chapter titles – any thoughts?

I realize it’s a bit premature to think that my chapter titles in Finnegans Deciphered are anything like final, but I don’t think it’s too early to ponder them and the work they can do.

The number 17 is important in the story. It happens that there are 17 chapters in my novel. I had thought briefly about making that happen deliberately for some thematic connection, but I realized that I wasn’t sure just what that connection would signify, so I abandoned the idea. Plus, though I knew I had finished up with 17 chapters in the first draft (merely by coincidence), I suspected I would be chopping one of the longer chapters in two, thus giving me 18 chapters. But I didn’t since that would have given the novel three chapters devoted mostly to a single event in the story, and I thought that was drawing too much attention to something that wasn’t that important to the plot.

But that’s not the point of this post. Rather, I want your thoughts/opinions on my chapter titles. I realize you don’t know the plot of the story, but that’s actually good for my nefarious purpose. My intent with these titles is to be both playful and intriguing. My notion is that someone might pick up the novel in a bookstore, not knowing anything of the plot, and scan the list of chapter titles. And if they are titled well, the individual will be intrigued enough to want to read the novel based on no more than what is hinted there.

So here are the titles as they currently exist:

  1. In which Greg doubts he is welcome
  2. In which Ann and Greg meet their fellow guests
  3. In which Greg has a date with history
  4. In which Ann takes a turn about town
  5. In which Ann and Greg have a pretty good lunch
  6. In which Ann and Greg have a very nice dinner
  7. In which Ann and Greg have a nice conversation with Ava and Willows
  8. In which Ann and Greg go Sunday cycling
  9. In which Ann and Greg spin and spin
  10. In which a sleepy afternoon is interrupted
  11. In which many revealing words pass among new friends
  12. In which Greg doesn’t feel very good but soldiers through the morning
  13. In which Greg misses the point but presses on regardless
  14. In which Ann holds court
  15. In which Greg grows weary of the chase
  16. In which Greg learns there is more
  17. In which Ann has one surprise left

So there you go. Based on these, do you think someone might be intrigued? Do they do that kind of work?

Just as the right book title can often make the difference, I think good chapter titles can be a sort of marketing tool as well. At the very least, I think a writer should give them some thought even if a reader never does.

I suspect that the “In which” business might be a little cloying. It’s actually meant to mimic a writing style of old. A hundred-year-old novel also plays an important part in the story, so I feel permitted to use this format in my chapter titles. I can remember reading some old works (published in the same era as my fictional novel — which may be one of the few times a person can call a novel “fictional” and not be redundant) where each page had a unique title in the header.

Of course I can’t know that the final work would even have a page listing chapter titles, but I can’t concern myself with that possibility now. Right now I am trying to make the novel coherent and whole. I’m trying to make every component contribute and be worth its weight.

Explore posts in the same categories: Finnegans, Process, Rants and ruminations


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4 Comments on “chapter titles – any thoughts?”

  1. They work for me, and the “in which,” also works. Especially once a reader gets in and sees the style, I have to think the chapters — when combined with what you’re doing — would work for others. But even if that’s not the case, the chapter titles build toward something more near the end.

    You end with a surprise…that right there will hopefully get people interested. I know I am.

  2. Sonje Says:

    I’ve been reading Winnie-the-Pooh to my two kids for the past couple of months (one of them is on her third pass through both Winnie-the-Pooh and The House on Pooh Corner), so it’s hard for me to look at those titles without thinking about how A.A. Milne uses the same convention!

    Kind of along the same lines, though, it’s pretty rare these days to read a book for adults that has chapter titles. I find yours interesting, but are they necessary? What would your book be like without any chapter titles at all?

  3. Shawn Says:

    I like it. They’re clever, and they make me want to read each chapter. Nice work, sir.

  4. Without knowing what the chapters actually contain, it’s hard to say what might work best. But I would suggest that you make sure the titles are as teasing as possible. “In Which Greg Doubts He Is Welcome” does this, as does “In Which Greg Learns There Is More.” A few of the others, such as in which they are having dinner or lunch, not so much. Intrigue and entice, and you’ll keep people reading.

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