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Entitle

Titles – Do they belong at the beginning of each chapter?

This year I am writing a novel.

I have not been naming my chapters as I write them beyond the chapter number. Whether to name them or not has been a question that pops into my head each time I start writing the next chapter. Each time I tell myself that I will deal with it when the last chapter is written.

I have, of course, read novels that have used chapter titles and novels that just use chapter numbers. Do I prefer one method over the other? No. So, I ask myself with the novels that use titles what is the purpose of the title, or is there a purpose? Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it has a hidden meaning.

What are your thoughts on giving chapters a title?

By Shari Marshall – 2021

10 thoughts on “Entitle

  1. Hi Shari, I have two thoughts about your question.
    1) I sometimes use temporary titles that include a brief outline of the coming chapter contents. This is for my use only as I build out the story but is discarded before I publish.
    2) chapters are used as stong breaks in a narrative as an aid to the reader to understand a context switch or point of view changes. I think they work better than a narrator’s voice telling me now we’re going to follow the antagonist for a while or 20 years ago in the town Shari was born in . . .
    In this manner, chapter breaks can quickly be that bathroom break, new scene setting quick orientation for the reader after a cliff hanger at the end of a previous chapter.
    But often I see chapter titles go unused when an author prefers to have her characters reveal where or when the next scene unfolds.
    I’d go with what best helps the reader by being that helpful context break without revealing what is about to happen.

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    1. I like the idea of using a working chapter title to outline the chapter while you are writing, that would be a helpful too. Thank you for that tip!

      I think you are right about what works best for helping the reader. For me, I think I will wait until I finish writing and so the first full read through.

      Thanks for stopping in Gary.

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  2. I like the idea of chapter titles. It gives me a place to remember where I left off, if my bookmarks or ebooks don’t sync. It’s more difficult to remember what chapter number you are up to if it just a numbers. Chapter titles also give me a way to remember which thread of the story I’m about to read, if you have multiple storylines and keep alternating chapters between them.

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    1. That is a great point and to be honest I hadn’t thought about reading on a device, but I can totally see how it would be easier to remember a title then a number. Really great point, thank you!

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  3. I’ve gone both ways. One thing is that a lot of longer stories (books, longer novellas) started as serial stories, which had to have titles. Some have been written to prompts, so the title word is repeated in different ways and different contexts through the chapter, which I was surprised to see that Dickens did in the boo I just read. For the most part, if there are titles, I like simple, a word or two or three.

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  4. I don’t usually name my chapters because I’m not great at titles and it’s just one more thing to worry about. That said, I wrote two books in a series and started naming the chapters, but they were all 1-2 word titles. It was great until I realized I’d forgotten a couple of them and had to come up with unique names for them, haha. But they seemed appropriate to the story. But you’re right, as a reader, I don’t really care or notice unless they have some serious significance.

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    1. Titles can be challenging and I struggle with them too. I agree with your philosophy about it being just one more thing to worry about so I will probably stay with numbers, at least for now.

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