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September 16, 2014

Chapter Titles


Many people think chapter titles are just for juvenile books, but that’s not true. Chapter titles are great for fantasy, science-fiction, and historical novels. If you want to use chapter titles in your book, you very well can! Remember: It’s your book; you can do what you want!

For the first and second books in my (unpublished) supernatural-thriller series, I came up with one-word chapter titles by reviewing what happened in each chapter and thinking of an adjective to match it. Although adjectives are descriptive, words like icy, magical, and chaotic (actual titles from my books) don’t reveal all that much. And even if one does hint at what might happen, like “explosive”, it might intrigue a reader to keep reading.


Other chapter title ideas you can use:

·  The name of a character (This works if you use multiple-perspectives.)

·  The name of places (If your characters are traveling.)

·  Dates (If you’re story hops from the past to the present or future.)

·  Names of mythical creatures, gods/goddesses, monsters, etc. (This is perfect for a fantasy/supernatural story where the presence of these beings is important to the plot.)

·  Scientific terms (If your characters are scientists, using a scientific term would be interesting –especially if that term comes into play in that chapter.)

·  Medical terms (This would work the same way as scientific terms if you’re writing a story about doctors, nurses, or even a patient.)

·  Verbs to show action. (Verbs are great for one-word titles and can spike a reader’s interest.)


SHARE: Your chapter title ideas. I’d love to add them to my list!

QUESTIONS: Reader: Do you pay attention to chapter titles?
Writer: Have you ever used chapter titles?


56 comments:

Diane Burton said...

I've never used chapter titles in my own books but I've seen them in others. Good post, Chris.

Pat Hatt said...

I use them, sometimes I just make a play on words like one instead of evil within, I used evil with..out

Kyra Lennon said...

I love chapter titles! I always use a funny or interesting line from each chapter for mine. :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never used them - just gone with chapter numbers.

Robin said...

I haven't used them, but I don't object to them. Sometimes, they are very helpful. In Shiver (by Maggie Stiefvater... have I mentioned this book or series before????), each chapter tells whose POV the story is written from and the temperature, which is significant. So, used wisely... very good idea.

emaginette said...

I love starting a chapter with a line of poetry (mine--of course) :-) I like the mood it sets

Anna from Shout with Emaginette

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Diane!

Chrys Fey said...

A play on words for your rhyming stories would be perfect, Pat!

Chrys Fey said...

I love chapter titles, too! I haven't used any recently, but did for my series and I had fun coming up with them. I like your idea, too!

Chrys Fey said...

That's okay!

Chrys Fey said...

I think you did mention Shiver in my post about two or more perspectives, Robin. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I did something like that for my series, but the verse was from one of my song lyrics. :)

Sarah Foster said...

I don't think I've ever used chapter titles (except names for multiple POVs). I almost used them with my current WIP, mostly because I thought of a few really good ones, but then I decided it was silly.

Unknown said...

Great advice, Chrys! I've been thinking about ways to do multiple narrative voices and if I ever chose this route, I would probably use "names" and "places" as titles, especially for epic fantasy.
With my current WIP, I started out using titles but once I reached the middle of the story, I decided to not use them. I guess it depends on the author and the novel or idea he/she is trying to convey.

Chrys Fey said...

It's definitely not silly if you like them. :)

Chrys Fey said...

It certainly does depend on the author and their story. :) I said chapter titles in two books in my unpublished series, but haven't used chapter titles since then. Maybe I should change that... ;)

Carrie-Anne said...

I always title chapters, since I'm old-fashioned that way. I view chapters as like short stories, miniature novels unto themselves, with a beginning, middle, and end, not just quick scenes lasting only a few pages each. I'm fond of taking chapter titles from song lyrics, literature, or film (e.g., "Union with a Snake," "Who Will Stand, Who Will Fall?," "Trading in His Shelter for Danger," "Heat Beneath His Winter," "Release from Misery," "The Wrong Prey in View"). I also like to title the Parts of a book, and similarly take those titles from literature, film, or music when I can.

Chrys Fey said...

Those are all wonderful chapter titles, Carrie-Anne, and I feel the same way about chapter titles as you do. :)

cleemckenzie said...

Interesting question. I only use chapter titles on my MG books. I haven't thought about using them on my YA. I'll have to think about whether or not I pay attention to those titles when I read books written by others.

Carol Kilgore said...

I've never used chapter titles, but I've read them. The ones I remember marked time in some way.

Unknown said...

Some of these ideas work for my novel WIPs. Thank you for sharing them, Chrys.

Lisa Thomson said...

I enjoy chapter titles in books I've read. An example of fantastic chapter titles was in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle.Sometimes they are like hints or puzzles to figure out the next part of the plot. Another inspiring post, chrys!

Unknown said...

I agree with you. I do enjoy looking through the titles of books before deciding to read it or not.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I like chapter titles but none of my publishers ever wanted them. They always changed them to numbers.

Anonymous said...

