Friday, April 25, 2008

The Title Tells the Story

I recently crawled out from the depths of the deadline cave and am proud to say I met my very first deadline as a published author. Yay! But ever since I sent the book to my editor, I’ve been thinking about adding chapter titles. I like them. My book is the first in a new mystery series featuring a rare book restorer, and I’m thinking I’d like to start each chapter with a quote from the book she’s working on.

Personally, I love to read books in which each chapter begins with some tidbit of fun. A quote, a song title, a bit of history, something extra that foreshadows the events that are about to unfold. I always feel like I’m getting a little extra special something in addition to the story.

For instance, in The Raven Prince, Elizabeth Hoyt begins each chapter with the next installment of the fairy tale.

One of my favorites is Rachel Gibson’s True Confessions. Her heroine writes articles for The Weekly News of the Universe, and every chapter starts with a funny fake headline that relates to what is about to happen, such as Bloodthirsty Bats Attack Unsuspecting Woman, and Squirrel is Proven Aphrodisiac.

Deanna Raybourn begins each chapter of Silent in the Sanctuary with a quote from Shakespeare that sets the mood or presages what is about to occur.

The chapters of Susan Donovan’s hilarious and charming book, Take a Chance on Me, are disco song titles such as Shake Your Groove Thing and Let's Get It On. In this book, our hero, a detective, takes a funny little dog to see our heroine, an animal behaviorist, because the dog witnessed his owner’s murder. The dog actually has his own point of view throughout the book, so we learn that his owner used to dress them both in matching disco costumes and go dancing. It seems that Hairy the Dog misses the dancing life.

One of my favorite new mystery authors is Hailey Lind, whose protagonist learned art forgery at her rascally grandfather’s knee. Now the old man has written a book about “the wonderful world of art forgers, felons and fakes,” and each chapter of Feint of Art begins with a quote from grandfather’s book.

Eloisa James tells the story of the Earl of Hellgate by beginning each chapter of Pleasure for Pleasure with a quote from the rake’s adventures.

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer begin each chapter of Agnes and the Hitman with a short excerpt from Agnes’s food column. One of my favorites starts this way: “There are very few recipes that couldn’t be improved by the addition of three-quarters of a pound of butter and a cup of heavy cream.”

In Candace Havens Charmed & Dangerous, each chapter begins with witch Bronwyn’s up-to-the-minute tallies. For instance…
Wednesday, 4 P.M.
Spells: 3
Dead guys: Almost 2

A book I wrote a few years ago featured a divorce lawyer, and I began each chapter with a lawyer joke. That book will never see the light of day, but the jokes were funny. So at the risk of courting controversy in the Lair—which, as you may know, is populated by a number of fine, upstanding lawyers—I will list a few of the milder ones for your review.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a slimy, bottom-feeding scumsucker and the other is a fish.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a pitbull? Jewelry.

How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One. The lawyer holds the bulb while the rest of the world revolves around him.

Why won't sharks attack lawyers? Professional courtesy.

That’s enough of the lawyer jokes—for now! But tell me, how do you feel about stories where the chapters are titled or the author uses quotes or stories to foreshadow future events? Do you have a favorite author who follows this tradition? A favorite book? How about a favorite lawyer joke? Please share!

And finally, I’m thrilled to announce the two winners from last month’s interview with Maureen Child! Arkansas Cyndi and Doglady! Please send me your snail mail addresses ( and I will forward to you autographed copies of both books in Maureen’s Demon Duster series, More Than Fiends and A Fiend In Need. (And P.S., More Than Fiends was just named a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards!)


Jane said...

I do enjoy the quotes before a chapter. I especially like reading snippets of Shakespeare or a verse from Byron. Marianne Stillings starts chapters with humorous definitions. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but all her books have this feature.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Jane! I remember one of Marianne's first books had that feature and I really enjoyed it. I'll have to search my shelves for that one.

And congrats on snagging the Golden One! You're fast!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Great blog, Kate!
I recently read "Silent in the Grave" and LOVED the Shakespeare quotes. One of my fave books by Mary Stewart, "Touch Not the Cat" started each chapter with a quote from Romeo & Juliet and drew parallels between the play and what was happening to the characters.

Congrats on luring the GR back to the Big Apple, Jane. Don't you EVER SLEEP, Girlfriend?

And check out my new avatar... Jane already has!


