Why I use Chapter Titles #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

The majority of fiction novels do not have chapter titles but, rather, stick with a rather boring (at least in my opinion) numbering system. I’ve always used chapter titles for my fictional writing. I started using titles as my first novel, Unforeseen Consequences, is told from the perspective of four different protagonists and has three different timelines. I needed those titles, so I wouldn’t confuse myself while writing! (Yes, writers can literally lose the plot.)

As I increased my online presence, I started getting review requests from other indie authors. I noticed that the majority of these novels did not contain chapter titles. Still, I trudged on using chapter titles. In fact, I started spending more and more time on them. Why? Why waste hours and hours of valuable writing time figuring out chapter titles? What purpose do chapter titles serve?

Attract Readers. This is the most obvious reason to use chapter titles. An interesting title can hook a reader by being entertaining. I started using this method when I decided to try my hand at writing chick lit. I included funny chapter titles, anything from a song title to a funny quote, to get a giggle from the reader. In Fat Girl Begone!, for example, I included a ‘positive thought of the day’ as the chapter title. These were funny, little tidbits that foreshadowed the events to occur in the chapter.

chapter titles 1.1

Direct your storyline. Chapter titles can also aid in moving the plot along. You can string the various elements of your plot together to escalate tension. I tried something like this in my cozy mystery, Bring Your Own Baker. This is how it turned out:

Start with a teaspoon of terror

Mix in a dash of honesty

Stir in some friendship

Spoon in a heap of intruder

Let the mixture rest until bubbling

Beat in a bit of confusion

Fold in a wallop of subterfuge

Add a surprise visit

Pour in a heaping tablespoon of Intervention

Increase the heat until steaming

Combine with a pinch of sneaking around

Add in a hefty dose of annoyance

Mix in an idea

Combine with a bit of snooping

Spoon in a surprise visit

Weigh in a dollop of anger

Beat in a game of chance

Whip the mixture together until a hint of an idea appears

Measure in an arrest record

Throw in a bit of va-va-voom

Whip until the mixture sizzles

Throw in some male posturing

Measure in a surprise girlfriend

Pour in a pinch of attempted control

Level a dose of scheming

Cream together with a secret spy mission

Turn up the heat

Stir in some snooping

Dust with a forced confession

Enjoy with the adult beverage of your choice

Clarify your story. As writers we have outlines, plot charts, and character briefs to keep the story clear in our heads. Readers have none of those visual aids available. If you’re writing a complicated story (perhaps in a fantasy world), using chapter titles can help readers to understand the story more clearly. You can keep the title to something simple such as Germany, 1933 or make it more intriguing by simply stating, Sometime in the past. Now, sometime in the past isn’t that clarifying, but clarifying your story doesn’t mean you have to give away the entire plot!

Do you use chapter titles? If not, why not? If so, how do you chose your titles? Want more about chapter titles? You can read the top 10 chapter titles (according to the Independent) here.



23 thoughts on “Why I use Chapter Titles #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

  1. D.L Finn, Author says:

    Good point about chapter titles. I’ve used them in my children’s books but not my adult fiction book so far. I think it depends on storyline adding to humor or making it more coherent. Good post:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • D.E. Haggerty says:

      I can imagine there are a lot of cases where not using chapter titles make sense, but I do think it’s important to think about it and not just go for the easy solution of not using them. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. alicegristle says:

    Most writers don’t use chapter titles? Are you sure? Sounds baffling! I mean, they’re tons of fun. 🙂 Aside from the good points you make here, they’re also great at creating mood, deepening the milieu, and foreshadowing. Plus, they’re easy to write!

    Then again, not using chapter titles creates a certain mood all of its own. So, I can understand that choice, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D.E. Haggerty says:

      I haven’t done an extensive study of how many writers use chapter titles. I’m just speaking from my own reading experience.

      I find writing chapter titles difficult – but fun!


      • alicegristle says:

        You may well be right, though. 🙂 Now that I think about it, I can’t remember any great chapter titles in the books I’ve read recently. Maybe they’re not in fashion!

        Out of curiosity, what do you find difficult about them?


  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    I was just debating this for my current WIP yesterday! I ended up deciding to try using chapter titles for the first time. Not sure how it will go. I’ve only titled chapter one so far. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Will Pennington says:

    I’ve considered chapter titles for my manuscript. I have two timelines, with each being a “Book” of 4-7 chapters. Each time the timeline switches I title that section Book I, Book II, etc. and indicate the location and year. I’ve also thought about adding the names of the two main characters each chapter deals with. Something like this:
    Book I
    Olongapo, Philippines
    Tom and Aida.

    Book II,
    Sam and Frank.

    I like the idea; I’m glad you wrote about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tidalscribe says:

    Yes, I used them in all my novels and in my WIP. Sometimes the name of the character who is important in the chapter, a time setting ‘July’, ‘Christmas’ or a place. I like reading novels with chapter headings so I know where I am; I enjoy books that time hop as long as we know which decade we are in.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Robert Kirkendall says:

    I only use numbers for the chapters of my novel, but when I post them to my site I attach an image that refers to the theme or subject of the chapter. Hopefully they garner potential reader’s interest.

    Liked by 1 person

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