Chapter names

5 years ago | J.E.Hixon (Member)

Just curious how you guys and gals name your chapters? I have been naming them before I start, it helps me stay on topic. But I am worried that maybe I am hindering myself from exploring more options in the story. Would love to hear from some of the guys who have done lots of writing. Thanks

Author of The Unseen War

Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the story.

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Page: 12


  1. Billy Higgins Peery (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Depends a lot on the work you're doing. I honestly don't even do titles for A BAD IDEA, since it updates five days a week. I just number the chapters, for the sake of my sanity.

    For KINDA SUPER GAY, I wrote the chapter title afterwards, often just commenting on the most ridiculous thing that happened in the chapter itself. That led to the bizarre titles I'm most proud of, like, "That Ape's Got Style!" "I'm Not Saying I'm the Terminator, I'm Just Saying..." and "99 Problems and Only One of Them Involves Netflix."

    For GODPUNK I did a similar thing, except I only titled arcs, instead of individual chapters. Also, I was getting my titles from phrases and imagery I liked, as opposed to just the most ridiculous thing I could think of. Don't think these worked as well, though I feel decent about stuff like, "Jewell's Damned," and "Metal Dragon Bones."

    When figuring out how to do chapter titles for a work, I go through this process:

    1) Ask whether the work even needs chapter titles. Would arc titles be more appropriate? Given the update schedule, am I reasonably going to be able to come up with titles for every chapter, or is that just going to slow me down?

    2) What is the goal of the chapter titles? Am I trying to make people laugh? Make people think? How hard am I going to push the desire to have each title get attention?

    3) Are the chapter titles going to have a unifying theme? (Mine haven't had a theme yet, but you'll see this a lot in TV shows. For instance, Friends, where the ep titles are like, "The One Where Joey Speaks French," and "The One With The Sharks." Wildbow's doing a similar thing with Twig, where each arc has titles from common sayings, like, "Cat Out of the Bag," and "Stitch in Time." He one ups himself by throwing a pun in the arc, "Espirit De Corpse.")

    This all helps me figure out how I want to approach chapter titles. Hope that helps!

    "Any number of hitlers, are still not my problem." -Tempest
  2. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I don't name chapters, but I name arcs, and I grumble when the words are used interchangeably.

    For Worm and Pact, I picked out words that had double meaning, with bug-related ones for Worm and contract terms for Pact. The trick was to summarize the spirit of the arc in as nuanced a way. Often I would pick something that mostly fit and then write the arc to fit it slightly better. In Worm's Arc 4: Shell, I intended the word to apply to both beetle shells and to artillery or bomb shells, alluding to the fight with mad bomber Bakuda toward the latter half of the arc. But on a more subtle level, we also have the main character coming out of her shell. It works on many levels.

    Not always perfect, some are less good than others, but it works well enough.

    For Twig, I've been using idioms with relation to living things or the biopunk aspect of the setting. Taking Root, Cat out of the Bag, Lips Sealed, Stitch in Time, Esprit de Corpse, Lamb to the Slaughter, Tooth and Nail, Bleeding Edge, Counting Sheep and In Sheep's Clothing, so far. The same ideas can apply, but the arc titles are obviously longer. I read through a list of English idioms and saved every one that could theoretically apply. Before starting a new arc, I go over the list and figure out which one will apply best.

  3. J.E.Hixon (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    OK, so I am super new to the world of serials and Need some clarifications. A book is chapters, but serials seem to have a few different ways of breaking them up. What is an arc? And what is the best way to break up each release? I have called mine episodes but I am willing to change that for the sake of being a true web serial.

    Author of The Unseen War

    Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the story.
  4. GeneralRincewind (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    An arc is a mini story in a web serial. It's a little mini-plot, lasting a few to many chapters, that has a self contained story, i.e. the story may have consequences on the onverarching plot, but the mini-story is complete within the episodes containing the arc.

    For example:
    Character X may be in a grand fantasy story in which the overarching plot is to kill Evil Baddy Y. A arc in this example would be if Character X first had to save his parents from Evil Monarch Z. The story would unfold over a few updates, ex.
    Update 1: Character X tries to find parents
    Update 2: Character X finds parents because one of Evil Monarch Z's servants told him and prepares to attack.
    Update 3: Character X attacks Evil Monarch Z's Generic Fantasy Castle and fights his way to the dungeon where his parents are.
    Update 4: Character X fights Evil Monarch Z in an epic battle and kills him,freeing his parents
    Update 5: Character X flees the castle that is crumbling around him ,taking his parents with him.
    Update 6: Character X has a celebration and this little mini-story wraps up

    Now the thing is Character X can suffer consequences from this escapade, but the mini-story is complete, nothing will be added to it.
    Thit is an arc. It doesn't have to be part of the overarching plot(It helps though), but it mustn't eclipse it totally.

