Recently I realized there are two types of readers in the world, those who read the table of contents and those who don’t. Being one of those readers who do examine the table of contents beforehand, I’m left wondering about the idea of titling chapters.
Does titling chapters produce a sense of mystery and curiosity in readers or does it revel too much?
Sure, an improperly titled chapter can bite a writer in the backside. If one of your characters is in grave danger in a chapter called “The One Where I Almost Died” some of the suspense is lost. Similarly, if chapters prominently feature characters names, carefully crafted plot points can become easily guessed red herrings. However, a titled chapter done right can drive readers to not only pick up your book and read, but can also keep them reading.
Why bother titling chapters?
- It’s a good way to hook readers in
Besides the blurb on the back of the book, titled chapters can help readers get a good sense of your novel. A clever title may entice readers or leave a memorable impression. I find “We Take a Zebra to Vegas” from Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief particularly interesting.
- It can give readers a sense of your main character
Titled chapters are unique opportunities for readers to gain some insight into your characters. Marisha Pessl titled the chapters in her novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics after famous works of literature, which works so well with the clever main character Blue van Meer.
- It can keep readers going from chapter to chapter
We’ve all had that “I’m going to stop at the end of this chapter” moment turn into a “just one more chapter” moment. The titled chapter is another tool writers can use to can use to guide readers to keep on reading.
- Just to demonstrating your power
If you happen to be a little mischievous, (what writer isn’t) a chapter title can lead readers down one path when you know full well you’re planning on taking them to another place entirely.
While titles for chapters aren’t necessary, they can provide another layer to your writing. So, do you title your novels chapters or take notice when other writers do?