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Thread: Themed Chapter Titles

  1. #11
    I'm just relating this idea to my own time-distorting novel. In it the big red clock shown in my avatar picture counts down the time left for the device to return to normal time. So, one suggestion for your titles might be to reverse the hours and count down from twelve, which would deter the reader from thinking that they were referring to normal times. Another is not to attempt to impart the idea in words at all but instead place a small image of a clock face next to each chapter title. That way you don't have to abandon the idea but can also have content relevant textual titles.

    I like to create chapter titles that the reader won't properly understand until they have read the chapter and maybe not even then. I doubt whether they even pay attention to chapter titles anyway. For example my first chapter has the title "Nowhere to begin", partly because it isn't the start of the story and partly because in it two people first meet in a place that doesn't really exist, so nowhere. Another chapter title "As driven snow" opens with detective chief inspector Snow being driven to the scene, so it is apparently just a joke, but later it is revealed that he is a very moral man, so also literally pure as driven snow. Later the title "Now is future past" is ambiguous as it may simply be a general statement about now, that it used to be the future but isn't any more, or it may indicate that the future has recently been changed, so won't happen in the way that it would have in the past. Like much of my writing my chapter titles don't have to be understood in order to follow the story and that should generally be true, so you can play with yours as much as you like so long as they are not directly misleading.

    Possibly the most, or maybe least, revealing chapter title in my novel is "Nothing happens". At first glance this might suggest that the chapter doesn't advance the story at all, which would seem pointless, but it is actually the first hint that some form of time distortion is involved as the chapter ends back where it began with everything apparently just as it was. It is in fact expanding on a discussion in the first chapter about events being real but not happening and continues the question as to exactly what is meant by something "happening". In reality when people have planned and prepared for an event but at the last minute it doesn't happen it is difficult to think that it wasn't in a sense real. Instead they feel that it was real, having become so within their minds, but just didn't happen and they have to unwind their thoughts to go on with their lives. It's a somewhat profound idea to be seeded by just two words in a chapter title that will probably be ignored anyway, but chapter titles are, unlike the story text, a place where the writer can openly reveal a little of their own thoughts without intruding into the story too much. Therefore I'm pleased that you are giving the subject some thought and making the most of the opportunity.
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  2. #12
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Its food for thought, but the story isn’t set at Christmas - only the first chapter. I really wanted something that refers to the mechanics of the clock or something directly linked to time itself as the “time machine” is based around a clock whose numbers respond to different points in time (the time traveler travels through time via moving the hands - though the clock itself is really just the facade for a portal).

    So for example, if I was going to title each chapter “First Hour”, “Second Hour”, etc (which is fairly dull but for examples sake) that would work...except then I would worry doing so would confuse the reader into making them think the chapters in question took place an hour apart or there was an actual chronological meaning for the titles when there isn’t. I just like the idea of theming.
    Hmm yep I see what you mean. In my head I'm now thinking, "Ch.1: The Key Turns", "Ch. 2: The Mainspring Draws Back", "Ch. 3: The Pendulum Begins Its Swing", "Ch.4: The Hour Progresses" or something. Sort of using individual parts of a timepiece - clock, watch or other - and time imagery itself to suggest movement.


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  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by JustRob View Post
    It's a somewhat profound idea to be seeded by just two words in a chapter title that will probably be ignored anyway, but chapter titles are, unlike the story text, a place where the writer can openly reveal a little of their own thoughts without intruding into the story too much. Therefore I'm pleased that you are giving the subject some thought and making the most of the opportunity.
    The story was an accidental self-discovery of the 'many worlds' theory, in contrast to the traditional notion of time travel being used to alter time (although that is the initial premise and I play off the trope) it becomes more complex through the story as the characters realize that changing the past isn't as simple (or as complicated) as modifying their own present-day reality through the butterfly effect or otherwise upsetting things - this conveniently allows me to escape the pitfalls of the Grandfather Paradox.

    The use of the clock motif is to establish the many layers of time: Time is both a simple mechanical and easily-understandable construct that everybody understands and it is an insanely complicated, head-spinning mathematical truth that most people without understanding of quantum physics (well, not me anyway) can fathom. The title is related to clocks and the clock in question is considered unique at the start of the novel. It is effectively no different to the Dolorean, but as the story progresses it quickly becomes apparent that there are 'many clocks' (and many timelines) and that actually clocks have nothing to do with what time is beyond cosmetic display.

