Cool Titles, Cool Titles, No Whammies! Chapter Titles – Yay or Nay-Nay


Some authors love chapter titles, others, not so much. I think we can all agree it’s important for the pages of a book to be divided into chapters. Imagine a book with no breaks. Even the thought of that is tedious. Kind of like a super-long run-on sentence. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” The break from one chapter to the next gives readers a moment to digest what’s happening in the story. Chapters also serve as transition markers for changes in the story arc and to introduce a new setting or point of view. Chapters benefit the reader by providing closure, surprises, and anticipation of what’s next.


So, how do writers choose chapter titles? There are as many answers to this question as there are authors and books. Okay, maybe not that many but I got your attention.


Let’s Break it Down:


Chapter Numbers Only



Number Only Chapter Titles – Eliminate the word, chapter. Just go with the number. Hooray, you’re a minimalist!


Roman Numeral Chapter Titles. Fancy! Just stay consistent.


Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, etc. Plenty of authors use this technique. It’s simple and acceptable. Easy-peasy!


Specific Number Chapter Titles – Maybe the number corresponds to the year in which the chapter takes place, the year in which a character was born, or to their age. Rock that title!


Examples:

Chapter 8

Chapter VIII

Chapter 1991


POV Chapter Titles



For every chapter that switches POV it’s helpful to title the chapter with the character’s name. This avoids head-hopping https://www.wordytips.com/post/head-hopping-oh-the-horror and confusing the reader. Adding to the character’s name with a tidbit of info is also an option.


Examples:

Chapter 3 – Clarissa Converses with a Telepathic Dragonfly

Chapter 6 – Boji the Alchemist

Chapter 1 – Conrad Ott


Setting Chapter Titles



If your story has unique worlds or your main character travels a lot, you can use the different settings for new chapter titles. Don’t limit yourself by proper names only. If your character is at a lake or on a frozen tundra, use that in your chapter title. Choose a season along with the location too or anything else about the setting that’s pertinent.


Examples:

Chapter 7 – The Enchanted Realm

Chapter 4 – A Dark Dominion

Chapter 16 – Autumn in the Upside-down Kingdom


Key Words Chapter Titles



If you’re a fantasy or science fiction writer, you probably spend loads of time building unique worlds. That may encompass things like, magic, divination, wild machines, fictitious settings, foods, creatures, and fabricated names. Even paranormal romance writers might expend tons of energy inventing a new supernatural phenomenon. Why not name a chapter after some unique or bizarre element from one of the scenes? Include a new character name, a thrilling spell, an odd creature, or mysterious made-up words. Anything unusual will create a sense of anticipation. Inquiring minds want to know more.


Examples:

Chapter 10 – Let’s Settle This with Belomancy

Chapter 8 – Everon’s Aura

Chapter 14 – Hearts of Zolom


Summary Chapter Titles



Many authors use the summary method to title their chapters. Upon completion of the chapter, take a quick inventory of the scenes, pick out the main feature, devise a title based on that info. The trick is to not give too much away but make the title intriguing enough for the reader to turn the page.


Examples:

Chapter 3 – Black Veil – Based on your character mourning the death of their spouse.

Chapter 11 – Terror 2.0 – Based on your protagonist encountering a demon.

Chapter 19 – Mask of Worry – Based on your hero finding out his heroine is in danger.


Ambiguous or Mysterious Chapter Titles



Chapter titles are sometimes generated before the chapter is written. I use this method when I know I want to introduce something specific. Sometimes I’ll have an idea or maybe just the name of something that I want to include in the story. If the scenes and passages propel the story forward, this can be a great tool and can spark creativity. It’s like a delicious secret that’s about to unravel.


Examples:

Chapter 5 – Malted Milk Ball Muffins

Chapter 12 – Pink Paraphernalia

Chapter 2 – Invitations


Story Themed Chapter Titles



Chapter titles are created using the theme of your book. In one of my, yet to be published books, Threads of Red, a paranormal romance, I emphasized the red thread theme with every chapter title.


Examples:

Chapter 1 – Catch a Red Thread

Chapter 4 – Tangled Scarlet Stings

Chapter 9 – Red Marker Girl


Whatever method you choose, whether you choose to combine approaches, or come up with your own way of naming chapters, my advice is to always be consistent with the numbers. If you start with Roman numerals, stick with that.





Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.

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I co-founded and managed a successful author and writer group on Long Island for five years. During events with publishers and authors I learned what matters, what agents are looking for, and the benefits and pitfalls of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

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