Amy Andrews said...

I really like it. But then I'm easy. I soak up anything the author wants to give me in any way he/she wants to present it - as long as it works. I'm just along for the ride.

Anna Campbell said...

Jane, people are starting to talk about you and the rooster. And Fedora is seriously pining! Congratulations!

Kate, what a great post. I LOVE extras in books like different parts with names and quotes at the head of chapters. I even like things like quotes from poems and songs in the text. Even if they're in a foreign language and I can't understand them - anyone read the Lymond Chronicles? You need to speak about 20 different languages! But the effect is incredibly rich, like you're having a wonderful banquet instead of a sandwich.

Ahem! What's the difference between a rat and a lawyer? Answer: There are some things a rat won't do.

Tawny said...

I love chapter quotes - they give such an intimate feeling to the chapter, as if we're getting an insider peek into something :-)

and OMG LOL at the lawyer jokes *G* Not that any of OUR bandita's are sharky, but still, I can't stop giggling :-)(or in the case of Fo's rat joke, snorting out loud)

btw, Congrats, Jane on the GR nabbing!!!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Kate, congrats on making it out of deadline hell! And congrats to Jane on nabbing our GR once again.

I love that idea of starting each chapter off with a quote of some kind that isn't actually part of the story. In The Dangerous Duke I have excerpts from my heroine's erotic diary heading up each chapter. That was (ahem) interesting! SEP did quotes from Georgette Heyer in Ain't She Sweet. I really enjoyed that, being a huge Heyer fan.

Ah, lawyer jokes...and I thought sarcasm was the lowest form of wit!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats again Jane! You must be treating the GR well.
Sabrina Jeffries leads off her chapters in the School for Heiresses series with snips of letters between Charlotte and "Cousin Michael".

Helen said...

Congrats Jane on the GR

Great post Kate and congrats on meeting the deadline I am really looking forward to this book. I like the idea of something at the start of each chapter Karen Hawkins has them in the start of the last two books she has written they are of a grandmother talking to her wee granddaughters and Samantha James's last book The Seduction Of an Unknown lady has a bit of a mystery story the heroine is writing at the start of each chapter called the Demon Of Dartmoor and I loved those.

Love the Laywer jokes I can't remember any that I have heard.

Aunty Cindy love that cover WTG.

Have Fun

Buffie said...

Hey Kate! I absolutely love it when an author adds those little "extras" to each chapter. One author who does a wonderful job of that is Julia Quinn and her Bridgerton series. Each chapter starts with a writing from Lady Whistledown. Fabulous!

And I can't wait to use some of your lawyer jokes -- see I work for a law firm and love to rattle the lawyers :)

Gillian Layne said...

Jane, congrats!

Kate, I can't wait to get my hands on your book(s)!! :) I do love chapter titles.

Everyone MUST read Bobbie Faye's Very Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey. Seriously. The quotes at the beginning of the chapters make me laugh out loud. I am a total fangirl when it comes to this book and this author. And she's presenting at Nationals! (sigh) I think she's talking about sex or some such fun topic--I bet it's standing room only. Someone go and tell me everything! :)

Aunt Cindy--Goooorgeous cover!!!

PJ said...

Congrats, Jane! Welcome back, Kate!

I love those little extras that add additional flavor to the main story. Elizabeth Hoyt does the same thing in her newest book, TO TASTE TEMPTATION. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from "Iron Heart", the tale of a soldier that shadows the personal journey of ex-soldier Samuel, the hero of TTT.

Donna MacMeans said...

Oh - I see I'm swimming upstream here, but I only like snippets and quotes if they're really short. I don't like the extra excerpts of a story that really doesn't add anything. I keep reading the excerpts waiting for them to contribute - and nada. I won't mention the author as I think this is my own personal quirk. I love cute chapter titles. And I can't wait for your book to hit the shelves, Kate.

Carol said...

Hi, I love a quote or a piece of poetry at the start of the chapter, some seem quite obscure at the start and then all becomes clear!!
The new Female Govenor General - (in waiting) of Australia is/was a lawyer...human rights and equal opportunity... so hooray for lady lawyers.
Cheers all

Suzanne Welsh said...

Morning, Kate! Congrats Jane on the GR.