I don't use chapter titles, but I wish I would. I love chapter titles of books that have them.

Crystal Collier said...

Truthfully, I don't usually pay attention to chapter titles, unless they're dates I need to keep track of, or they list the name of the narrating character. Still, I always use them in my writing. Typically I've got a mix of your ideas--Enemy at the Gates, Deeper, Rally, From the Shadows, etc. I wonder how different my writing would be if I tried omitting them? Weird.

Chrys Fey said...

I think chapter titles for YA is fun! :)

Chrys Fey said...

Dates/places are popular chapter titles. :)

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome, D Biswas! :D

Chrys Fey said...

For a mystery, it's fun to create chapter titles that are hints or clues. :)

Chrys Fey said...

:) Thanks for commenting, Lady Lilith!

Chrys Fey said...

Hmm...I guess publishers do have the last say. I'll have to see what happens when I try to publish a book with chapter titles.

Chrys Fey said...

Maybe you should give it a try with your next WIP, Medeia. :)

Chrys Fey said...

That is an interesting question. I like to think that chapter titles add something special to a story. :)

Loni Townsend said...

I use chapter titles in my novels. It helps me keep track of what happens where. Most of my chapter titles are one word, but occasionally it's two or three. The longest chapter title I've had so far is "Pain in the Assassin."

Looking at Thanmir War's chapter titles, most are nouns. Occasionally there's an adjective or verb. Some people I read, like Diana Gabaldon, use full-length phrases. To each his own. :)

Robyn Campbell said...

The link won't work for me to read your Big C story.

I really wish I would use chapter titles. I ALWAYS flip through the book and read the chapter names. If there aren't any, I'm a tad disappointed. This is a great post. I love your ideas on how to come up with them. I may try this. *waves*

Nick Wilford said...

I think chapter titles can be fun and I enjoy looking through a contents list of chapter headings before reading the book. It adds a frisson of intrigue as to what is ahead. As a writer, though, I've never considered them! I always struggle with the book title, so the idea of coming up with potentially dozens was always too daunting. I don't write in chapters, so they're quite an abstract concept for me anyway. I do like your ideas, though!

Chrys Fey said...

"Pain in the Assassin"...that's clever! I like that! Sounds like something Cera would say. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I'm sorry about that, Robyn! I redid it and it works now.

I do the same thing! Reading the chapter titles ahead always gets me excited to find out what happens in them. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I feel the same way, Nick! Even though you don't write in chapters and wouldn't be able to come up with dozens of titles, I still like that you enjoy them as a reader. :)

Christine Rains said...

Love these ideas for chapter titles. I never use chapter titles as a writer, but I do pay attention to them as a reader.

Shannon Lawrence said...

There are times I pay attention to chapter titles, and find them well or cleverly done, and times I ignore them (though I would say that's probably when they don't mean anything to me.)

SK Anthony said...

How funny that I really enjoy chapter titles when I'm reading, but as a writer I don't use them. I really like these ideas!!!

BTW, I'm enjoying seeing 30 Seconds around the blogosphere! Congrats :)

S.K. Anthony

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad you like my ideas, Christine. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Sometimes they can be hit or miss. Thanks for commenting, Shannon!

Chrys Fey said...

Many commenters have said the same thing, SK!

Thank you, I am filling the blogosphere one blog (or two) at a time. ;)

Arlee Bird said...

I like chapter titles or at least numbers. Breaking the story up helps me as a reader to pace my reading. I also prefer chapters of 10 pages or less since I usually read in small time chunks and like to have convenient stopping points.

All of your ideas are good ones for coming up with titles.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Cathrina Constantine said...

I have written chapter titles with my 1st and now my 3rd book. It was fun thinking up the title and most come from the Bible. I didn't think I needed permission from the Big Guy for that....

Kelly Hashway said...

For Into the Fire I had to use the character name at the start of each chapter because it's dual POV. I've never named my chapters otherwise, but I love books that do.

Chrys Fey said...

I also like chapters to run ten pages or less when I'm reading, but I might have written chapters a bit longer than that...with scene breaks though.

Chrys Fey said...

Biblical chapter titles? I like that!

Chrys Fey said...

Using character names for multiple perspectives is always a good idea. :)

Sherry Ellis said...

I write chapter books for kids, so I have to get really creative with chapter titles. I try to pick something quirky and humorous. Sometimes they end up being complete sentences, like, "We Got Flushed Down a Hole."

Chrys Fey said...

Writing a book for kids and picking out chapter titles would be fun! And I love that sentence for a kid's chapter book title!

Unknown said...

I'm so thankful that my genre (thrillers) doesn't use chapter titles because I always draw a blank when it comes to that... I just published a short, though, and I had to come up with titles for that one... thanks for the tips, Chrys!

Chrys Fey said...

I created chapter titles for two of my thrillers. Admittedly they are also (loosely) in the supernatural category or published, so maybe when I get an agent/editor they will tell me to take them out. Although, I hope not because I love them! :)