Chapter Titles

Bloggers note: Since I was so derelict in keeping up with my blog while Casey was here, I’m throwing in an extra blog in a poor attempt to make up for it. Whether or not you buy that poor excuse, I hope you enjoy it. Oh, sorry, no pictures. I’ll make up for that too in the next blog. Promise!

Why do authors (writers) not use chapter titles?

More often than not, when I open a book I find only Chapter 1, Chapter 2 …. Etc. in the Table of Contents. Worse yet, many times I don’t even find a Table of Contents or, it’s stuffed way in the back of the book, still without titles.

When I decided to write my first book, one of the first rules I remember reading as I researched things authors should do was: “Use anything and everything you can to pull your readers in and hold their interest”. Or, words to that effect.

At the top of the list were covers, followed closely by your’ books description. Then came a raft of other things and, to be honest, I’m not sure if table of contents and chapter titles were in there or not.

But, shouldn’t they be? After the cover and book description, aren’t they one of the first things a reader sees? Or should?

So, why not use them?

Why not make them catchy? Have them jump out, catch the readers eye and try to make them want to get to that chapter? To make them want to know what’s going on in “What Happens in the Stable, Stays in the Stable”. I mean, what could possibly happen in a stable that you couldn’t talk about? (You’ll just have to read Horses of Tir Na Nog Book 1 to find out. Oh, and no skipping to Chapter 33, either!)

For me, coming up with intriguing chapter titles is almost as much fun as writing the chapter. It makes me go back through each chapter trying to find something catchy. Something that will jump out, catch the readers eye.

Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes I pick something that doesn’t work and I have to go back and end up spending as much time hunting for a title as I did writing the chapter. Sometimes there’s just nothing there.

When either of the latter two happen, it sends a giant red flag up. Is my chapter that bad? If there’s nothing I can find to catch the readers attention what’s going to make them read that chapter? Come on, there’s got to be at least one line in there I can use. If, on the second pass, I still can’t find anything … that chapter needs to be rewritten!

The opposite works for me too. I can’t tell you how many times, while hunting for a candidate chapter title, I come across ideas to tie that chapter to the next or the next or the next. I’ve even changed the ending in one of my books because a chapter title line gave me a better idea for the ending then the one I’d put in my outline.

More often though, a title leads to enhancement of a subplot, or even a new subplot. Sometimes, even a new chapter, new characters and in two cases, new books in the series and their titles.

There’s two messages here.

In case you missed it, the message here is that not only do chapter titles make my readers think, they make me think too.

Some of the chapter titles I’ve come up with that I love (Nope, no ego here!) are:

  • My Soul is Yours
  • Fireman, Fireman, Light my Fire
  • If You Ever Want to See Your Mother Again (No, I don’t write mysteries.)
  • Your Problem is What?
  • Weasel Weenie and Turkey Butt
  • The President’s Training Wheels are Missing?
  • Eighteen Pashmina Scarves and One Assassin
  • You Live in a Fairy Tale Medieval Village and Work in a Chocolate Shop?
  • Roger … Three Down. Two OD’s and a … Scrotum Sling?
  • Dreams, Fantasies and Nightmares are no Match for Reality.
  • A Horse is a Horse. Right?
  • What do You Mean Your Hose is Bigger than Mine?
  • A Guide to the Witness Protection Program. Keep Moving!
  • Europe, Chia Pets and Ice Cream Sunday Socials.
  • Life in the Petri Dish
  • About the Author

Yes, these are from all four of my published books. With some thought, think you can figure out what those chapters are about? I hope so. Or, I hope they totally stump you and make you want to know. Especially, that last one!

 

Whether or not you use chapter titles is up to you. For me though, I would no more publish a book without them then I would a book without a cover.

***

What’s your opinion? Chapter titles or no chapter titles? And why?

4 thoughts on “Chapter Titles

  1. A very thought-provoking post. I’ve never been a great fan of chapter titles and I’m not sure why. Maybe because by the time I’ve finished the first page of a new chapter I’ve already forgotten what the chapter was called. But you’re right, a chapter title should entice you to want to read the chapter and have some sense of mystery to it. You put up some good reasons for having chapter titles and next time a read a book with them a will pay better attention to what the message the author is trying to impart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciate this post Bob. I see chapter titles as a sort of ‘this way in’ type of signal for the reader – something to intrigue and encourage the reader to sally forth ::)
    Sandra

    Like

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