Naming characters is a hard and grueling process for me, but that wasn’t what I was thinking of. I was thinking chapter names.
Should I name my chapters? Or not??
I never named my chapters. Members of my family hated when a book we were reading “spoiled” something to come with it’s chapter name – hated it so much so that we religiously skipped the chapter names. So I never named mine. Frankly, it never really occurred to me as an option.
But then, when I was writing The Dragon Pendant, a RADICAL thought occurred to me: maybe I should name these chapters (!!!). I don’t know why, but I decided to do the unthinkable and name my chapters in The Dragon Pendant. 19 chapters later, I’ve reached this conclusion:
Pros for naming
- Provides a tantalizer for the reader to help draw them into the next chapter
- If you’re an outliner type, it helps you translate your outline into the cohesive flow of the story
- Keeps the story moving
Cons for naming
- Risks becoming a “hook” crutch, relying on the name alone (or too much) to pull your readers along, and not as much on other draws
- And you still gotta think of a good name for the chapters (yet another thing to name!)
All that said, I don’t think there’s one way for all stories. Actually, I’m still getting used to this new idea of naming chapters sometimes.
But what the by far biggest difference that it made for me was that, when I named my chapters, the story wandered less. I didn’t spend page after page describing scenery and dragging out useless downloads. Because, when I started off with a name (indicating the purpose of the chapter), I had to make sure I actually got to the point before it became too long and needed another chapter break. Now, sometimes a situation did come up where the story took an unexpected turn and I found I needed to push off my originally intended goal for the chapter to a later date, but all-in-all it helped keep me on track and (surprisingly) produce a better first draft. It also gave my story a more logical, followable course. Looking back at Mastermind (my NaNoWriMo story for the previous year), I mentally tried to name some of the chapters, but it was difficult to distill the point of a chapter into a name. Know why? My chapters didn’t have points or goals. They simply changed when they got too long, taking their wandering course through their whole 75,000 words, and it’s scary to think how much of that is useless meandering material that oughtn’t to have been written in the first place and ought to be cut now. Anyhow…
My problem: I have trouble naming characters. Now I have to name CHAPTERS too?? And of course, it has to be a good name so as not to spoil too much (as in, I try not to spoil anything), but still serve as a hook to draw readers in. It has to provoke thought and awaken curiosity. Like the chapter I was so exasperated over naming that I called it “Grelka”. <- okay, not a good example. 😛 But the point of the chapter was to introduce Grelka as the future sidekick, so… 😀
I’m excited to explore this concept and go crazy with it and see where it takes me. (slightly-off-topic-note: do you ever feel like you have more stories you want to write down than you can possibly keep up with?? For every one I finish I seem to have a half dozen more… :S )
So what are your thoughts? To name, or not to name?