Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#66) -- Chapter Titles

What are you thoughts about chapter titles?

I tend to prefer chapter titles that are generic... Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. Others come off as too "cutesy" to me, particularly when they're done like "Chapter Two, in Which Pooh Gets Himself in a Sticky Situation." They, for me anyway, work well in children's literature or in something that is a throwback to something older, for example the subtitles to Avengers episodes (that's Steed and Ms. Peel, for the record, not Captain America and the Wasp).

I know several writers who use the chapter titles to help them advance the plot or to offer clues, but for me, I'm more interested in having the story itself to that. And each chapter should have it's own sort of story arc to a degree, and while it may not necessarily stand alone, it should offer some movement all its own that contributes to the overall story, and not just the advancement of the plot.

I know that using chapter heading breaks in shorter fiction has fallen out of vogue, but I like the way novellas and novelettes used to use them, where they didn't actually start on a new page, just kept the flow of the text rolling and added an extra line break before the chapter heading. I liked it because it gave an aesthetic that (to me anyway) was a happy medium between novel chapter breaks (full page break) and something else that signified a narrative break but without having to waste pages on a full break. It's the next step up from a fancy scene break symbol, in my mind, at least in a novella or novelette.

Just my opinions, as always. You're mileage may vary.