Chapter Titles

I was musing about chapter titles yesterday. It seems like most fiction books for adults and teens don’t have them. More middle-grade and children’s books have them, but I don’t believe they’re ubiquitous even in those genres. The books in the Harry Potter series do have chapter titles, and I remember skipping over the table of contents in the last Harry Potter book because I didn’t want to get even the slightest hint of a spoiler before I actually started to read.

Chapter (or even scene) titles can be useful for when you’re writing and trying to organize the pieces. It’s easier to remember a chapter as “Character X’s Revenge” rather than plain old “Chapter 12.” But the way I look at it, it’s hard enough to come up with a title for the whole book itself, so why bother with chapter titles at all?

Use of chapter titles can also depend on the ultimate destination of the book: is it going to be posted on a website somewhere? Are you going to traditionally publish or self-publish? I’ve noticed that on sites like FictionPress, chapter titles can be really useful; they can provide a bird’s-eye look at the content of the story, so you can determine whether reading it would be worthwhile.

For the most part, though, I don’t think chapter titles are used much for fiction. What do you think? Do you like chapter titles when reading or writing?

8 thoughts on “Chapter Titles

  1. I’m actually not really concerned about the chapter titles or numbers even.

    When I read a book that I am drawn to I don’t wait to read the chapter number and name before I continue on with the story.

    I read fluently through as much of the story as I can per reading session.

    Taking in the emotions and scenes of each character.

    This is great fun.

    As a writer I don’t tend to dwell too much on what my chapters are called.

    But rather I just keep on writing.

    Yes I still label chapters to distinguish the difference of events but as I have already said I don’t dwell on it for too long.

    – Jason

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I hadn’t really thought of chapter titles much either, but it suddenly occurred to me that very few books actually used chapter titles, so I wondered what others would think.

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  2. I tend to use chapter titles. Since I write serially, it helps to set off each chapter as a separate entity, ideally with its own arc.

    With my first novel, A Sane Woman, I used the chapter titles to help readers keep track of time (since the book tends to jump backwards in time a lot). With my novella Stevie One, the chapter titles identify the shifts in POV.

    Chapter titles don’t necessarily mean you have a table of contents, though. When I was looking into having some of my stuff available as e-books, I was annoyed that apparently the official EPUB format specification demands a linked table of contents (or somebody does — I don’t remember the details). But what if I don’t want to provide a linked TOC?

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  3. Whether or not a book has chapter titles gives me a certain impression of both the type of story and the author’s writing style; with titles suggests a story that’s going to be more of “life story” with a shallow main story arc but continually smaller ones, while without suggests a typical novel format. At least that’s been my experience.

    I totally agree that chapter titles can be useful when writing though. I use Google Drive, which doesn’t like to load big documents so most of my work-in-progress novels are broken down into chapters, and each one is named. I don’t generally put much effort into the titles either, sometimes, “Character X’s Revenge; Character Y Goes to Battle” is as far as it goes.

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    1. Yeah, usually my chapter titles are one word, so I have decided to do away with them for the most part and refer to them as “the chapter where such-and-such happens.” Not as easy to remember, but I don’t want to take the time to come up with a title! 🙂

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