Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Chapter Titles

What do you think of chapter titles?

I read yesterday that chapter titles nowadays are usually reserved for kids books, but are found in older stories such as Howl's Moving Castle, which I believe is around 30 years old. The Wheel of Time series has chapter titles, but again, that series began in the eighties, so it makes sense that the titling trend would continue through today.

As a reader, what do you think of chapter titles? Do you like them, hate them? I admit I'm pretty indifferent--I rarely read them. And, on occasion, I've actually read chapter titles that spoiled the chapter! (Here's looking at you, Runelords.)

As a writer, do you use chapter titles? Why or why not? If you do, how do you decide what to name the chapter? Do you use short or elaborate titles?

Other than the very first book I finished, I don't name my chapters. But, and perhaps this is the Howl's Moving Castle inspiration in me talking, I've been considering it for my latest WIP. Still, when I finished chapter one and scrolled up to name the chapter... I just couldn't. Either I'm out of practice or it's not meant to be.



  1. As a reader, I think I prefer chapter titles in a silly/funny way, like in Howl's Moving Castle. I love those chapter titles! Also, Percy Jackson has great chapter titles too (You still need to read those books...! I love them!)

    If it's like, a super serious boring adult epic fantasy or whatever... I dunno chapter titles seem SO DRAMATIC and SERIOUS and like.. self important? :p

  2. There are current adult books that use chapter titles. Personally I'm ok either way. I like the titles and was planning on doing that with my book but I'm so bad at titles and it was taking so long I gave it up so I could just be done and query already.

  3. I like chapter titles. Most books that I've read have used them, that I remember. It's kind of annoying when they don't, since there usually isn't a page of contents in the front if the chapters don't have names.

  4. I don't personally write chapter titles, but when they are done well, they are memorable and fun. Percy Jackson chapter titles are particularly entertaining. So are Gail Carriger's in the Parasol Protectorate series.

    I think they fit with the personality of some books better than others, though. Sometimes they just seem to get in the way.

  5. As a reader, I LOVE chapter titles.

    As a writer, I hate coming up with them. TITLING IS HARD! Whether it's for the book or for the chapter. But I do use chapter titles. My kids told me that when they read MG books that don't have chapter titles, they assume it's because the author is lazy. Uh.... I don't know how many kids think that same way, but I'm not willing to take the chance.

  6. I LOVE chapter titles. They read like little bits of poetry at the beginning of each chapter, and provide an initial tension even if the chapter begins slowly.

  7. In fiction I think it doesn't really matter.
    My current novel has little spurts that could be equivalent to chapter titles...but they're really just my way of breaking up the text and showing that the story is in a different place/time/scene. I name them to keep track of them for me, and having the title underlined helps with showing it's a new scene. Aren't the chapters in Harry Potter titled? I don't often read chapter titles in fiction. But in non-fiction I think the tittles can be fun, but I think they should be short and even then it does have the potential for ruining the chapter. For instance I just read a non-fiction book about a girl who hiked the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail all in one go. The last chapter was titled "Victory" which to me meant she finished and really, I could have just stopped reading right there. The other titles throughout the book could have been lost too--Adversity, Confidence, blah blah blah. I think chapter numbers are just as effective. If titling them helps you as a writer then I say do it, but otherwise I don't think it will make or break anything.

    Tif @

  8. Meh. I can take 'em or leave 'em, but I'd rather not have them. To me, they're distracting. I usually read books with close POV, and I don't want anything yanking me out of the story.

    Now something like a setting location and year to orient me? Yeah. That I like. But after the initial set up, just put '[X] years later'. Don't make me click a bajillion buttons on my Kindle to go back and do the math.

  9. What? Come up with MORE titles? I'm bad enough at titling stories and novels. Nope, no chapter titles for me

  10. Coming a little late to the discussion, but I personally don't care much about chapter titles either. As a reader, I skim over them quickly to keep reading. As a writer, well, they take time away from the story so I don't bother with them!


  11. As a writer: if it adds something to the chapter without spoilers, fine -- especially in humor. I used some fairly long, hysterical (in any sense of the word) chapter heads for the "book within the book" in Hyperlink from Hell -- because that's what the character would do. I don't get when writers have trouble coming up with titles; trouble choosing, I get. I always have extras running around, yelling "Pick me!"

    As a reader: I mostly skim right over them, unless they're pretty special, an integral part of the book. But if they're spoilers, I figure the author was using them for her own ease of organization, and should have deleted them before publication.