    And name your updates what you want. Just remember that what you call it will influence what people compare it to, i.e. episodes = TV series, chapters = book etc.

  5. J.E.Hixon (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    OK, that makes a ton of sense. Thank You for explaining this to me, I am going to have to think a lot about my story line and how this may apply. Good point on the name causing the reader to treat it differently in their mind. Well, I learned a lot today, once again thank you all for sharing your knowledge.

    Author of The Unseen War

    Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the story.
  6. Dary (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I don't think there's such a thing as a "true" web serial. Just do what's best for you/your story. I consider an "arc" to be a larger narrative, which in my case is made up of episodes, which are themselves made up of chapters. Others have their own definition. There's no rule that says "YOU MUST DO THIS" (and, even if there was, I would happily ignore it).

    As for naming my own chapters, I try to go for multiple meanings when possible, since it helps support one of the overarching themes of how we identify each other and ourselves. I mean, the story's actual title has at least a dozen meanings, and all of them fit (this was also a complete accident), so I've kinda set myself a standard from the very first page! When multiple meanings aren't possible, however, I go for something that summarises the themes or events of that chapter. Some chapters don't get their title until the day I publish, others I know years in advance. As for the episodes, they take their name from one of the associated chapters, again with the aim of having multiple meanings/interpretations, some of won't be apparent until much later in the story. For example, SynThesis, the title of the eighth episode, will mean something very different to people once they've read episode eleven, whilst also retaining its original meanings (the clue being that you can read it as two words, as well as one).

    I did consider using themes at one point, giving certain styles of title to certain characters (the science guy getting titles that evoke pulp fiction, the young writer ones that reference the tendency of YA novel title themselves "[name] and the [noun]", the poet's titles being even more pretentious than I usually am, etc) but that caused issues with chapters that have multiple viewpoints.

    I also seem to be developing a habit of referencing a song title once per episode...

  7. Tintenteufel (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Well. Currently I'm a pantser - I burned my backlog quite fast and am now writing to keep up the pace. That means I go the way of naming the arcs with a short term that suffices as some kind of guideline for me. It is easy, I get to come back to a few points I want to emphasize and I don't have to have much of an idea about what's to come.
    For all the following stuff you'll have to keep in mind that I'm quite new to this all. My first story just ballooned out of proportion with half assed attempts to draw connects between isolated characters and blotched ideas. So...lots of grand ideas and not much to show.

    I toyed with some naming themes, too. Like my story collection about the Mad Psychologist and how he drives people around him insane has only properties of the mind as names. Einbildung, Empathie, Eifersucht, Ekel.
    The one with the Doctor-turned-necromancer follows the stages of an blood infection - Inflammatio, Sepsis, Nekrosis. Come to think of it, I should take up that story again and open up Inflammatio more.

    However: I'm a bit unhappy with that. I do kinda love elaborate in jokes or the kind of descriptions Alexandre Dumas used. They are horrible trashy, but I do like them.
    I'm trying to outrun myself at the moment and write the next arc before it goes live. Which gives me way more time to think about themes and names and structure and all that fancy stuff. Only problem is: I got no ideas for names. Still.
    The current Title is "Rashomon" - more as hommage than a real title I'd use and I'm toying with everything from "The Confessions Of Elisabeth K." and then just numbers/numerals to something like a shortly-named Arc - "Confessions" - with titles for each update like "Confession of Pride" "Confession of Lust" "Confession of Egoism" and so on to nail the theme of the update.

    My arcs are all over the place at the moment. Ranging from oughly 8000 to about 20000 Words. If I get my will with my next one - the shrewd little bastard - I might do something in between the ultra-shord numbered and the highly-specific individual ones to fit a more structued arc. Like giving every POV-Character his own "Confession"-Theme and marking the arc with a short title - "Confessions".
    Maybe I'll just go wild and summarize them. "The one with the shark" sounds pretty awesome. Just need some sharks in the middle of europe. Damn.

    Personally I don't think you'd be hindering yourself by chosing titles before writing. Freedom is only the chains we choose ourselves - so find a pretty pair and rattle them all you like. :)

    Blut und Rost - German Webserial about the horror that is human interaction
  8. GeneralRincewind (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    J.E.Hixon, it's an absolute pleasure to be a help, in even a small way. I actually read your story and I like it. And I hope my help will cause you to write even better ,even in a small way.

