Thursday, March 12, 2015

What's In A Name?

I had an interesting critique of one of my books recently.  The reader said she enjoyed what she got so far, but she felt like some of the suspense had been taken out because the names of the chapters gave away too much.  I must say that that's the first time I ever got that one.

To an extent, I understand and even appreciate the criticism.  My goal in naming chapters is for that name to contain some foreshadowing so the reader will have an idea about what is in it without giving away the ballgame.  A chapter title that tells you exactly what the following text is all about defeats the purpose of the reader reading it, while a chapter title that is too far from the substance will make the reader wonder what the heck he or she is getting.

Up to this point, my titles came to me before I wrote the body of the work.  Sure, I sometimes changed them if what I wrote was radically different than what the title alluded to, but I didn't give them lots of thought.  This has made me rethink that paradigm.

Just how literal should a title be?  How much should be symbolism and foreshadowing?  Let's be honest - a chapter title is far different than the book title.  After all, a book's title should reflect everything that a novel is.  How much of this translates to a chapter?  My chapter titles tend to vary back and forth between symbolic and foreshadowing, and literal in order to prepare the reader for what to expect.

Maybe that's the key - knowing what feeling or mood you want to accomplish with said title.  There will be times I will want to leave some question in the mind of the reader as to specifics, and there will be other times that plunging the reader straight into the story will be important.  Threading that needle will be the challenge.

So, what was the point of that rambling screed that ended up right back at the starting point?  I guess it was so that I could work out exactly what to make of the criticism.  Like I said, chapter titles were only of minimal importance to me before.  Perhaps I should pay better attention.

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