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Guest Post from Bob Boze: Chapter Titles

 

The following guest post comes from SDWEG member Bob Boze who blogs on BobBoze.com, where he shares thoughts about his own romance writing as well as his experiences with his co-writer, Casey Fae Hewson.

Why do authors (writers) not use chapter titles?

More often than not, when I open a book I find only Chapter 1, Chapter 2 …. Etc. in the Table of Contents. Worse yet, many times I don’t even find a Table of Contents, or it’s stuffed way in the back of the book, still without titles.

When I decided to write my first book, one of the first rules I remember reading as I researched things authors should do was: “Use anything and everything you can to pull your readers in and hold their interest.” Or words to that effect.

At the top of the list were covers, followed closely by your book’s description. Then came a raft of other things. and, to be honest, I’m not sure if table of contents and chapter titles were in there or not.

But shouldn’t they be? After the cover and book description, aren’t they one of the first things a reader sees? Or should?

So why not use them?

Why not make them catchy? Have them jump out, catch the reader's eye and try to make them want to get to that chapter? To make them want to know what’s going on in “What Happens in the Stable, Stays in the Stable.” I mean, what could possibly happen in a stable that you couldn’t talk about? (You’ll just have to read Horses of Tir Na Nog, Book 1, to find out. Oh, and no skipping to Chapter 33, either!)

For me, coming up with intriguing chapter titles is almost as much fun as writing the chapter. It makes me go back through each chapter trying to find something catchy.

Something that will jump out, catch the reader's eye.

Sometimes it’s obvious.

Sometimes I pick something that doesn’t work and I have to go back and end up spending as much time hunting for a title as I did writing the chapter.

Sometimes there’s just nothing there.

When either of the latter two happen, it sends a giant red flag up. Is my chapter that bad?

If there’s nothing I can find to catch the reader's attention, what’s going to make them read that chapter? Come on, there’s got to be at least one line in there I can use. If, on the second pass, I still can’t find anything … that chapter needs to be rewritten!

The opposite works for me too. I can’t tell you how many times, while hunting for a candidate chapter title, I come across ideas to tie that chapter to the next or the next or the next. I’ve even changed the ending in one of my books because a chapter title line gave me a better idea for the ending than the one I had put in my outline.

More often though, a title leads to enhancement of a subplot or even a new subplot. Sometimes even a new chapter, new characters, and in two cases, new books in the series and their titles.

In case you missed it, the message here is that not only do chapter titles make my readers think, they make me think too.

Some of the chapter titles I’ve come up with that I love (Nope, no ego here!) are:

  • My Soul is Yours
  • Fireman, Fireman, Light my Fire
  • If You Ever Want to See Your Mother Again (No, I don’t write mysteries.)
  • Your Problem is What?
  • Weasel Weenie and Turkey Butt
  • The President’s Training Wheels are Missing?
  • Eighteen Pashmina Scarves and One Assassin
  • You Live in a Fairy Tale Medieval Village and Work in a Chocolate Shop?
  • Roger … Three Down. Two ODs and a … Scrotum Sling?
  • Dreams, Fantasies, and Nightmares are no Match for Reality.
  • A Horse is a Horse. Right?
  • What do You Mean Your Hose is Bigger than Mine?
  • A Guide to the Witness Protection Program. Keep Moving!
  • Europe, Chia Pets, and Ice Cream Sunday Socials.
  • Life in the Petri Dish
  • About the Author

Yes, these are from all four of my published books. With some thought, think you can figure out what those chapters are about? I hope so. Or, I hope they totally stump you and make you want to know. Especially, that last one!

Whether or not you use chapter titles is up to you. For me though, I would no more publish a book without them then I would a book without a cover.

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What’s your opinion? Chapter titles or no chapter titles? And why?

Leave your opinion on my web site, https://bobboze.com, if you’d like.

Photo credit: Ryan Graybill

One thought on “Guest Post from Bob Boze: Chapter Titles”

  1. Thank you for pointing out the advantages of chapter titles for both reader and author. I had not considered the latter before. Very helpful.

    I’m a big fan of chapter titles, tables of contents, and quotations at the beginning of chapters. Your list certainly makes me ask questions, wonder what book they are from, giggle a little, or think, “Maybe that particular book is not for me,” (which is a helpful thing).

    I think that leaving chapter headings out may be a product of our information-guzzling age. We have so MUCH to read that headings and chapter titles have become superfluous–something that stops the flow. With so much verbiage to take in, people skip a lot of content anyway. I know that I do these days, however unintentionally.

    We are moving away from headings (unless it’s for SEO). Think about the last email thread you participated in where no one bothered to change the Subject line when the discussion morphed from “Auntie is out of the hospital” to an exchange of recipes. Or worse yet, recall scanning for an email, but the Subject lines don’t even qualify as a subject with “info” or “re: your email.”

    It’s unfortunate, because the art of summary and the sense of structure is being lost. We just stuff books into our heads like a fast-food meal of words without stopping to let ideas sink in or to anticipate the next chapter. I think I still prefer to savor each chapter like a course in a fine meal–when I remember to take the time.

    With sparkle,
    Diana

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