Ask, and you shall receive! A week ago, I asked my professional Network and friends to help me decide whether to include chapter titles in my upcoming novel 181 Blackhorse Road. They made their voices heard with 39 people answering the survey, and others contacting me through email. When you need input, its best to go to the source; I was not disappointed! The raw results can be found here if you want to take a peek. https://www.surveymonkey.com/stories/SM-63XPZMBV/
Here is my analysis of the data:
Over half of the respondents prefer chapter titles, but their preference came with some caveats. To be meaningful and keep the reader engaged, chapter titles, they said, must function as guides in suggesting what's ahead, but they must be intriguing, perhaps even fun, and not give the chapter content away. For books that jump from character to character or between time periods, chapter titles seemed to be a must. One insight was that chapter titles can function as navigators helping the reader find a passage they liked if they forgot to bookmark it or dog-ear it (depending on the medium).
About five percent of the respondents said they disliked chapter titles, and they were steadfast and direct in providing thoughtful rationales. Chapter titles they said can be amateurish (something I want to avoid in my novel) and can stifle readers from using their own creativity in figuring things out. These responses I thought dove-tailed with the Chapter Likers; if titles are amateurish or give content away then they stifle the reader's own creativity and engagement.
Over a third said they could take or leave chapter titles, but they had their opinions as to what made up a good chapter title. Like those who preferred chapter titles, these respondents didn't want the titles to detract from reader engagement. If titles are included, they need to add to the dimension of the story.
So, to my dilemma of whether to include chapter titles in 181 Blackhorse Road:
According to my survey group, if I include chapter titles, I must do it in a smart way that enriches the story. My chapter titles must be a roadmap that builds intrigue and engagement and makes the reader want to keep turning the pages to figure out the intersection between the chapter title with the content of the chapter. In other words, add some spice, add some zest, add a little mystery.
So, if I include chapter titles, I must be inventive, imaginative, and crafty enough to satisfy one hundred percent of my potential readers. WOW! That is one tall order that tests my strength of creativity. Am I up for the challenge?
No spoiler alerts! It will be for my readers to determine if I was up to the challenge and included engaging chapter titles or if I flaked out and used the fallback of Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and …..
My colleagues and friends who know me will probably guess correctly.