Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sometimes chapter titles work really, really well. They can pique your interest about what’s to come. They can tie themes together. They can make you laugh. They can play on words or have hidden meanings that you don't figure out until later. 

And like anything else, some authors are more skilled at crafting chapter titles than others. The best example I can think of is Harry Potter. Who doesn’t remember the first chapter title of the first book?

It’s iconic. Then there's "The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-quarters" and "The Weighing of the Wands." Brilliant! Some of J.K. Rowling’s other chapter titles are a bit more straightforward (The Sorting Hat, Quidditch, and Diagon Alley, for example). But because these things are so unique to the world of Hogwarts, they still rouse a reader’s curiosity. 

Another author who excels at chapter titles is Sherman Alexie. Here are some of my favorites from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:

  • Because Geometry is Not a Country Somewhere Near France
  • Don’t Trust your Computer
  • Because Russian Guys are Not always Geniuses 

Some readers find chapter titles distracting. Others simply ignore them. Many like them only if they are unique, interesting or humorous.For me, chapter titles are not going to make or break a novel. They usually aren’t necessary, but when done well, they’re thoroughly enjoyable.

Do you think certain subgenres of YA use chapter titles more than others? As a reader, do you prefer them? As a writer, do you include them? What about books that use symbols in place of chapter titles? 

Finally, what’s your vote overall—love 'em, hate 'em, or just don’t read 'em?


Kristan said...

"For me, chapter titles are not going to make or break a novel. They usually aren’t necessary, but when done well, they’re thoroughly enjoyable."

Yeah, that's it in a nutshell for me. You ask, who doesn't remember The Boy Who Lived as the first Harry Potter chapter title? *raises hand* Me. I don't remember that. Or ANY of her chapter titles. But that doesn't mean I don't remember the phrase! "The boy who lived" was used throughout the series, and it was really powerful. But not as a chapter title. Not for me.


Sara (of the Page Sage) said...

I love chapter titles when they're done well. (And yes, J.K. Rowling is probably the master of chapter titles.) I find that they're more commonly used in fantasy novels then say contemporary or paranormal books.

chihuahuazero said...

My favorite is from Heather Brewer's Eighth Grade Bites:

"Maybe We Should've Tried Fed-Ex".

For context, that was a suggestion a character gave in the previous chapter--as opposed to going to the antagonist.

kaye (paper reader) said...

I think some of the most poignant chapter titles are from THE BOOK THIEF; they do a really great job of curious foreshadowing and oftentime when I figured out what the title meant I wish I hadn't.

Unknown said...

I say if you're going to use them, they better be good! Hold Me Closer, Necromancer makes good use of song lyrics and relating them to the chapter. I entirely love it.

Rebecca Barrow said...

I can't say I really pay attention to them. I don't like when they give away what the chapter's going to be about--just let me read it! Yeah, I think numbers do just fine.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I would also be in the "I could take them or leave them" camp. For the most part I would say I don't pay attention to them, but there are certain books where the chapter headers are clever or have a certain theme to them, and those type I like. Or even not necessarily chapter headings, but little inbetween things, like in Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl series there are always "I solemnly swear..." and then little tidbits, and I found those incredibly interesting. They made me want to find out what would happen next.

We Heart YA said...

Thanks for the feedback, you guys! Great to know. :)

Ooo, interesting observation.

Aww... Yeah, Kristan and Sarah (who read and loved BOOK THIEF) know what you mean.

That sounds hilarious! We'll have to check out those books, thanks.

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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