Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wherein I Ruminate On Chapter Headings

Not too long ago over on the Behler Blog (which I have linked over on the left there as one of my Muses), Lynn wrote about Chapter Headings.  Similar to Dialog Tags last week, I took the post to heart and went about dissecting the lesson and how it applied to my own writing.  Just to be clear, we're talking about whether or not to add clever titles to each chapter.  That is, do you simply go with the generic "Chapter Blah" heading, or do you shoot perhaps for something a bit more poetic in "Chapter Blah: Wherein We Travel The Road Less Traveled?"  Or some variation thereof.

I've seen it both ways, and as a reader, I can't say that I have a strong opinion either way.  Lynn seems to promote, in general, a healthy respect for "the rules" without being a stickler.  To me, this is a good thing.  If there's one thing we should have all learned about the English language by now, it's that the only hard-and-fast rule is that there pretty much are no hard-and-fast rules.  To be a good writer is to know when to break the rules.

The guideline in this case is best explained as erring on the side of caution.  Chapter headings can add to a story when done well.  They can also be a vehicle for lazy writing.  My though is that writers should endeavor to avoid "lazy" at all costs and approach rule breaking with moderate trepidation.  There is such a thing as being "too clever."  Also, being a writer who is trying hard to learn all that I can, it fits that I should tread lightly in unfamiliar waters. 

Fortunately, in my writing so far, I've already done this.  I can't say that the thought of chapter titles hadn't crossed my mind, but I always dismissed it.  Putting on my reader shoes, I didn't feel that chapter titles, even when done well, add a whole lot.  They can be nice, but never have I seen them be completely crucial for the story.  Part of my engineer's approach to writing is to really master the essential things first before I add complications.  It didn't seem like there was a reason to muck around with titles when chances were that I would fall prey to young writer traps.  Thus, you will find only the generic titles in my early writing.  I'm not sure when I may cross that bridge into Titleville (if ever), but there would have to be a pretty sweet Starbucks waiting on the other side to entice me I suppose.  I've resolved to try and not simply do things for the sake of doing things.  I want everything to add to the story.  I want my writing to be efficient.

I think readers are often willing to forgive missteps on an author's part so long as they don't get in the way of a good story.  The fewer hurdles I throw up in my early ineptitude, the more likely I will be able to get out of my own way and let the stories I have in mind shine through.  That's the goal here.  I believe in the stories; I don't always believe in my writing.  (An affliction I believe is common to writers).

In any case, it was nice to see this topic dissected a bit, and if you're an aspiring writer or just a curious reader, the article is definitely worth a quick stop over there.  Lynn runs a great, helpful blog that I try to keep on my radar.  It also doesn't hurt that she often references Beagles and margaritas... things dear to my own heart.


Post a Comment