 chapter book, that would roughly be three chapters. I typically always offered 20%, but generally aim for 3 chapters in any event. That said, I also typically include the copyright, acknowledgments and "Also by" pages (thought I tend to shove the "Also by" at the end of the book, but at the start of the TOC so it won't show up in an automated TOC).

samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

I have used (what I thought were clever) chapter titles in my books, but on the whole, I prefer chapter numbers. The titles are either (possibly subtle) spoilers, or red herrings. As a reader, I prefer to discover the plot as it unfolds, not in clever bits of foreshadowing.

The chapter numbers *are* useful for navigation, especially in longer (e-)books.

Strangely, I don't mind book titles when books are actually large parts of a novel (what some on this thread refer to as "arcs").

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@samuelmichaels

Strangely, I don't mind book titles when books are actually large parts of a novel (what some on this thread refer to as "arcs").

Do you mean "arcs" or "Series"? Series include multiple books, while book sections include multiple chapters. Technically, there's no such thing as a book "arc" (40 cubit by 40 cubit wooden structures within a book?). However, book sections shouldn't be confused with sections of a chapter (broken by section breaks). The terminology gets a little confusing sometimes.

Replies:   Not_a_ID  samuelmichaels
Not_a_ID

@Crumbly Writer

I referred to it as a "arc" as I was going with the allusion to a "story arch." Which is basically another (story) that exists as part of a larger structure. In this case, Roman Aquaducts come to mind, which often contain a series of arches, which likewise have an "arc" as part of their form.

Crumbly Writer

@Not_a_ID

I referred to it as a "arc" as I was going with the allusion to a "story arch." Which is basically another (story) that exists as part of a larger structure. In this case, Roman Aquaducts come to mind, which often contain a series of arches, which likewise have an "arc" as part of their form.

Story arcs are valid, but I was objecting to SamuelMichaels, in repeating your term, applying it to physical book formats to represent "groups of chapters within a book". One (story arcs) are story based and the other (named story arcs) are physical book based. That was my only objection, that we were inventing new names instead of using the 'proper' terms for things.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

story arcs


I've always been under the impression is a story arc is what you get when you have a bunch stories about different people that aren't a direct series but relate to the same overall long story plot but have individual plots. The Clan Amir stories are a story arc in the long plot in it follows the events affecting the royal family of a country and the country with four different main characters who each have their own stories within the full story line up.

REP

I haven't encountered the term story arc before. When I Goggled it, I found it defined as:

The chronological construction of a plot in a novel or story that is typically, made up of the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

I haven't encountered the term story arc before. When I Goggled it, I found it defined as:

The chronological construction of a plot in a novel or story that is typically, made up of the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

That isn't precisely what I was thinking, but it makes sense. Most stories start relatively slow as they establish characters, the basic premise and future events, it then pics up steam as tensions mount and the problems unfold leading to direct actions and slow down during the final resolution and aftermath. Viewed as a gradual arc, like a bell curve, it makes sense.

Ernest, your idea (of a common theme between different books) is the definition of a series rather than an arc. It's a common plot line, not even a central theme shared between different books, though the different books all take a different approach to the basic storyline. Thus a story arc is less the lineage of 4 separate storylines as it's the overall arc of the story being told: build-up, development, action and final let down/wrap up.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Ernest, your idea (of a common theme between different books) is the definition of a series rather than an arc.


I've always seen a series as being a bunch of stories about the same central character or group acting together. While a story arc will have a bunch of individuals that feed into the same story line.

I must admit the first time I'd heard talk of a story arc was some people discussing the Sailor Moon series and how the different characters all feed into the story arc. I later looked into how the term was used in many sets of stories that weren't exactly a series, as such. Although many people would call it a series just because it has a single connecting link.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Not_a_ID
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I've always seen a series as being a bunch of stories about the same central character or group acting together. While a story arc will have a bunch of individuals that feed into the same story line.

I must admit the first time I'd heard talk of a story arc was some people discussing the Sailor Moon series and how the different characters all feed into the story arc.

That would describe the hundreds of Star Wars books. They can't properly be called a Universe, but they're all tied together and regulated by a central clearing agent (though I don't know who that is any longer).

I discussed setting up a Great Death universe when another writer expressed interest in writing a story in the same universe in Australia. That would be the same universe, different characters and different continent.

Still, I prefer REP's definition of a story arc, as it's more description of a story creation/writing process, rather than describing specific stories. I guess there are universes and non-specified universe, who chose to ignore the title as they work with the various authors.

samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

Do you mean "arcs" or "Series"? Series include multiple books, while book sections include multiple chapters. Technically, there's no such thing as a book "arc" (40 cubit by 40 cubit wooden structures within a book?). However, book sections shouldn't be confused with sections of a chapter (broken by section breaks). The terminology gets a little confusing sometimes.