Funny you should mention quotes. I just finished Samantha James' The Passion Of Simon Blackwell, which I simply devoured, and she started each chapter with a quote from his private journal. It not only forshadowed something that was about to happen, but showed his progression through his character arc and growth from his past to his future.

Great book by the way!! :)
(Now I'm off to bed, the sun's up you know!)

doglady said...

Squeee! I won Maureen Childs books! YAY!

Jane and GR. Fedora and GR. Is this a love triangle or what?

Welcome back, Kate! Thank you all for your wonderful congrats on the scholarship. I am SO looking forward to seeing everyone in San Francisco!

Aunty Cindy, I LOVE your avatar! How cool is that?

Julia Quinn's To Sir Phillip with Love has quotes from family letters at the beginning of each chapter. I really enjoyed those. I love the quotes at the beginning of Karen Hawkins chapters too. I think if the quote gives you some insight into the characters and their world, their friendships and family - that is when it works the best.

I am the proud former teacher of FOUR, count 'em four lawyers. One criminal, specializing in juvenile law, one criminal, and two civil rights lawyers. These were students who would argue with a fence post and would not shut up in class. I suggested they become lawyers and the rest is history! Very proud of them.

That being said - Lawyer jokes.

What is the difference between a lawyer and a hooker? The hooker will stop screwing you once you are dead. (Okay that is a BAD one! One of my lawyer kids told me that one.)

What do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A really good start!

Kate Carlisle said...

Aunty, I LOVE that cover! So beautiful...and sex-ay!!

I love Mary Stewart. It really does take an extra measure of skill--or patience!--to find specific quotes and phrases from another's work that draw parallels or explain or relate so perfectly to your own work. I'm so impressed by that ability. I'm determined to do it some day!

Gannon Carr said...

I do love snippets or titles at the beginning of a chapter. All of the above mentioned examples are great, plus Colleen Gleason. She has quirky, funny titles for each chapter of her Gardella Vampire Chronicles series. One chapter title: In Which Maximilian Encounters Dust Bunnies. :)

Okay, here's a lawyer joke:

Did you hear about the lawyer who had diarrhea? He thought he was melting. (Crude, but funny!)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Amy - Good to *see* you! I've been away for a few weeks in the deadline cave, but it feels like years!

Claudia Dain said...

Oooh, I'm learning so much. Not that it's going to do me any good! It's good that I'm hearing that so many people love those little epigrams at the start of chapters. The problem is that I don't. I never even slow down to read them. I'm thinking there's no way I could make my brain actually work to create one. But I hate that I'm missing the boat on doing what so many clearly enjoy.

Oh, the agony!

Kate Carlisle said...

Anna, I almost choked on my coffee with that joke!! Snork! Must dutifully repeat it to my lawyer friends today. Hehehe!

And I'm going to have to expand my reading list. I've heard about the Lymond Chronicles for years but have never delved into them. I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem since I speak so many different languages--oh, wait. That's not me! Still, they sound so intriguing.

Still wiping up coffee from the rat joke. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Tawny! No, those jokes have nothing to do with our own delightful legal eagles. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Oops, hi Christine!! Hehehe...

I loved SEP's Ain't She Sweet and continue to re-read it regularly. Those Heyer quotes were so clever.

And I'm so anxious to read The Dangerous Duke and your heroine's erotic bits! Can't believe we have to wait so long to get our hands on a copy...grumble grumble...

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey, Dianna, I just picked up three of Sabrina Jeffries' School for Heiresses books last weekend. Can't wait to start reading them!

terrio said...

Congrats on the GR, Jane and AC, I LOVE that cover. It's beautiful.

I do like the snippets at the beginning of chapters. But not when I read the snippet then the chapter and think what the heck did that have to do with anything?

Leslie Langtry uses great quotes in 'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy and Guns Will Keep Us Together. Her series revolves around a family of assassins and the quotes are from movies like Grosse Point Blank and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. They really do fit the story well.

Question - do you think these authors put in these quotes as they write or once everything is done? Seems to me it would be easier to do after.

Loving the lawyer jokes.

Kate Carlisle said...

Thanks, Helen! It's great to be finished with the book. Of course, I'll be heading back to the cave to start revisions any day now. :-)

I like Karen Hawkins' idea of using snippets of letters from the grandmother to begin her chapters. That reminds of Julie Garwood's fabulous Lyon's Lady, where she began each chapter with words from the heroine's mother's diary. It added so much rich detail and cleverly filled in the back story. That's still one of my favorite books.

