Almost called this blog post– “The Endless Revision”, “Revision Slump”, or “I Don’t Want to be One of Those People that Never Finish Writing Her Stupid Novel”.
But no. This post is about Chapter Titles and Chapter Title-ing.
After fiddling with the opening line of my novel “Dwarfed” for the umpteenth time ( “The dwarfs milled around the alley, smoking, holding soda cans aloft, and sweating spectacularly”, “The sky was white”, “Kneeling behind a garbage can, I counted”. etc. ) I made a decision to do something. To actually accomplish a finite action.
Going through a hard copy print out– 165 luscious pages!– with a ballpoint pen, I gave all 53 of my chapters descriptive titles. Kindly, I’ve listed these 53 chapter headers below. Now all you Evelyn Wood-ers can get the full effect of my novel without actually reading it. Yay!
Hmm. I do remember a commenter on Amazon saying how she found chapter titles to be annoying and distracting. Perhaps I shall prove her point. So be it. “We are who we are,” as Felix Unger wisely said.
1) I See The Dwarfs
2) A God For Cads
3) The Love Man
4) Back To The Alley And Plan A
5) Menaced By Dwarfs
6) Hotel Hera
7) My Happy Pictures
8) Red Room
10) A Hotel Maid Has Expectations
11) Dumping Eva
12) Plan B: In Which I Am Female
13) Tracking Tim– Her Dwarf in Charge
14) The Junk Shop
17) Plan C: Government Worker
19) Tim, Unfortunately
20) Poetry Contest
21) Bathroom Interlude
22) Violence! Violence!
23) The Dress
24) One Bad Apple
25) Professor Tim
26) Torturer Tim
27) Apparently I Have Performed Earlier Today But Not In The Sense I Normally Mean
28) Eva Is Insane
30) Dizzy Decompress
31) Perhaps Eva Is Not So Crazy
32) Eva Is Nuts
33) I Attempt to Phone
Snow White “Blanche Winters”
34) Plan D: The Feminist Bookstore
35) Word Games
36) More Misadventures With Dwarfs
37) I Have A Son?
38) Crazy Eva Redux
39) A Potent Dream
41) The End Of Masha
43) Rumors About Her
44) The Mermaids’ Curse
46) Plan E: Final Plan
47) Alpha Dog
48) Sex, Sex Everywhere But…
50) Should I Marry?
51) A Daring Escape
53) I See Her
Well, there you have it. In less than twenty seconds you’ve read the entire arc of something I’ve worked on for almost as long as Nathan Detroit’s been engaged to Adelaide.
Unrelated Aside: Did there ever really exist a Frenchwoman whose husband told her to “stop her silly prattle” and then she never spoke again for 30 years or so until she died? Or is that just an urban legend? It was listed in an “Amazing Stories” paperback in a thrift store today. Unfortunately, I did not purchase the book which also related how armadillos can roll themselves into balls and how opossums faint when frightened. Anyway, I hope it’s true. I do so admire that kind of fortitude in holding a grudge!
But getting on topic. Even if chapter titles are annoying and distracting– I like them. In Evelyn Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust”, my favorite chapter title is “Hard Cheese On Tony.”
Some of my chapter titles need work. “A Daring Escape”, for example. Still, naming the chapters gave me a sense of the story’s shape. If you’re stuck in a revision– changing the same words back and forth endlessly, it could be something to try.
Whatever you’re working on– a play, short story, or novel– just know it’s important to finish. But you– whoever you are– are obviously better acquainted with that fact than I am.