Friday, May 7, 2010

Question: Do you like chapter titles?

Sometimes I enjoy chapter titles, other times I find them distracting or unnecessary.  
Pros:  They can act as bookmarks and help remind you of your current place in a book.  They can amuse you, give you tantalizing hints about soon-to-be-revealed plot points, and help you keep track of the setting and narrator.  
Cons:  They can take you out of the story as you digest the title rather than staying immersed within the narrative.  They sometimes contain unwanted spoilers, repeat information that is already obvious within the text, or seem annoyingly cheesy.

I can think of a handful of specific types of chapter titles:

1. Revealing titles which tell you exactly what to expect in the next chapter.
2. Cryptic titles which vaguely hint at something contained within the chapter.
3.  Theme titles which don't necessarily fit the specific chapter, but do fit the overall theme of the book.
4.  Funny titles which reinforce the humorous tone of a book.
5.  Statement of Fact titles which track the date/time/temperature/narrator/location to help keep the reader clear on the sequence of events, setting, or narrator.
6.  Quote titles which mark the beginning of each chapter by referencing another piece of literature, a poem, or a quote from a character/letter/book/diary set within the novel.

Okay, I guess six types is technically more than a handful (unless you happen to be Inigo Montoya's nemesis).  Are there other types of chapter titles that I've forgotten?  I generally seem to find Cryptic titles & Funny titles more entertaining and memorable than the other varieties, but unless the titles are ridiculously distracting I'd prefer any title to no title.  What is your opinion on chapter titles?  Like them?  Dislike them?  Love one type and find another type irritating?


Book Crazy Jenn said...

Honestly, 9 times out of ten, I dont read titles at all, they like you said take me out of the story which I want to stay imersed in...if it's a time/date/temp kinda think I glance but regular titles I tend to skip.

Heather said...

I only really like funny titles, like at the beginning of the chapters in Jen Lancaster's books. Oh, and also I need chapters named if the author is using that device of telling the story through multiple characters' narratives. Otherwise I pretty much ignore the titles. I actually also ignore the quotes and short excerpts of other works the author puts in at the beginning of the book or chapter-not sure why I don't really care for them, but I don't.

Christa said...

Unless the titles are witty or in some other way irresistible, I usually ignore them.

Of course, time & date chapter titles I'm okay with because I can flip back & find out time frames if I need to. Or if the book switches POVs... sometimes I still automatically ignore the chapter title, though, in this case and have to remind myself to look when the character voice has obviously changed, lol.

PS lol - Inigo Montoya's nemesis. Cute. ; )

Mel said...

I like them when I notice them, but more often or not I am in too much of a hurry to get to the next part of the book I am reading to even notice. Now in the Harry Potter Books I found them interesting. I love the ones for Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. When I booktalk Riordan's The Lightning Thief to kids, I always like to mention the title of the first chapter, "I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher." I love that particular chapter title, and the kids usually snatch up the books quickly after that. Anything to get the books in their hands!

Jenni Elyse said...

I like chapter titles if they're there and I don't mind it when they're not. I think authors can have a lot of fun with chapter titles and I think they can sometimes be annoying because of spoilers.

But, I think it's kind of fun to read the Table of Contents before I even start to read a book and try to guess what's going to happen based on the chapter titles. Then, I like to see how close I was or how far off I was.

Candace said...

You know what? I don't ever even pay attention! I just skip to the first paragraph with out really looking. Great subject though!

Violet said...

Jenn & Candace - That is so interesting. I can't seem to ignore the chapter titles, even when they are annoying me or distracting me from the story. I need to practice that technique. Thanks so much for sharing your responses. :)

Heather - Funny chapter titles are definitely my favorites too! Interesting about the quotes at the beginnings of chapters. I do read the quotes, but they often seem so loosely related to the story that they aren't particularly necessary.

Christa - I agree that the time/narrator titles can be very useful for reference, particularly in books that could be chronologically challenging, like The Time Traveler's Wife.

Mel - What a great example of an awesome chapter title! And I love that your sharing it helps put a fun book into a kid's hand! :) I agree regarding the Harry Potter chapters too. In that case, the small illustrations at the start of each chapter also make each chapter break more fun. I think a big part of the reason that I read chapter titles & find them a memorable part of each book is that I read aloud to my husband and children every day. Excellent chapter titles can be such fun when you are reading aloud. They can offer a clever teaser for what is to come the next time you sit down to read together. I love having my daughter excitedly remind me that we are on the "The Very Secret Diary" chapter of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets at bedtime. In that way, I really enjoy chapter titles. :)

Jenni - Fun that you test your chapter-title predictions as you read! I will have to try that! Did you see the list of chapter titles for Cassandra Clare's City of Fallen Angels? Her titles are always of the Cryptic variety I enjoy, and it is tempting to start making predictions. The CoFA chapter titles can be found here. :)

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