Every chapter title needs to mean something special or why write it, A flow that may or may not be obvious needs to exist, tying everything title to the chapter it represents. Sometimes, chapter names can tell you something about a chapter that may not appear directly on the page but that the author thinks is important. Or maybe it’s just a title.
Below is the Table of Contents for my novel, the Tears of the Phoenix. I’d like to say that obviously, they’re in order, but since no one but I really knows, it’s not all that obvious. I can’t really discuss many of them without giving away the plot, but I think that in the context of this book, the chapter names are important. Sometimes, they tell you exactly what happens in the chapter. Other times, they describe an non-corporeal aspect, one that does not physically appear in the words.
With that in mind, let’s get started.
Chapter 01…………….the Color of the King
This chapter title stands out to me because it says nothing about the contents of the chapter. Though, I suppose the readers can decide on that for themselves. This name represents a quality to me. An abstract concept that I am aware of in play, regarding the narrator, Sypher Hawq. The title is a statement of his personality and how it warps the world around him.
Color means Hue. That’s it’s most commonly used definition. However, Color also means quality. As in “a vivid, distinctive quality.” Thus, we are seeing the vivid, distinctive qualities that are Sypher. However, without that explanation, I’m not hopeful many will full appreciate the title. But I still think it’s cool.
Chapter 02…………….the Edge of Night
Chapter 03…………….Two Steps from Hell
Again, this is not a literal title. No one is standing two steps away from hell. This chapter title might make a little more sense later, after I’ve posted a snipped of my revision process. This chapter is an idea. Two Steps from Hell means you’re really, really close. Sypher lives on the edge, pushing things he knows he shouldn’t. And Laynie and Stein are Islanders. Their existence puts them so close to problems, as seen in a scene at a bar.
Chapter 04…………….Calm the Storm
Chapter 05…………….the Long View of Things
Chapter 06…………….the Empty Room
The first literal title of the book. This chapter involved, well, you know, an empty room. Oddly, this chapter represents the first real breaking point in the story. See, in most books, events flow from one to another. After all, it’s harder to make events seem like they’re building to something if time comes into play.
TV shows tend to get around this function just fine. Fade to black, commercials, return, characters are in a new place with new information. Books, unless structured in interesting fashions, tend not to do this. Gaps in time are seen unfavorably, unless the author can handle it and many can’t.
Narratively, chapter six represents the end of an academic term, since these characters exist in a military policy academy. Chapter 07 picks up when class resumes. One question is, why then skip over events in the break? Or, what happened during the break? Or, I guess, why put the break in at all and not just move time tables up? (I’ve had to answer that question from my twin and my girlfriend more than once). The answer is simple. Time isn’t malleable, yet. In real life, certain things take certain amounts of time. We can’t force characters to understand things more quickly in their world than we would in our own. That sort of breaking the fourth wall, well, by definition hurts the story and the world you’ve spent time constructing. Each character moves at a realistic pace.
Case in point: CSI. Do you understand, as a chem major, how much my college friends and I laughed at that show? Results in twenty minutes? Seriously? Though, give them credit, they did manage to maintain a certain internal logic.
Back the point in hand. The real answer about taking the time jump between ch 06 and 07? It’s irrelevant to the story. Maybe not to the characters, but certainly the story. In a tightly nit story, those things go during revision. So, no, we don’t find out exactly what happened.
Chapter 07…………….A Dialogue of Aggression
Describes how the character reacts to the world now. After the break that occurs in chapter 06, this is their view point on then world.
Chapter 08…………….Mistress of the Rising Tide
A title. Not given to anyone or in existence yet, but describing a definitive shift
Chapter 09…………….Just One Minute
Not sure I like this title. Refers to a mental exercise used in the chapter. To let the rage and emotions in for just one minute. For that minute, it can be felt, but after that, let it go. Not sure I like the flow of the words. A little cute, but not in the right way.
Chapter 10…………….the Academics of Favor
This is simply where Felicia-Maria learns to set up her information network. She’s an information specialist. This is essentially where Felicia-Maria comes to the realization of how exactly her network works. This chapter also shows us her gaining confidence in her own methods.
Chapter 11…………….the Definition of Sorrow
Is this literally the definition of sorrow? As in “A feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.” Or is it being defined by sorrow. As in a defining characteristic? Maybe both.
Chapter 12…………….the Balance of Judgment
Chapter 13…………….the Art of Misdirection
Well, it is a fantasy book that includes magic, right? Though, how much of this chapter centers around that concept and not something else is spoilerish.
Chapter 14…………….A Thousand Miles of Fire
This is awkward for the simple reason that “miles” are not a unit of measurement used in this universe. However, “A Thousand Kilometers of Fire” doesn’t quite flow as well. Can’t keep it.
Chapter 15…………….Dawns Carriage
Due to changes in the details, this chapter title may no longer apply. I’ll have to see when I finally fix it in a few weeks. Should know by first week in September.
Chapter 16…………….Darkness of Fears
Chapter 17…………….A Journal of Impossible Things
Hey, this title looks oddly familiar. As you may or may not have guessed, this blog is in fact, named after said Journal. The Journal belongs to a character named Sypher.
Chapter 18…………….Before the Dawn
Chapter 19…………….The Shadow of Sleep
Chapter 20…………….The Prominence of Dawn
Prominence can be defined as “The fact or condition of standing out from something by physically projecting or being particularly noticeable.” or “something that is prominent; a projection or protuberance.” In this case, both apply Also a play on “solar prominence. An eruption of a flame-like tongue of relatively cool, high-density gas from the solar chromosphere into the corona where it can be seen during a solar eclipse or by observing strong spectral lines in it’s emission spectrum.” This play exists due to the idea of Dawn in the title, which comes from the sun and emits light.
I should say that the chapters that really stand out for me, the ones I really feel something special in are:
- the Color of the King
- Two Steps from Hell
- A Dialogue of Aggression
- the Academics of Favor
- the Definition of Sorrow
- the Balance of Judgment
- A Journal of Impossible Things
In every chapter title I search for something special, a meaning and a flow that may or may not be obvious. There’s a feeling. That’s how I write, through feeling. I couldn’t tell you how I always get certain chapter titles. Some are so straight forward it hurts. But hopefully, I can get around those.
What chapter titles do you like? I know that’s a bit of an odd question, without proper context. But hey, tossing ideas around is the best way to go. Let me know.
Next Time: We’ll take a look at a few excepts from my novel, discussing how they’ve either changed over time or been modified. This is the revision process.