Chapter naming

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Chapter naming

Postby Noctie » January 30th, 2015, 4:06 am

My biggest issue is coming up with chapter names. >.<
Earlier on, I used to just number the chapters but my story is loooooong and I was told that "Chapter 612" could frighten people off. :D
So I came back to chapter naming and it's a real pain.

How do you name your chapters?
I generally try to use one word only, frequently taken from the text in the chapter itself. But it's quite hard when English is not your mother tongue. :( I'm always afraid that it sounds weird or ridiculous.

Song names can sometimes be inspiring. Do you know of a list of songs I could use?
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Teresa » January 30th, 2015, 5:22 am

I generally just number mine, but instead of running completely sequential, I use the generation at the beginning plus the chapter number for that generation. Generation 1 chapter 1 would be 1.1. Generation 6 chapter 7 would be 6.7

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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Noctie » January 30th, 2015, 5:28 am

Yes, legacies are much easier to deal with! :D
Unfortunately, my story is not a legacy so I can't use that kind of numbering. :(
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Ani-Mei » January 31st, 2015, 3:42 pm

Well I usually take my chapter name from something that will happen in that chapter. I just had a quick glance at your story what came to me after the letter to his mother was he's down there diving and sees something so a name like Mysteries of the Deep, or Water Illusions. Just my two cents on the matter. :D
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Noctie » February 1st, 2015, 4:55 am

Thank you, that's what I try to do too. :)
But it depends also on what you want to emphasize in the chapter. In the one you mention, the fact that there is some kind of mystery is secondary in comparison to the fact that I sent the character away from home. It will become more important though, and then the naming will probably refer to that 'mystery'.
I find it really quite difficult to find appropriate names. >_<
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby medleymisty » February 3rd, 2015, 5:23 pm

I try to look for the theme of the chapter and name it according to that. Generally in my chapters something will show up as a repeating image that ties it all together, so I come up with a name to show that.
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby WistfulRose » February 4th, 2015, 1:09 am

Personally I dislike it when people use a joke or an important plot line for the title, because then it takes all of the coolness from it when I actually get to it in the chapter.
I have to admit it though, I've done this. Though, I wish I hadn't.
The titles I've used sound cheesy to me now, so I don't know how helpful I can be, though.
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Noctie » February 4th, 2015, 5:58 am

Thank you both for your replies!

I'm glad I'm not the only one finding my chapter names super cheesy. ;)

The theme of a chapter, mmh... I think that's what's hard to pinpoint sometimes. Because it so much depends on what you want to emphasize. If you choose the wrong name, it could be a give-away, like calling a chapter "Death" when a character dies in it.
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby MichelleCYoung » February 10th, 2015, 3:42 pm

Even though it's not a legacy, so you can't go with Gen 3. Chap 6, you could divide it into "Books." I'm reading a book right now, called "Death Comes to Pemberly," by P.D. James, and it's divided into about 5 or 6 books, each with several chapters. So, if it's plotty, you could do that. Name each book by the over-arching them, or perhaps even the place and/or time, where it is set. Such as "The Day Before the Ball," and "In the Woodlands." This doesn't give away much, but it does make it easier for a reader to find a specific part. It's pretty versatile, as well, because a "book," can be as long or as short as you need it.

Another way to do it might be to divide it into acts, like a play or a movie script.

I like to take chapter names from something that happens fairly early on in the chapter, so it's not so spoiler-ish, yet definitely refers to THAT chapter. It doesn't even have to be a quote from the chapter, but more of a "this is the general mindset of the main character, at that time," such as "But I Don't Want To Be Here!" during an apocalypse beginning, or "How Hard Can It Really Be?" before something rather challenging.

Another option is to take a question that will be answered during the chapter, such as "Who Will Win?" or "Will She or Won't She?"

Song titles may be inspiring, but I would avoid tying myself to that for all of my chapters, because eventually, you'll get stumped. If you do song titles, or lyrics from a song, I would suggest alternating with another system, so that your readers don't expect it every time. Say, no more than half of your titles being from songs or poems. Or, you could broaden your options by including titles of works of art, or poems, or books, or other such cultural references. You're less likely to be stumped, trying to find something out there that ties into what you're writing in that particular chapter. Besides, as a reader, I get tired of encountering someone else's work quoted in every chapter, although I do like it on occasion. My personal tolerance is about once every five chapters, or so, but that's just me. Then again, for a shorter work, it works just fine each chapter, because the entire piece doesn't get long enough for it to be too much.

I do like the cultural references, though, scattered throughout, as an integral part of the work, whenever it fits. Once you set it up as a theme, though, it can become forced.

