So… I might be a little obsessed with chapter titles. I love getting that hint about what’s to come when I’m reading a book. And it’s fun to come up with strange or witty or tantalizing blurbs for my own chapters. (Part of me wonders if this kind of micro-writing has the same appeal Twitter has?)
Some of my favorite kinds of chapter titles:
“Chapter Sixteen, Which is Full of Escapes and Discoveries” (from House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones)
A lot of books have Victorian chapter titles, many to humorous effect. I love the drama and/or whimsy of this kind of chapter title.
“Lost. Many Empty Rooms. Very Dusty Towels.” (from Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce)
Since Flora Segunda is told from the first person POV, we get a list of happenings like Flora herself might scribble down in a journal. Very tantalizing.
“The Boy Who Lived” (from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling)
This title makes us wonder about the boy who lived and why he lived and what that means. It also comes full circle in the final installment of the series, making it the ultimate hint.
“Salad days, w/sneeze guard” (from Feed by M. T. Anderson)
Feed‘s chapter titles are often funny, poetic, or both. In this chapter, we read about the characters’ lazy days in a hospital, which Violet calls their “salad days” because she’s having fun. It doesn’t totally make sense, and we’re not told what “w/ sneeze guard” implies–it’s just funny.
One thing I don’t like: when a chapter title gives away the punchline. Sometimes an author will take the best line from a chapter–an ingenious metaphor, a funny bit of dialogue–and use it as the chapter heading. I inevitably feel cheated when this happens; the line ends up falling flat when I get to it.
What about you–what kind of chapter titles do you prefer?
Parker Peevyhouse likes to write a random chapter title and see where it takes the story