Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chapter Titles

As a reader, I love chapter titles. They signal so much--such as "heavy chapter lies ahead, go to bed" or "twists and turns, brace yourself." Thus, as a writer I had to put a lot of thought into my titles. Each one needed to encapsulate the struggle contained within.

During the process of writing, I went through dozens of titles for my chapters**. I even used phrases to sum up the purpose so I'd know where I was in my writing--such as MTSYWB. (Okay, it was so long I had to make an unpronounceable acronym but it's memorable.)  Because I use the amazing Scrivener, I was able to title my scenes within each chapter giving me easy-to-recall handles for editing content. For example, in the chapter What Would Happen I have two scenes, 'Halloween Party,' and 'Marc POV.' 
Screen shot from Scrivener:
Such a small feature on Scrivener, but crucial to my sanity. 

Not exciting information for the reader, but when I needed that one scene with Morticia, a title like Chapter 12 did not help. Furthermore, as I wrote and things evolved, titles changed and chapters changed order. I believe this particular example had at least two other versions (Impressions and Bat Fever). Using scene titles within my chapters meant I didn't have to remember a new chapter title or location because the scene was clearly labeled 'Halloween Party.'  
That's the technical.

My chapter titles underwent a heavy make-over a few months back. Not because I didn't like them but because I needed to better incorporate music into my novel. I mean, what's the point of having a DJ if you can't capitalize? As I wrote in Lyric Lesson Learned, for a long time I used numerous lyrics in my manuscript. As the writing matured, the lyrics became place holders and eventually unnecessary, but I missed what they signaled. In fact, I wanted more music to signal other levels of emotion. I finally realized I could use songs as titles because song titles can be referenced without fear of music industry retribution, unlike lyrics. To further cover my bum, and because I think the artist and album information add yet another level, I acknowledged each in the chapter titles. Quite suddenly I had ....  TAA DAA .... an instant play-list. The DJ, Whitney, applauded me as music became a unique and important feature to the novel.

I spent hours combing through music to find songs that
  1. sounded right for the chapter
  2. lyrically supported the story or characters
  3. revealed subconscious tension
  4. captured the essence
  5. amused my DJ
I wore out my ears listening to fragments on iTunes, looking up the lyrics as I replayed 15 seconds worth of a song. It sometimes felt like searching for a needle in a haystack until, to aid in my quest, I researched the top 100 songs for my novel year as well as all albums released during the same time frame. I made lists and listened, scratching out songs I loved because they just didn't adhere enough to my five criteria.

Frankly, I knew I was near the end of a complete and cohesive story when I was able to really delve into my chapter titles. The fact that the table of contents is a play-list just made it that much more fun. If you want to collect these songs in my suggested order, you'll have a musical version of my novel. I like to think of it as Whitney's "Strong Enough" Show.

**My chapter titles for "Strong Enough" are featured above as a page.