Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Joy of Chapter Titles

Although it may seem like a minor aspect of writing a novel, I really enjoy creating chapter titles. I think a good chapter title has a profound effect on the reader. Ideally, it should give some ominous inkling of what is to come without revealing too much. Done right, the reader reaches the end of a chapter, turns the page, sees the title of the next chapter and says, "Uh oh."

For example, in my novel Shadows of Tockland, one of the main characters, an oddball circus performer by the name of Cakey, keeps talking about some terrible impending event called the "ever-night." He is vague about the particulars, but he is convinced this event is coming and that it will be catastrophic. And then, all of a sudden, readers turn a page, and there is the chapter title: Ever-night. *cue ominous music*

In Children of the Mechanism, the characters keep descending deeper and deeper into a massive factory, encountering stranger and more terrible things as they go. Then, all of a sudden, readers turn the page and see the next chapter title: The Bottom of the World. They've reached the bottom. What awful thing will they find there?

It might be something subtle. In my Young Adult novel Mary of Shadows, there is a chapter early on called The Worst Person in the World. My hope is that when readers see it, the title piques their interest--The worst person in the world? Who could that be?--and makes them want to keep reading to find out.

Now, with all of that said, I believe I have just created my own personal favorite chapter title. I can't give any context for it because I'm not done writing the novel. This new story has a little bit of the vibe of Children of the Mechanism, if not quite so bleak and oppressive. But I think maybe the title will be interesting all by itself. Behold:

The Sweet Embrace of a Thousand Monsters


  1. I have always loved chapter titles. There is something that is just so inherently bland and blah about "chapter 1". It begs for elaboration...

    1. I heartily agree. A chapter title is an opportunity for the author to beckon the reader to keep reading.