To be clear, I mentioned "arc" because another poster used it to refer to what I would call a book. Not a physical book, but a series of chapters that comprise a subdivision of a typically long novel:

In novels and sometimes other types of books (for example, biographies), a book may be divided into several large sections, also called books (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and so on).

-- from Wikipedia.

See, for instance, Arlene and Jeff by RoustWriter.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


I must admit the first time I'd heard talk of a story arc was some people discussing the Sailor Moon series and how the different characters all feed into the story arc. I later looked into how the term was used in many sets of stories that weren't exactly a series, as such. Although many people would call it a series just because it has a single connecting link.


Episodic T.V. is where the term sees the most heavy use.

Outside of Soap Operas, the first major experience a United States audience would of had with one was Babylon 5, with Deep Space 9 following in hot pursuit. Which is where what Ernest is wanting comes close. As B5 was deliberately trying to tell a story "in a European manner" as it was considered then, other international markets obviously saw such things earlier. (Prevailing view prior to that in U.S. Broadcast TV was that episodic TV needed to be fully self-contained(aside from specials), so that programming could be watched in nearly any sequence(at least by Season) and still make sense.)

But it does pretty much make a "story arc" one where a series of mostly independent, self-contained stories(t.v. episodes) come together to form another larger (meta) story.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Dominions Son

@Not_a_ID

(Prevailing view prior to that in U.S. Broadcast TV was that episodic TV needed to be fully self-contained(aside from specials), so that programming could be watched in nearly any sequence(at least by Season) and still make sense.


That was to maximize the syndication opportunities for re-runs.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@Dominions Son

Indeed it was. Thankfully, that model was mostly dead by the end of the decade, even if B5 itself struggled due to other reasons.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

I thought "arc" was used as in the path of an arrow—rising then falling and coming to a conclusion. You could stretch it I guess to the arches in an aqueduct.

A contemporary example, in TV rather than a written work, is a series like "Homeland." The story arc is Carrie Matheson's search for the "truth." And there are lesser arcs as well, some of which extend over multiple episodes. But together they make a longer story, a story arc.

Another example is "Game of Thrones." Arc after arc, little arcs, medium arcs, and finally the biggie—who's going to sit on the throne and beat the White walkers?

bb

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

who's going to sit on the throne and beat the White walkers?


How do you know that the whit walkers don't win?

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

How do you know that the whit walkers don't win?

"Whit Walkers"? "Those who walk on whit"? Sounds like a pretty boring bunch of accountants!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

"Whit Walkers"? "Those who walk on whit"? Sounds like a pretty boring bunch of accountants!


:-P

REP

@Not_a_ID

But it does pretty much make a "story arc" one where a series of mostly independent, self-contained stories(t.v. episodes) come together to form another larger (meta) story.


I have to disagree.

Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 series both have a theme. There are multiple stories within the theme and there is a chronological sequence to the stories in that each story builds on prior stories.

However, neither series has a plot that builds to a climax and ends with resolution. The individual stories would qualify as a story arcs, but not the series.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Crumbly Writer

Rather, "Those who walk on whit, while saying 'Ni[t]!'" (obscure Monty Python reference)

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@REP

B5 was supposedly written to play out over 5 years with a fairly detailed outline of events, both running into the distant past and future as well as the five year run itself. Before any film was shot.

The "complicating factor" for B5 was they were virtually certain there was going to be no season 5 part way through S4. Which caused them to compress season 4 and pack in "the essentials" from the aborted(planed) season 5, so they could tie up the major story lines.

Which meant that when TNT rescued them at the last minute, they had a new problem for season 5, most of its story had already been told.

Seasons 1 and 5 both had a number of (mostly) fluff episodes that don't matter much in the larger picture. But seasons 2, 3 and 4 are basically a nearly continuous story in their own right. With a series of episodic events being shown.

DS9 still showed its lineage as part of Star Trek and had a lot of fluff in every season as it stuck to the traditional model, some entire seasons were mostly fluff. But once the Federation went to war, you'd get storylines which could take the better part of a season to play out.

Of course to their credit the Odo/Founders/Changeling storyline arguably took just about the entire 7 years to play out, but that only really becomes a focal point during the Dominion Wars. Sisko and the Wormhole Aliens is another, but that one was even more of a side-show.

The other matter is I doubt the DS9 writers had anything more than a very vague outline for what was going to happen up until just before they decided on a particular multi-episode storyline to pursue. So theirs was a little more organic in nature, but that brought its own issues.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Not_a_ID

I watched both series but wasn't a regular from the start. I saw the themes but never any plot. After a season or two, I dropped both series. Neither seemed to be going anywhere and I lost interest.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Dominions Son


How do you know that the whit walkers don't win?


This is Amurrica, that's why.

Better reason: "Bad guys win" sucks as a storyline. "Good guys die" can certainly work, however, and "Thrones" pretty much kicked off the whole story that way.

bb

Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

Better reason: "Bad guys win" sucks as a storyline.


