So it was suggested to me by my Twitter friend @kendrakilbourn that I write about chapter titles.
You asked Kendra, so I answered.
Chapter titles are an interesting thing. Some authors use them, some don’t. Some are mysterious and others completely give away what’s going to happen. Occasionally a chapter title will make you laugh out loud while others will make you tremble. Then you come across books that simply don’t have titles for their chapters, and that’s ok too.
I think (like many other things in writing) whether or not to name your chapters depends on your book. The only real rule is to stay consistent. If you don’t name your first chapter, then don’t give a title to Chapter 12 even if you have the most amazing stupendous chapter title in the history of chapter titles.
Though if that does happen mid-way through your novel, you may want to consider naming the others as well.
I didn’t start naming my chapters until very recently, and there wasn’t some stunning revelation that made me change my mind.
With my first few novels, Chapter 1, 2, 3 and so on worked just fine. I didn’t feel that my stories were losing anything because I chose not to name the titles. When I re-wrote my last novel Reaper and turned it into first-person, however, I looked at the numbered chapters and thought I could do more.
To me, when writing in first person, the chapter titles were another way for my characters to express their voices. In Reaper’s case, I found that “Chapter 1—Awake,” sat better with me than just “Chapter 1.” In my current WIP, I don’t even have the chapters numbered (though that will probably change after I edit it). I begin with “It Doesn’t Get Any Weirder Than This” and go on from there. Even without sample paragraphs, you can probably tell that the voices in my examples are entirely different.
That’s the power of chapter titles.
There’s a caveat, though. Although naming your chapters may summon some intrigue, a bad chapter title will do the opposite. Clichéd chapter titles are just as bad as clichéd sentences. And unless your protagonist is ridiculously spontaneous, if your chapter is named “Fish Slap” there better be a good reason for it.
If your protagonist IS ridiculously spontaneous however, and you write a chapter about a typical school day, by all means, name it “Fish Slap” if you think it’ll add to your story.
Spontaneity aside, it’s entirely up to you whether or not to name your chapters. There’s no right or wrong decision, nor is there a right or wrong time start doing it.
Like most things of the writing world, it’s instinct that determines what’s right for your book.
So what do you think? How do chapter titles change your reading or writing experience?