I was musing about chapter titles yesterday. It seems like most fiction books for adults and teens don’t have them. More middle-grade and children’s books have them, but I don’t believe they’re ubiquitous even in those genres. The books in the Harry Potter series do have chapter titles, and I remember skipping over the table of contents in the last Harry Potter book because I didn’t want to get even the slightest hint of a spoiler before I actually started to read.
Chapter (or even scene) titles can be useful for when you’re writing and trying to organize the pieces. It’s easier to remember a chapter as “Character X’s Revenge” rather than plain old “Chapter 12.” But the way I look at it, it’s hard enough to come up with a title for the whole book itself, so why bother with chapter titles at all?
Use of chapter titles can also depend on the ultimate destination of the book: is it going to be posted on a website somewhere? Are you going to traditionally publish or self-publish? I’ve noticed that on sites like FictionPress, chapter titles can be really useful; they can provide a bird’s-eye look at the content of the story, so you can determine whether reading it would be worthwhile.
For the most part, though, I don’t think chapter titles are used much for fiction. What do you think? Do you like chapter titles when reading or writing?