There are more than a few horror movies that end that way, and they still seem to be popular.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

The problem as I see it, the way Game of Thrones is structured, the most plausible outcome is that by the time a winner emerges, all the factions will have been so weakened by the in fighting to determine the winner that even all the factions combined won't have the strength left to beat the white walkers.

It's inherently a doom scenario and the only way out will be to introduce a dues ex machina after someone takes the throne.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Dominions Son

It's inherently a doom scenario and the only way out will be to introduce a dues ex machina after someone takes the throne.


I think you're right about the key conflict, and there certainly will be episodes or even mini-arcs (horrors!) where the outcome, i.e., whether the humans will prevail, is uncertain, probably *because* of too much bloodletting. I think humans will win because, well, because ...

They already have a gimmick or two not yet fully developed: one is the Wall itself, which we are told has magic built into it that will not permit the Walkers to pass, although some kind of end run is probable. Second, they've got Jon Snow's Uncle Benjamin, who isn't quite a walker but is no longer human, and I'll be they've got others like him.

Actually, there's a third: there's magic on the human side—Melisandre.

bb

Replies:   Dominions Son
Bondi Beach

@Dominions Son

There are more than a few horror movies that end that way, and they still seem to be popular.


Right. John Carpenter's "The Thing," "28 Weeks Later," "Screamers," to name three of them. All downers. How many do you want to see a second time? Full disclosure: I've watched "28 Weeks" twice, didn't like it any better the second time.

bb

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

ll downers. How many do you want to see a second time?


I never wanted to see any of them in the first place. However, you can't deny that there is in fact a market for movies like that.

Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

I think you're right about the key conflict, and there certainly will be episodes or even mini-arcs (horrors!) where the outcome, i.e., whether the humans will prevail, is uncertain, probably *because* of too much bloodletting. I think humans will win because, well, because ...


The core problem I see it is that no one, is trying to solve the main issue of who sits on the throne from a peaceful/diplomatic angle that settles the issue without further weakening the remaining human forces.

Even with everything else you mentioned, I don't see any remotely plausible human victory short of something on the order of divine intervention.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Dominions Son

Even with everything else you mentioned, I don't see any remotely plausible human victory short of something on the order of divine intervention.


Do dragons count as divine intervention? I forgot to mention them.

OTOH Daenerys doesn't seem to be much for diplomacy, does she?

bb

Replies:   Dominions Son  Not_a_ID
Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

Do dragons count as divine intervention? I forgot to mention them.


What makes you assume that dragons could stop the white walkers? What makes you think they would want to?

Daenareys controls what, one or two dragons? What makes you think one or two would be enough to stop all of the white walkers?

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Dominions Son


What makes you assume that dragons could stop the white walkers? What makes you think they would want to?

Daenareys controls what, one or two dragons? What makes you think one or two would be enough to stop all of the white walkers?


I think you need to study the sacred texts again. Fire stops the Walkers. So does "dragonglass" AKA obsidian (apparently).

Daenerys has three dragons. She's shown more than once she can tell them (or at least the big guy) to do something and he does it.

As for the others, I consulted their union rep who said in exchange for an increase in the mutton ration they'd be all in. Daenerys probably will agree, because the alternative is more babies munched up.

Are three enough to stop the Walkers? Depending on the show's CGI budget, I'd say yes. We don't know whether the Walkers respond to each other, i.e., would the rest turn tail and run, but there's some reason they haven't marched before, so I don't think we know exactly why they're marching now or what it will take to turn them back.

Alliance with the Children of the Forest, of course. The Walkers are their creation, a creation that got out of hand. (That's HBO talking; I can't remember that Martin ever said that.)

I'm sorry, but no matter how artfully done, an artistic creation that results in the destruction of the human race is not going to fly, as it were.

Another downer: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," even if it was allegory.

bb

docholladay

I think it might be like many other things involved in story telling. It depends on the individual story and writer. For some a chapter title works nicely. For others its useless. At least that is my opinion as a reader.

The only suggestion I can make is for those who wait until a story is complete before posting it. Then decide which method will fit the story and the writer.

Not_a_ID

@Bondi Beach

Do dragons count as divine intervention? I forgot to mention them.

OTOH Daenerys doesn't seem to be much for diplomacy, does she?


Probably this and the Children of the Forest. The "skin walkers" will likely bring them in. Haven't followed the HBO side, but wouldn't be surprised to learn that "the faceless ones" that Arya wound up with isn't an offshoot of the Children. That she is a (nascent) skin walker herself furthers that possibility.

But it will likely be Human agents of the Children teamed up with Daenerys that settles the issue. Where Mellisandre ends up in all this is a giant wildcard, given her fire affinity, ending up in league with the Dragons wouldn't be surprising.

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