Creative Beginnings and Deadly Endings

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One aspect of books that I really enjoy are creative chapter titles and cliffhanger chapters.  This is something I have yet to master and incorporate into my own books, but I am eager to grapple the challenge head on.

Some books, like Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series, will not only have title names, but will add a poem or a piece of prose from a classical work to the beginning of the chapter. I absolutely love this technique because, just like the right music in film, it can completely set the tone for what lies ahead. This has to be delicately balanced because you don’t want to give anything away, but you definitely want that tone, whatever it is, to be slowly sitting in the back of the reader’s mind, ready to pounce at the right moment.

I also love creative chapter titles. This, again, has to be well balanced and I think Gail Carriger does a great job in her Parasol Protectorate series. As you can see from the picture in the upper right hand corner, even if you’ve been reading the book and are familiar with the characters it gives you a hint at what is about to happen without spoiling the surprise. Plus, it matches the witty and sometimes ridiculous tone of the story.

Everyone remembers how the Harry Potter books have the little illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, and that most of them are very straightforward and simple.  The pictures, along with the basic titles give you a hint at what’s ahead, but instead of setting a tone or emotion they provide an image, so when that subject comes up, it is firmly planted in your head, allowing you to build on it from there.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite things about a good book is cliffhanger endings to chapters. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!  Why?  Because it ensures that your reader will not be able to put the book down. Even if they have told themselves, “Ok, I will only read until the end of this chapter and then I will stop so I can get such and such done,” they won’t be able to do it! This means that I am often walking around my house with my nose stuck in a book, attempting to do chores or other things while reading. Even if I absolutely have to rip myself away from the book, I can’t stop thinking about it, and am feverishly looking for any spare moment when I can pick the book up again to “find out what happens next!” The technique of cliffhanger chapters is something I am currently working on, but I’m really excited to adopt one of the interesting beginnings as well.

The books featured in the picture are:

Top left: Cassandra Clare’s The Clockwork Angel

Top right: Gail Carriger’s Timeless

Bottom right: Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver

Bottom left: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

 

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