View Full Version : Naming chapters- are they spoilers?

09-12-2008, 06:57 AM
It's happened. I generally skim down the chapter list at the beginning and sometimes much of the plot is given away by the chapter name.

For example, in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, the last chapter of Book 2 is called The Grave is no bar to my Call, which is the inscription on the Horn of Valere so I knew that it was going to be used at the end though that wouldn't be obvious to the reader otherwise.

So, is it better to name chapters or to merely number them? I must admit that names are usually intriguing and make me want to read more when they are enticing. My heart was just fluttering when I came to the above mentioned chapter.

09-12-2008, 07:59 AM
I name all my chapters. Mainly for ease of editing and revising. For HOTEL, my editor left them in, though she did have me change a few that were foreshadowing too much.

09-12-2008, 08:20 AM
I'v ejust been numbering mine, but Jamie certainly has a point.

Chapter titles wouldn't be spoilers unless they said too much. But I'd never read the table of contents ahead of time. Then I think they'd be spoilers no matter what.

Maybe that's why the French put the table of contents in the back.

Bill Ward
09-12-2008, 08:37 AM
But consider that 'spoilers' are not always a bad thing. Drama can be heightened when certain outcomes are suspected or even known -- I'd even go so far as to say some drama which we experience already knowing the outcome -- such as a Shakespeare tragedy -- is actually more dramatically charged than the standard unfolding of the unknown.

Don't worry about spoilers, if an apt title leaps to mind, go with it; it's part of a long tradition of named chapters, after all.

09-12-2008, 08:46 AM
Your call.

Personally I ignore chapter titles, but someone I know was seriously spoiled by the titles in the sixth Harry Potter. I'm guessing the spoiled moment had a lot to do with the pre-release hype also, combined with the chapter titles.

If it's something you're concerned about, you have enough foresight to play closer attention to your titles so you're not revealing too much, but don't let potential spoilers stop you from using them altogether if you want.

Mr. Anonymous
09-12-2008, 09:01 AM
I don't name em. I have enough trouble picking a name for the book. I'd tear my hair out if I had to go through all that for each chapter. xP

09-12-2008, 09:07 AM
If chapter names aren't descriptive of their content, why have them at all? And if they are descriptive, why aren't they spoilers? Do you name your scenes? How about your pages? Your paragraphs?

That's why I number my chapters and call it good. If I could get away with it, I'd turn my chapter breaks into large whitespace breaks. No "Chapter" or number anywhere--narrative ends, then resumes 1/3 of way down on the next page.

Dale Emery
09-12-2008, 09:37 AM
Take a look at Connie Willis's delightful time-travel romp To Say Nothing of the Dog. She starts each chapter with a synopsis, expressed in a dozen or so evocative but cryptic phrases. So you sorta kinda know something about what's coming, but when you get there it's still a surprise.


09-12-2008, 01:05 PM
I just realized that if there were no contents table it would be all the more impressive. When I'm starting a chapter and it has a name, it can be thrilling. For example, considering the example I initially quoted, if I came to the last chapter (ie number 52 btw) and saw it headed as The Grave is no bar to my call, then I'd definitely be excited because by then I'm expecting it to be something like that.

Hmmm. Skipping the contents page seems ideal. Of course a publisher won't agree but hereafter I'm not looking at contents pages. :)

PS: Way to go France!

Momento Mori
09-12-2008, 01:25 PM
Dale Emery:
Take a look at Connie Willis's delightful time-travel romp To Say Nothing of the Dog. She starts each chapter with a synopsis, expressed in a dozen or so evocative but cryptic phrases.

Ysabeau S. Wilce does the same type of thing in Flora Segunda and it works well because you get a sense of what's coming but it's the way she describes it that keeps it fresh.

I 'name' my chapters so I've got an aide memoir as to what's happening in each one.


09-12-2008, 03:19 PM
I've always admired when a chapter begins in a quote, nothing to do with the actual story, but gives and "idea," or a "feeling" that bridges the two chapters.

Another way I've seen it done, is that they only really made sense at the end, when you realize what they were trying to say, like puzzle pieces. You couldn't see what the picture was until they were ALL together.

Both of those lacked titles. Just numbers.

09-12-2008, 04:45 PM
I make sure I don't "spoil" the chapter by revealing too much, usually a theme or mood or setting or maybe just a character name, but no plot, but just enough to entice them -- ooh, something is going to happen. Mostly I find that readers don't really pay too much attention of the Chapter titles anyway...

Mr Flibble
09-12-2008, 04:59 PM
usually a theme or mood or setting or maybe just a character name, but no plot, but just enough to entice them -- ooh, something is going to happen.

Me too. A little tagline teaser if you will.

kct webber
09-12-2008, 05:22 PM
I always name my chapters. But like maestro, I usually don't include a lot of plot. They are usually vague and won't make a great deal of sense until you've already finished the chapter. After you've read the chapter, they'll make perfect sense, but before, they're just there to give sort-of a feel.

I like naming chapters. I just enjoy it. Even if readers don't pay a great deal of attention to the names--and according to interviews with my betas, they usually don't--I will continue to name them.

09-12-2008, 05:38 PM
I like chapter names. I don't like tables of contents in fiction books. The two don't have to go together.

09-12-2008, 05:56 PM
I prefer to title my chapters. When there are spoilers they're usually quite mild, and IMO, one shouldn't be reading down the entire list of chapter names before reading the story, especially if it's a serial or there are prequels! :D I think the teasers and creativity inherent in titles outweigh any small spoilers they might include.

I do recall one that kind of niggled at me. It was called "Sheep In Wolf's Clothing," and in that chapter a big beastly demon appeared. Someone pointed out that the title, in effect, gave away that this big beastly demon was going to turn out to be not so beastly after all, and of course they were right. Oh well. It just spoiled that one chapter, not the entire story. *shrug*