It has been suggested to us that perhaps we should replace the chapter headings with a location and date, maybe like this: Deimos, Mars; 040842 GAT. The location is already shown in the subheading, so the only new info would be the date. Dates can be a bit problematic in a narrative like this and we are not sure how much they add to the reader’s experience.

The primary reason for the question is Part 3 for MWB, which is even more episodic than Part 1 and switches rapidily among locales and does not have a smooth timeline. The though was offered that changing the chapter heading for that section might aid the readers with the more episodic structure of the narrative.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this issue below.

8 comments on “Chapter Headings?

  1. Tarun Elankath

    I strongly believe you should NOT tie yourself into a corner with hard dates. Locations are OK, but dates are not necessary – besides readers will *always* manage to find something wrong with dates, so it is simply best to omit them.

    If you plan a long running series, with short stories in between, you will find yourself needing some date flexibility later. You can use “after some earth weeks” or “after some earth months” where weeks/months are taken to be according to earth’s time standard. (Maybe you already established this – need to re-read…)

    1. Owen R. O'Neill Post author

      Thanks! That is good input. As we plan a long-running series, some flexibility will no doubt be needed. A few specific dates are sprinkled around to give reference points, but maybe it’s best to leave it at that.

  2. Edward

    Ah yes, the chronology problem. If it possible, I prefer a date, and in this instance, since you have gone to the trouble of establishing that the League has an arbritary reference frame, the League should use it, especially since that means you do not have to keep track of local calanders, aside from perhaps occationally noting that a local day is not the same as a GAT day.
    On the other hand, I’ve read and enjoyed works that, although the author keeps track of such matters, rarely mentions the date, what really matters is the time delays, and the communication delays, between various actions. With only a handful of continued threads this works, but it breaks down when the number rises. Unless you provide syncronization events, at which point you might as well be providing a date.

    1. Owen R. O'Neill Post author

      We’ve been embedding the time references to this point, where we thought they are needed. If we were to move to a new convention, with dates in chapter headings, would it bother you if that was not a global convention?

      Part of our reasoning concerns flagging structural differences for the readers, and a global convention would not do that. But then, maybe alerting readers to a structural change is not a big deal.

      1. Edward

        My belief is that ultimately what matters is the author’s vision. As for not providing that date everywhere, it would actually be preferrable to some extent. You do have chapters that immediately follow others, but take days, like say chapter 22, or even weeks, like the summary of the first quarter of the academy, chapter 3, providing a singular date for the first is irrevelent, and would be a joke for the second.

        My personal opinion is that if you are providing datestamps, provide them only when there is a break in time or space, and only for chapters with firm spacetime coordinates, or in front of ‘action’ chapters. I was going to say that you should have one in front of chapter where Kris beats the Boggart, but what I thought was a chapter break was only a section break.

        Now if you have any chapters comprised of multiple ‘mini-episodes’, this becomes more difficult, but if you use a Y:M:D formate, you can drop precision down to the month, and either leave the exact date up in the air, or provide the day in the form of a section heading.

        1. Owen R. O'Neill Post author

          Thanks, Edward. The main thing is to get Part 3 under control, and take a global look when we do. Things will be clear then, I suspect. Thank god for Beta readers!

  3. Nick

    040842 GAT Is that D/M/Y or M/D/Y or Y/M/D?

    I think that may help so long as the timelines all work. I know some authors don’t add dates to avoid potential errors. Some thing might be needed if precedence of events is important.

    Does the story jump around in time? (As in follows person A for a week then goes back and follows person B?)

    1. Owen R. O'Neill Post author

      Thanks Nick. Dates are one of the hardest things to keep track of. They also have a nasty tendency to bite you later, when you find out you need to make an adjustment later to account for something you failed to think of back when. (That has been another major factor delaying the current book: the rest of series hinges on it and if we don’t get things right here, we’ll have a real mess 3-4 books down the line.) I think we are leaning towards trying it and seeing what the beta readers think.

      So we’ve been a bit reluctant to tie things down to tightly. But Section 3 is mostly discrete episodes, separated by days or maybe weeks, and switching between characters, although most of it takes place at the Academy.

      Haven’t quite decided on GAT date format yet; probably Y/M/D. The example was M/D/Y.