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Numbering and Naming Chapters

richardshagrin
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Some stories go along just fine, with integers as chapter numbers. One, Two, Three, etc. Some even use real numbers, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. Why do some authors use chapter names like Chapter 3A or 2.5? Have they had a sudden inspiration and want to fit new information into the story in a "chapter" that goes between other chapters with whole numbers? Or did they drop chapter 3 and substitute an alternate, Chapter 3A?

On an almost unrelated topic (thread drift while the thread is new), there are some authors that kinda/sorta describe what the chapter is about. Like "Chapter 27, Off to University." Or "Chapter 69, Mutual Oral Sex." Why do they decide to do that and how do they think of the descriptions? Is it foreshadowing or just giving away the plot of the chapter?

One of the benefits of being an author is getting to make those decisions, I don't want to take any of their super-powers away with reviewer kryptonite, but are there explanations mere readers can learn to improve the awe we feel in the presence of greatness?

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

On an almost unrelated topic (thread drift while the thread is new), there are some authors that kinda/sorta describe what the chapter is about. Like "Chapter 27, Off to University." Or "Chapter 69, Mutual Oral Sex." Why do they decide to do that and how do they think of the descriptions? Is it foreshadowing or just giving away the plot of the chapter?


I use chapter names to make it easier to remember where you are in the story, the numbers are real easy to mix up. I select the name to give an idea of what the main aspect of the chapter is. That also helps me to focus on what should be in the chapter. It also means there are no issues when I use a sub-chapter as well.

Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

I use Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. so I can't help.

sejintenej

I'm reading one of Aroslav's stories today (and enjoying it): he uses chapter numbers and names but quite honestly I don't "see" the chapter names, only the numbers.
Views of other readers?

Replies:   madnige
madnige

@sejintenej

Same here, unless I deliberately read the chapter titles or my subconcious picks up an interesting word in my peripheral vision

El_Sol

The chapter 2a, 2b occurs for me when the outline has 1 chapter but the content becomes unwieldy as one chapter.

Why not just add chapters?

Because the chapter, no matter how long, stays as a single story movement.

I am slo different in this because I strictly define the number of chapters in stories; sometimes, I go so far as to decide before anything else that a story will only be X chapters long.

Chapter Title -- Generally, the the title describes the chapter movement. I use songs as story name and lyrics as the chapter title, the chapter title are me buying the reader a vowel.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@El_Sol

Because the chapter, no matter how long, stays as a single story movement.


Which is why I have chapters and sub-chapters.

Argon

@richardshagrin

One of the benefits of being an author is getting to make those decisions, I don't want to take any of their super-powers away with reviewer kryptonite, but are there explanations mere readers can learn to improve the awe we feel in the presence of greatness?

Richard,
back in the early days of SOL, posted chapters exceeding a certain length were chopped into appropriately sized sub-chapters, i.e. 15A and 15B. Those divisions were akin to what we have now when a chapter is divided into pages. I don't know if those old postings were ever changed to fit the new format, so that may be a reason for some of the A's and B's in old stories.
I used chapter titles in most of my stories. They were meant to set a theme for the chapter and serve to help readers find a chapter they may want to re-read.
In one case, Pelle the Collier, I used elaborate titles pre-telling the events in the chapter. This was to mimic the style of early novels - before 1800 - where it was customary to give such previews.
So far, nobody complained, but then again, there were preciously few super-villains among my readers.

Crumbly Writer

I gave up naming my chapters "Chapter XX". I think it was Switch who suggested it was redundant, as everyone already knows it's a chapter, and just using the chapter number leaves more room for the chapter title. I also use leading zeros just so the chapter indexes (in the Table of Contents) line up, so my first chapter will be "01: Introductions".

As for the chapter titles, I'll admit, I like to get clever, sometimes poking fun at the direction the story takes. I try not to include story spoilers, but I've been accused of that in the past. Instead, I prefer making a clever pun which is only apparently once the chapter is nearly finished. It's more of an art than science, and I'm not sure how successful I am. However, on my website I have story index pages and the chapter titles help there, where they wouldn't reading the story a chapter at a time.

As far as partial chapter numbers (Chapter 23.35a), I'm against those. Readers want to see a completed story, not a work in progress. If a chapter multiples into two, then add the full damn chapter. I did that once, where the entire chapter incorporated one even, and I named it "Chapter Name (Part I)" and "(Part II)". That seems much more straight forward than trying to fit them into a pre-existing story outline.

I'll admit, though, I read a book recently (I forget which) where the chapter header consisted only of a number and a small graphic in the upper left corner of the page. It was so simple and elegant (and would save substantial space in a longer story) that I fell in love with it. I may have to try it myself at some point.

Rohki Obyak

I've been naming my chapters by one past-tense verb to describe the main disaster at the end, but it kinda ends up becoming a theme for the whole chapter in some ways. It feels a bit spoiler-y to me, but it helps me locate specific plot points to reference.

Jefferson

I seem to switch back and forth. There have been times where I write a story and it gets nothing but "Chapter One", "Chapter Two"... Other times, I'll put a chapter title on it.

With me, it's a matter of inspiration. If I have an idea for a chapter title, I'll put it on the page when I'm writing. If I do it for the first chapter, I'll TRY and title all of the chapters. If I don't get that inspiration, I'll just go with Chapter One.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Why do they decide to do that and how do they think of the descriptions?


I already answered the main thrust of this earlier, but forgot to include an important point of using chapter names. Each chapter and sub-chapter is supposed to have a specific theme, when the theme changes it's a new chapter or sub-chapter. When planning the chapter I set out the theme for it, and then assign a name that states or implies an important aspect of that theme. However, between when I start the chapter and when I finish the chapter the actual name will frequently change because I fine tune how I want to define the theme for that chapter / sub-chapter.

A good example is the book I'm currently working on has a chapter titled: High-school Life with two sub-chapters titled Homecoming Dance and School Life Overall. Thus the chapter theme is defined and I have two sub-chapters defining specific aspects within that theme that requires a lot of expansion.

The names helps me to keep focussed on the theme of that chapter or sub-chapter.

Crumbly Writer

@Jefferson

With me, it's a matter of inspiration. If I have an idea for a chapter title, I'll put it on the page when I'm writing.

I generally name my chapters during the revision process, after the entire book's been written, rather than during the initial writing. That way, I know what a potential name might give away. It's easy to unintentionally give spoilers with names, but it's also great for setting expectations, so an occasional spoiler is a small price to pay.

Ernest, while your 'theme' idea for naming chapters makes sense, during the revision process, I sometimes decide to split a chapter because one segment will be outside the scope of the entire chapter. That's where naming gets more creative (and a bitch to implement). The same happens when a given chapter runs too long and you break it at an arbitrary point. You may not have a decent name at that point, in which case you revert to "Part I" and "Part II".

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