    Ideally, and this may be a stretch, I would like a theme that reflects the slow disintegration of clocks...

    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Hmm yep I see what you mean. In my head I'm now thinking, "Ch.1: The Key Turns", "Ch. 2: The Mainspring Draws Back", "Ch. 3: The Pendulum Begins Its Swing", "Ch.4: The Hour Progresses" or something. Sort of using individual parts of a timepiece - clock, watch or other - and time imagery itself to suggest movement.
    This is more like it I just need to avoid the tendency for cheese. I guess I was thinking about something a little simpler and subtler but I do like the more literary take on the theme. At the very least, it's more workable.
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  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The story was an accidental self-discovery of the 'many worlds' theory, in contrast to the traditional notion of time travel being used to alter time (although that is the initial premise and I play off the trope) it becomes more complex through the story as the characters realize that changing the past isn't as simple (or as complicated) as modifying their own present-day reality through the butterfly effect or otherwise upsetting things - this conveniently allows me to escape the pitfalls of the Grandfather Paradox.

    The use of the clock motif is to establish the many layers of time: Time is both a simple mechanical and easily-understandable construct that everybody understands and it is an insanely complicated, head-spinning mathematical truth that most people without understanding of quantum physics (well, not me anyway) can fathom. The title is related to clocks and the clock in question is considered unique at the start of the novel. It is effectively no different to the Dolorean, but as the story progresses it quickly becomes apparent that there are 'many clocks' (and many timelines) and that actually clocks have nothing to do with what time is beyond cosmetic display.

    Ideally, and this may be a stretch, I would like a theme that reflects the slow disintegration of clocks...



    This is more like it I just need to avoid the tendency for cheese. I guess I was thinking about something a little simpler and subtler but I do like the more literary take on the theme. At the very least, it's more workable.
    I wonder if single words might do it, where each sounds a bit more problematic than the last. "Stability", "Initiation", "Release", "Continuity", "Recursion", "Oddity", "Divergence", "Entanglement", "Error", "Entropy", "Tumult", "Fail". I dunno. That sounds a bit more ... techie, I guess, but you get the pic


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by seigfried007 View Post
    Another oddball idea would be to use military time.

    I've been spelling out military time in my WIP because said characters are on base and using a 24-hr clock. So, "oh-four-hundred" and "zero-dark-thirty" and "twenty thirty-five" are the sorts of terms which get used. You might try that if anyone's got a military or 24-hr clock background. Even just using the 24-hr format could actually look pretty cool as a chapter heading ("0000" for instance)

    You can also use the time as the chapter heading such as "2-4-1980 12:30:45" because said time/date stamp still keeps reader focus on time.

    Another thing you might try is looking into clock anatomy. There might be distinct terms for the numerals you're looking for.

    You might also try the degree headings for the various numbers.

    I'm certain, however, that you could use "One O'Clock" and your readers would still get it. There's (probably) going to be a Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, so they'll see the theme.
    Take care if dates are used as the USA formats the date differently from most other nations. USA does mm/dd/yyyy but most other nations do dd/mm/yyyy.


  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The story was an accidental self-discovery of the 'many worlds' theory, in contrast to the traditional notion of time travel being used to alter time (although that is the initial premise and I play off the trope) it becomes more complex through the story as the characters realize that changing the past isn't as simple (or as complicated) as modifying their own present-day reality through the butterfly effect or otherwise upsetting things - this conveniently allows me to escape the pitfalls of the Grandfather Paradox.

    The use of the clock motif is to establish the many layers of time: Time is both a simple mechanical and easily-understandable construct that everybody understands and it is an insanely complicated, head-spinning mathematical truth that most people without understanding of quantum physics (well, not me anyway) can fathom. The title is related to clocks and the clock in question is considered unique at the start of the novel. It is effectively no different to the Dolorean, but as the story progresses it quickly becomes apparent that there are 'many clocks' (and many timelines) and that actually clocks have nothing to do with what time is beyond cosmetic display.

    Ideally, and this may be a stretch, I would like a theme that reflects the slow disintegration of clocks...



    This is more like it I just need to avoid the tendency for cheese. I guess I was thinking about something a little simpler and subtler but I do like the more literary take on the theme. At the very least, it's more workable.
    By chance, have you seen Dark? There's two seasons on Netflix; the third will be the final one in the series and should be out next year. It might be up your alley. Tons of temporal issues.

