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Titling chapters

Even though I am a writer who tends to plan everything out, outline every draft ahead of time (after much brainstorming), make charts and maps and so on where necessary... I still end up doing rather a lot because "the story told me to."

GIVING UP THE GHOST was the first novel I wrote in first person (after a whole bunch finished and not-finished in third), solely because it felt like it needed to be in first person.

THE HALFWAY HERO wanted to be set in a desert. It didn't tell me this, actually, but it refused to get written until I figured that out for myself.

I have learned that you don't argue with the story. If the story insists on something, give it. The story knows what it's doing, even if you don't.

Well, after a gazillion years of books filled with plain old "Chapter One", "Chapter Two" and so on, LOKI'S BOY decided it needed chapter titles. Don't ask me why. It wanted them, so I didn't argue (see points made above). Trouble is, I have enough difficulty coming up with *one* title I like for any given book. Nineteen more, you say? Guh.

I am pleased with some of them, I'll admit. But some feel like place-holders, and the story is being awfully quiet about what's supposed to fill those places.

Have you ever done the chapter titling thing? Why or why not? If you have, was there any sort of method to your naming?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)
My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters also begged to have chapter titles. They ended up being kind of funny things that reflected the action in the chapter. My other mss haven't had titles, but I'm going to use them in my WIP.

Have fun! Sounds like your story has a great idea.
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
I hope so! It'll be interesting to see if this is a one time thing or if future WIPs also ask for chapter titles now that I've done it once. :)
Oct. 28th, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
Heh, I have done it for some books but the only reason I have is "the story told me to."

I usually do outline my books with a rough breakdown by chapter so I guess sometimes that breakdown is strong enough that a single phrase or word sticks out and wants to be a chapter title.

I enjoy it when books have interesting chapter titles (Rick Riordan's come to mind) but I don't notice their absence either.
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
I think that's how it happened--while I was outlining I was thinking about the structure a lot (there's nine tasks to be fulfilled) and working that into the chapter titles just seemed to make sense.
Oct. 28th, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)
I have never had a book tell me it needed chapter titles. But I know exactly what you mean, and I know that brick wall you hit over and over until you do what the story wants to do rather than trying to make it do what you want it to do.
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
Well, usually if a story tells me to do something, I do it. It's when the story can't be bothered to tell me what it wants instead that I start to bang my head against a wall. ;)
Oct. 28th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)
I tried naming chapters once. They were more placeholders than anything else. Like you, it's difficult to come up with one title for the book let alone a string of others for the chapters. I don't do it anymore. So, I have no advice but do wish you good luck. :o)
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Who knows, maybe I will be asked to take them out further down the road, but they are fun for now. :)
Oct. 28th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
I just finished a book with chapter titles, which I've never done before (had chapter titles, not finished a book), and I think I did it because I heard a phrase in a song that I really liked and I wanted to use it so I was like, "What if it was a chapter title in MB?" But then of course I had to give all the other chapters titles, which was actually fun--most of them are puns, or pop culture references, which amuses me more than it probably does anyone else.
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC)
I think the chapter title thing came about in a similar way for me--where there were a couple of elements that seemed like they'd fit perfectly as chapter titles, and obviously if I give a couple chapters a title, they all need one... Heh.
Oct. 28th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
My PLAIN KATE has chapter titles. Dunno why I did that to myself, since I'm terrible with titles. But I did.

One thing that made it easier was using patterns: once you have a chapter called "Blood and Questions" it's easier to call another one "Fog and Shadows," for instance. Call one chapter "The Fish, the Axe, and the Bargain" and another one will consent to "The Road and the Rain." Two or three such patterns will pretty much see you through.
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
That's a good point--I have been noticing patterns and playing with them. The difficult thing is trying to vary them (for example, noticing three or four in a row start with "The" bothers me).
Oct. 29th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
All of my published books have chapter titles, and I'm about to write another one that probably has themost useful chapter titles of all.

Sometimes it's been a joy, and sometimes they've just been "placeholder" titles -- because once I started naming chapters in my series, well, I didn't sign myself up for 19, I signed myself up for 75! I do agonize over them quite a bit, given how rarely people actually read them.
Oct. 30th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
I suspect the majority of the things writers agonize over go completely unnoticed by readers. ;) Ah, the joys of being a creative type.

And now you have made me glad that this is a stand-alone, and my two possible trilogy-starters did not ask for chapter titles.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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