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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Writing – word-play – chapter headings

Not every book has chapter headings; some authors and publishers settle for only numbering chapters; a very few don’t even have chapters, just scene breaks. There are no hard and fast rules about it. Some readers and writers like them, others don’t, and probably the majority don’t care one way or the other.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by chapter headings – whether one-liners or several sentences revealing what the chapter was about: authors like R.M. Ballantyne (The departure--The sea--My companions--Some account of the wonderful sights we saw on the great deep--A dreadful storm and a frightful wreck – Chapter 2, Coral Island.) Then there were the clever or witty ones, playing with words: Ian Fleming (‘He disagreed with something that ate him’ – Chapter 14, Live and Let Die.) There are the succinct headings, such as those from Adam Hall in his Quiller novels – single words plucked from that chapter’s text: Dazzle, Scorpion, Motorcade, Caviar – Quiller Balalaika.

The arguments against using headings are varied. It breaks the flow, somehow; it’s disruptive. And of course for the writer it can prove difficult to settle on an appropriate title, particularly if there are over fifty chapters! Yet naming a chapter in some manner can act as a bookmark – leading the reader to a particular event or scene in the story.

I feel providing these headings adds another layer of interest; besides, I enjoy the word-play involved. Take for example Catalyst, just published.

Chapter 1 – Cat among the pigeons. This is a well-known saying, the cliché meaning to cause havoc, and it’s taken literally here since Cat, the heroine, is scaling a tall building and disturbs some pigeons! Her motivation is indeed to disturb the smooth working of the company, Cerberus.

Chapter 2 – Cat and mouse. This chapter is about Cat and Rick verbally jousting. It also contains the odd intentional cliché, such as ‘raining cats and dogs’ since this is ‘The Avenging Cat’ series and all the book titles include 'Cat'!

Chapter 4 – Cat’s tail. Here, Cat is being followed…

Chapter 5 – Cat’s fish. I resisted simply writing ‘Catfish’ which was even more contrived! She ate fish (Thai fish cakes, sea bream) in the hotel, that’s all.

Chapter 8 – ‘Cat got your tongue?’ While interrogating Rick, the villain Zabala uses the phrase.

Chapter 9 – Cat on the roof. A variation, perhaps; not the hot tin roof. Cat is up to her climbing antics again.
Chapter 12 – Catananche. This is very relevant to the plot, but I won’t say more, other than it begins with ‘Cat’!
Other chapters are suitably headed as well, of course, but don’t have the word ‘cat’ in them.
Next time, I’ll take a look at the Tana Standish series’ chapters, which emulate Adam Hall’s approach.
The first in ‘The Avenging Cat’ series

Catalyst, a person that precipitates events.
That’s Catherine Vibrissae. Orphan. Chemist. Model. Avenging Cat.
She seeks revenge against Loup Malefice, the man responsible for the takeover of her father’s company. An accomplished climber, Cat is not averse to breaking and entering to confound her enemies. During her investigations, she crosses the path of Rick Barnes, a company lawyer, who seems to have his own agenda.
Ranging from south of England to the north-east, Wales and Barcelona, Cat’s quest for vengeance is implacable. But with the NCA hot on her tail, can she escape the clutches of sinister Zabala and whip-wielding Profesora Quesada?
 E-book from Amazon UK here

E-book from Amazon COM here

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