Apr. 02 Writing Prompt

We will conclude our naming things week with the inside of your book. Those little pause pages that everyone thinks are so important.

Of course, I am talking about your chapters. Should you name your chapters?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter one way or another. Some authors like to number them, others name them. Still others will put a quote or phrase under the chapter number.

You know who doesn’t care? The reader.

Never once have I read a review or heard someone say “You know, I tried so hard to like that book. It had the best characters and the greatest story I’ve ever read, but, the chapters weren’t named. 3-stars.”

But look, don’t let this discourage you. Because, the readers will read the names and they like them, especially if they are done right.

Chapter names
Chapter names should be like headlines. Make your point, move on.

First, we will take a look at the prompt, and then I will explain further about how to add chapter names the “right way.”

April 02

Consider your WiP or your favorite book (without chapter names). Give a name to the first chapter, then, write 24 other names for it (may also write uses instead of titles).

For this exercise, you need to once again use the power of 25 (it is such a great number).

You can come up with 25 names, or 25 things to use instead of a name (quote, song lyric, poem, etc.) or a mix of them all. As long as you end up with 25.

Now, while you are working on that, I will explain the right way to name a chapter.

The first step is to decide if you are even going to name your chapters. If you are not, then don’t name any. If you want to name a chapter, then you need to name all of them. Only naming a few will confuse readers. We don’t want confused readers.

Next, you need to figure out the purpose of naming your chapters. For example, I named the chapters in my paranormal thriller because it is written in a non-chronological order. Naming the chapters (I named them after the state or location the chapter took place in) allowed the readers to keep up.

By offering them the location of where they are currently in the story, they can easily keep up with the changes in location and time. It is a small thing, but after a lot of testing, I found out that this worked best and every reader was able to maintain their place without being confused.

Several prolific authors use quotes for their chapters. One of my all-time favorite stories to read is The Long Walk by Stephen King. In this story, he has random quotes from books, songs, television game shows, etc. While it has little to do with the actual story, there is a lot of inference from those quotes.

When you then read the chapter with the quote in mind, you can see the connections King was making. While it wasn’t needed, as it was in my novel, it made the read a little more enjoyable.

You need to have a reason to name your chapters. Ironically, this is one of the few times I will ever say “just because” is not a suitable reason.

The names of your chapters need to mean something. They take time to read, even if only a fraction of a second. That time, though, is long enough to remove the reader from your story. If you lose that connection you spent so much time creating, you have lost a lot.

Is that worth it just so you can have a chapter with a title on it instead of a number?

Which brings me to my next point.

The name on your chapter (or poem or whatever you use) needs to be relevant and inline. If you are just naming to name the reader will start to lose interest. It also has the chance to bring confusion. If my chapter is about a flesh eating virus, for example, and I have a quote about clowns, there isn’t a correlation.

The reader may become confused trying to find the clown connection, causing them to re-read a chapter when they don’t want to, giving up and closing the book.

You also do not want your titles to be a whole page long. Keep them short, sweet and to the point.

If you can’t do that, stick to numbers and move on with your story.

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