Is your story chronological? That is, does it flow in a generally forward-moving way, or does it jump around a lot with flash-backs, forwards, and sideways? You might consider something very simple, such as a date and time for each chapter. That gives away nothing, but it's still rather individual, and has the added advantage of helping you precisely set the stage without having to have your characters look at the clock or calendar, or just announce, "It's Tuesday," or something. I've seen it done to good effect in novels.

Likewise, if you have a lot of characters, and switch the point of view (POV) characters each chapter, you could do what George R.R. Martin does, and just name each chapter by the name of the POV character. Of course, they then repeat a lot, but it works for his purposes. It's a chapter heading that tells you EXACTLY what you need to know - who is speaking and thus where you are in the world - without giving away anything at all.

I think a lot of it just boils down to your writing style, and what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes, simple numbering is best. And sometimes, a catchy title can really help to set the mood and clarify things for the reader. And sometimes, you don't want anything. I have read some books that have no chapter headings, at all, not even numbers. They just start on a fresh page, with a big letter to start things off, and let you know it's a new title.

I'm sure you'll find something that works for you and your story. Ask yourself what purpose the chapter title actually serves in this story. Is it simply a way to refer to the chapter, so that your readers can find it again, after they've closed their browser window for the night, and want to pick it up again the next day? Is it to set the mood, or to draw attention to a character, setting, plot point, object? Is it to build mystery, or to clarify? Is it to establish tone? Whatever you want to accomplish will be the best way to determine what naming convention will be best for the work.

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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Noctie » February 12th, 2015, 4:23 am

Thank you for that very detailed reply! I think you went through all the possibilities for chapter naming, that's really helpful!

Now, because my story is not linear (i.e. a chapter rarely is the next part of the previous chapter), I can't really use numbers.
I jump sideways constantly, moving from one storyline to the next, everything happening more or less at the same time. And because storylines sometimes merge, or I use characters from one storyline in another, it's quite hard to make a clear distinction.
I tried to divide the story between "Parts" and categories (main, side, minor). But even that was truly difficult. There are no resolutions of conflicts that would be a good season ending. Basically, it's just life going on and on and on. Even when characters die, others come to take their place.

In the end, trying to focus on the purpose of a chapter and find some sentence (or possibly song title) that refers to it is my way to name the chapter. The story's been going for years now, and I think we're in the last part. I can't change the full naming convention now. :) I didn't even know where I was going with it when I started!
But there are so many good ideas if you're more prepared than I am!
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby modelmgt » March 25th, 2015, 4:42 am

Hi Noctie-
The once or twice I got stuck on naming a chapter ( even after it was done and ready for upload) I usually just picked a line of dialogue from a conversation that really stood out for me, if there was no overall theme or thing that was being achieved in that chapter.
Sometimes, as in 5, nothing even stood out and I'd just rhyme the chapter # with another word. There isn't any one way I pick my titles, but it is good to have one both for you and your readers:
- for you so you can remember ' oh this is where THAT happened' if you should need to find something again in a long list of chapters, and
-to create an interest or curiosity in your readers in finding out more by reading that chapter.
I've found that the best way for me is to wait until the chapter itself is done, because my style is the same as yours a lot of the time, in that unless I have something very specific to achieve, I don't exactly know what will happen next, or if I do know that, I don't know how it will all play out. Usually by the time 100 slides goes by, I either know exactly what my title will be, or will have improved upon anything temporary I have put down. :-)
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Scribal_Goddess » March 26th, 2015, 6:30 pm

Here's a list of the types of things I use for chapter names

- Song Lyrics (I've had "if it makes you happy" and "off to see the wizard")
- Misheard Song Lyrics (... there's an interlude coming and I need more of these)
- Common Phrases, usually with a heavy dose of irony or a couple words changed (I had a chapter called Sisterly Love, because of "Brotherly Love" and the fact that my main house girls were not getting along that chapter.)
- Random lines from Poems
- Recently, stupid stuff referencing college, because Graduand - Sophomoric - Senioritis all had something to do with one of the main groups at the time. (And I have two more chapters until I get to "Brave New World" because no, I cannot wrap up three romantic plotlines in one chapter...)
- One word titles relevant to one major thing that happened in the chapter
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby Trip » April 30th, 2015, 7:31 pm

I often turn to "name it after an insignificant but maybe not really insignificant thing mentioned in the chapter." Spoilers usually end up being avoided that way.
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Re: Chapter naming

Postby modelmgt » May 1st, 2015, 5:37 am

^ Yeah that's what happened with the one I titled:
"Lefty Widdershins & the Case of the Asparagus Soda Shenanigans".
Two things from 2 different conversations. Jam them together. Worked out beautifully. Lol.
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