Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chapter Strategies - Chapter Titles

This book isn't going to be complete before the end of the dare, but one of the other measures of "completeness" for me is chaptering. When I'm writing the first draft, I jump around, try different pacing, and I don't always know how much will go into any gaps I have in the narrative. So I often don't number the chapters yet. I'll just write in "Chapter Break" if there is a spot that seems especially right for one, and let the rest run free.

So one of the goals for this dare is to set the chapter strategy of the book. At the moment I'm not sure what the chapter styling will be: Short and snappy? Long and graceful? How much will I use cliff hangers and how much the natural breaks in the story.

And the biggie: Will I use titled chapters?

I admit it. I really love titled chapters. I don't actually use them that much, but they are like a touch of chopped ginger in a stir-fry. Done with the proper touch (usually light) they act as teaser and tone setter to the story.

Teasers can actually work better than a cliffhanger for bringing the reader back to the book. Why? Because cliffhangers are designed to prevent the reader from even putting the book down. But that's silly because readers often must put the book down. They don't want to be forced to read on, they want to be lured. Most readers, when they come to the end of a chapter, will glance at the next chapter to whet their appetite for the next session. I think that, in some ways, the beginning of the next chapter can be more important to a "page turner" than the end of the previous. (And, of course, the most important thing is what's in between - nothing builds anticipation better than having already experienced some great stuff in what you've already read.)

Ahem, back to chapter titles: The problem with them is that not only can they feel a bit gimmicky, but they are also a lot of work. You can't just throw in a title here and there on chapters that really call for them. If you use chapter titles, you have to put them on all of them, and you have to be just as clever on the boring chapters as you are on the cool chapters. (Of course, you shouldn't have any boring chapters.)

This book, I think, was made for chapter titles. There is a certain high adventure undercurrent, plus the comedy, that just suits it. So I'm going to be trying them out, anyway. I can always remove them later.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I've always loved chapter titles, but don't think they work with my books as much. :( . I love books that have a quote at the beginning of each chapter. Oh, and I love books that have "cast of character" lists at the beginning. I know these are old-fashioned stylistic things, but I really enjoy them. :)

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