  9. kaleidofish (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I name my chapters last when I write my serial. I usually take it from a line in the chapter (dialogue or narration), or name it after some kind of theme that is running through the chapter. As for naming the arc...that's going to wait until all the chapters for that arc are finished. :P

    Redwood Crossing, an interactive serial fiction:
  10. J.E.Hixon (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I must say, though I have not written a lot so far, I have changed a lot already based on suggestions and other people's writing. But as far as naming, It seems everyone is a bit different on how they do that. I will stick with what I am doing for now, I just love seeing how others develop parts of their wonderful writing.

    @generalrincewind: Thank you for taking time to read my story, and I am glad you liked it. I am just hoping to keep up the pace, I didn't have backlog when I started (sigh) so it is a race at the moment, But I don't want to stop posting now that I have started. I will schedule a break at some point and spend a couple weeks gathering a backlog, that way they can be a bit more refined when I post them. Live and learn they say...

    Author of The Unseen War

    Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the story.
  11. LEErickson (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Graves is the first time I've used chapter titles in anything. I mostly did it because I wanted it to feel like a TV series, and it seemed appropriate to name the episodes. However, my "episodes" last through several weekly updates, so I'm not having to come up with a title every week, which is good because I kinda suck at titles. (I use the episode title plus a number to indicate post order within the episode, so for example, "Calling All Skeletons 6.3" would be the third post in the sixth episode.) What I wound up doing was using song titles that seem to fit each episode, both the words of the title itself and the general theme of the song tying into something in the episode. And the type of music itself, too, as far as that goes--Graves lends itself well to (mostly) punk. I do pick the song I'm going to use ahead of time, because I then use it to remind myself to unify the posts along the lines of that theme. (Because I know as soon as I open my doc and see the song title, I will get the song stuck in my head, so there's no way I'll forget.)

    Honestly, though, I mostly use song titles because a) I love the music, and b) they sound cooler than anything I'd make up myself. And I almost always have a writing playlist for every story I write anyhow, so the songs more or less pick themselves. I know there's at least one other person here who uses song titles/lyrics for post titles, and he's brave enough to use a new one every update, which I think he does twice a week. (Another person in addition to Dary, who I just noticed said he uses song titles sometimes, too.)

    But as others have said, your mileage may vary, so do what feels right for your story. (Although I know it's helpful to hear what others are doing to help sort things out--I did a lot of lurking and reading old threads before I launched Graves.)

    Luck with sorting it all out. :)

  12. tkayo (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Because my story's fairly contemporary, I use a mix of songs and fictional quotes, depending on the character. (I'm pretty sure I'm the guy Lori's talking about). So for one character, each chapter is a song title, something both relevant to the chapter and in the theme of music appropriate for them, which is mostly alt-rock with some diversions into indie stuff. The subchapters are then lines or selections from that song that are fitting for their content (although I sometimes have to stretch a little). For example, Chapter Seven is titled Crash The Party, and the first subchapter, which is titled as Party 7-I for convenience's sake, is called Trying So Hard.

    For the other protagonist, it's basically the same system, but with quotes from fictional characters. So Chapter Four is If You Have To Shoot, Shoot; Don't Talk, which is obviously from Tuco in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and the third subchapter is A Priest or a Bandit, which is part of another quote from him elsewhere in the movie.

    Honestly, if I had to do it again, I'd just do songs for both characters, because it's far easier, but I wanted to do something to distinguish them a little. Mine's probably the most convoluted system of chapter-naming I've seen, but I'd like to think it gives it just a little bit of uniqueness.

    Silversmith, an urban fantasy mystery serial -
  13. Marn (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I do song titles too! I started out naming all Antlers's chapters after Modest Mouse songs (because Modest Mouse super fits the aesthetic of Antlers), and then also kind of stumbled my way into naming the intermissions after Regina Spektor songs. I'm thinking I might switch up the name scheme of the intermissions after the first "book" of Antlers ends, but I'm not sure yet.

  14. mathtans (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I name everything, and I do it after I've written the entry. For the math stuff, written on the fly, often it's a pun of some sort based on dialogue or situation - "Piece Offering", "Just a Moment" - and I actually keep a separate file of all titles, so that I don't accidentally reuse one. The time travel stuff is largely re-vamped older work, which gets a new name when I split it into two parts (a 6k post would be crazy, I do two of 3k)... but I also have "Arcs" outside that, lumping episodes together, which I title as well. Mostly for reference's sake, or to provide readers with reasonable "chunks".

    I don't know that titling in advance necessarily hinders you... I usually have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do when I start, I simply try to be "clever" about titling, which is easier once I see where the focus ended up. In fact, I titled my latest "Epsilon" story - not the parts, the whole arc, if you will - in advance. And it's written completely based on reader votes, so I couldn't know where it was going. Yet having "Full Scale Invasion" up there does remind me (and readers?) constantly of the main plot chosen at the outset, even as I make up names for new parts.

    Writing a Time Travel serial:
    Writer of the personification of math serial:

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