Lots of thinking, lately. Lots of broken nights. Lots of logistics and decisions.
There’s also been time to write. And, although my brain has been a little scattered an unfocused, although those joyous bolts from the blue have been few in recent days, I keep chipping away at it. And thinking about it.
Which brings me to a magical device. The chapter title.
Chapter titles are the literary equivalent of a great advertising headline, an irresistible direct mail opener, the above-the-fold lead paragraph of an online story. They tickle, they tease, they seem to promise, the misdirect, they lie outright. They tell the chapter’s deepest secrets—or seem to. They point backwards, a reminder of something important to remember. They are truth, spoiler, forecast. They are none of the above.
Chapter titles are the hint that stokes the reader’s interest even before the chapter’s opening paragraph has a chance to work its magic. A good chapter title forges an odd bond of understanding between writer and reader…one that’s all the more fun once the reader gets a sense of the writer’s style.
I’ve been known to head a chapter with a word that I know will send folks straight to the dictionary to discover the title’s meaning…a treasure hunt; interactive reading. I’ve been known, in the chapter headline, to fib. I have given away the store.
I tried heading chapters with numbers only. Not nearly as much fun. Like a box of crayons in which the red one is off limits. Like a Dr. Pepper without the fizz. That glorious plot devise that happens in the fewest available words: I don’t think I’ll ever write another thing without it.