    As for gradual disintegration of clocks, you could describe which features go missing, become worn, fall off, get scratched, etc. Then you might get chapter titles more like "Ch1: The Clock Is Ticking," "Ch2: A Scratch on the Watch Face," "Ch3: Turning the Knob," "Ch4: 3 Falls Off," "Ch11: The Ticking Ceases," "Ch10: A Broken Ticker," "Ch12: The Watch Has Stopped/Ended"
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  7. #17
    Nothing says you can't call your chapters "First Chime", "Second Chime" or something similar. It's time-related, but not specifically time-oriented.

  8. #18
    You can even get fancy and switch to Latin.
    10=decem
    9=novem
    8=octava antemeridiana

    You could mix it up and use military time, regular time, phrases like high noon, zero hour, latin....

  9. #19
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    I used to post a similar question. I have chapter titles that used a non-specific timestamp, like 'one hour after X'. The purpose is to make reader feeling lost in the space, but I ended up confused myself as the writer. So I added the exact time stamp next to it, such as 'one hour after X (7 PM)'.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The story was an accidental self-discovery of the 'many worlds' theory, in contrast to the traditional notion of time travel being used to alter time (although that is the initial premise and I play off the trope) it becomes more complex through the story as the characters realize that changing the past isn't as simple (or as complicated) as modifying their own present-day reality through the butterfly effect or otherwise upsetting things - this conveniently allows me to escape the pitfalls of the Grandfather Paradox.
    I avoided paradoxes by placing my characters in the past and having them change the future, which is what we all do normally. The distortions of time simply enabled them to find out what the future would be if they didn't take steps to change it. There is no paradox provided that one accepts the idea of free will, i.e. that there are no laws within science or nature that can force a person to take a particular action. If a situation developed where the probability of them creating a paradox as a result of gaining too much information became significantly high, i.e. taking into account their human capacity to resist meddling, then the source of information failed, thus preventing the paradox. I took this approach as a result of considering time to be symmetrical, so rather than there being causes and effects there are simply mutually consistent events. In the case of a paradox there are no possible mutually consistent events, so they just can't happen.

    With symmetrical time the future constrains the past just as much as the past constrains the future. For example, if I hadn't written my novel then I wouldn't have chosen to do the research later that was essential to provide the information that I needed to write it, so I couldn't have written it. In fact I did write the novel and therefore did later do the research to understand it, thus providing myself with the means to write it, which I did. In neither case is there any paradox because the events are mutually consistent. If you want to know what would have happened if I had written the novel but then not felt motivated to do the research or been distracted from doing it in some way, well that would be your hypothetical world and you would have to work that out for yourself as I don't live in it and therefore can't comment.

    If you think that my last remark was a cop-out then consider the age-old question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. My answer is "nothing" because the probability of the force being resisted is zero and so is the probability of the object being moved, so the probability of them meeting must also be zero and the event simply won't happen. Their meeting is itself something happening, but the question assumes that they will without proving that they can. In effect it defies the concept of degrees of freedom, that one cannot add more constraints to a situation which has no freedoms left to constrain.

    The use of the clock motif is to establish the many layers of time: Time is both a simple mechanical and easily-understandable construct that everybody understands and it is an insanely complicated, head-spinning mathematical truth that most people without understanding of quantum physics (well, not me anyway) can fathom. The title is related to clocks and the clock in question is considered unique at the start of the novel. It is effectively no different to the Dolorean, but as the story progresses it quickly becomes apparent that there are 'many clocks' (and many timelines) and that actually clocks have nothing to do with what time is beyond cosmetic display.
    Although there are several clocks in my story, as my avatar picture shows, it is actually set outside of time in a realm that I call "eventuality" for want of a name. This name originated from one of the characters remarking that "in the eventuality of something disastrous happening we will die." From then on the realm was occasionally called "eventuality" although the more common name used for it was "red time" (a sneaky metafictional reference by myself to "read time" i.e. the time the reader spent reading the story). This realm contains every possible reality (as well as every impossible one actually, many of which have been created by inexperienced or deranged fiction writers). It is roughly equivalent, as I understand from my later research, to what scientists call "phase space", which contains every feasible state of the universe spanning every reality. Within it time is simply another variable or dimension.

    What any of that has to do with chapter titles I don't know so, time being symmetrical, I suggest that you don't read it. What, you think that you already have? How chronological of you.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

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