Kate Carlisle said...

Buffie, you're a girl after my own heart! I work in a law firm, too, and I live for lawyer jokes! LOL

And how could I forget Lady Whistledown!! Classic!

Kate Carlisle said...

Gillian, hi! I've been so curious about Toni McGee Causey's book. The title alone is enough to make me buy it, but your comment seals the deal. I'll look for it this weekend! And I'll try to get to her conference workshop and report back. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Thanks, PJ!

Elizabeth Hoyt is a great one for adding extra rich details like these to her books. I think that's one thing that's made her a hit right off. Well, besides the stories themselves, which are so fabulous!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Donna! I agree with you on the need to keep them *short.* One reason I started thinking about this subject was that I read one book recently where, after a few chapters, I just ignored those opening quotes because they didn't add a thing to the story. It probably would've been better without them.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Carol -- I love your avatar. And some of my best friends--and family members--are lady lawyers, so hooray indeed!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey Suz! Hope you're snug in your coffin--er, bed by now!!

I've wanted to read the Passion of Simon Blackwell ever since I heard the title. I love reading those opening bits from the character's private journals! When it's done well, it's like the perfect yummy dessert. :-)

Hmm...all this talk is making me hungry...

Kate Carlisle said...

Doglady, you are on fire!! Congratulations again on winning the scholarship! You're going to have so much fun in San Francisco! Banditas will make sure of it. :-)

I love those naughty lawyer jokes. They're sooo bad but so very funny, hehehe! Lawyers always tell the best ones, don't they? It's like blonde jokes. Blondes always tell the best ones, if I do say so myself. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Gannon -- The Colleen Gleason chapter title is hilarious. It makes me want to rush out and buy the book--and so I will. Thanks!

And ouch! That lawyer joke! Stop!

Kate Carlisle said...

OMG, Claudia! LOL. Please don't agonize over this. You seem to be doing everything just right. :-)

Hey, all I could come up with was lawyer jokes. That went over like a lead balloon, ya know?

Nancy said...

Jane, you're on a rooster roll!

Great post, Kate. I love chapter titles and am sorry they've fallen out of vogue. I suspect there's a knack to them and not everyone has it. I'm with Donna, though, and prefer them short.

Congratulations on meeting your deadline, by the way. As for Lymond, Anna C. and I are in agreement. We may have to hold you down and stuff the first one, The Game of Kings, into your hands in SF. Dorothy L. Sayers also tossed in the occasional French or Latin phrase. The Latin, I could usually puzzle out. The French--usually beyond the parameters of French I, which are the parameters of my skills. Or were, when it was fresh. I still loved the stories, though.

Doglady, hurray on the RWA scholarship! We'll look forward to seeing you there.

Kate Carlisle said...

Terrio, good question. I agree, it seems like it would be easier to add the quotes after. Then you can see the whole picture and figure out what goes best in each spot. But I'm sure there are lots of brilliant people who actually have each quote in mind before they write the scene.

And those stories where a journal entry or a letter adds to the story or character arc? Those bits probably need to be written as the story progresses. Just guessing, though.

Maybe if she wanders back into the Lair, our Madame could enlighten us with her process. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Nancy -- yes, yes, force a book into my hands! I'd love to wrap myself up in all those books!

Dorothy L is such a favorite of mine, too. And okay...I admit four measly years of Latin did help me get through the occasional bits she threw in. :-)

Maureen Child said...

Hi Kate! Love chapter headings and really loved the lawyer jokes... Wait a minute. Dont' the words lawyer/joke constitute an oxymoron??

Gillian Layne said...

Maureen is here! (fangirl squeal!)

I didn't think you could top Adam and Gina, but I loved Travis and Julie as well--I can't wait to read Jackson's story!

Silhouette Desire, Kings of California, ladies. They warm up a cool spring night for sure! ;)

Cassondra said...

Kate, it's so good to see you OUT of the deadline cave for a while. We miss you when you're not here. LOVE the lawyer jokes, and honestly, isn't our brilliant Bandita legal department made up of good sports? They probably HATE lawyer jokes and yet they're taking it on the chin.

Nancy, Christine, Inara??? You okay? Okay I'm leaving out somebody. I know we have four or five lawyer Banditas.

Quotes...well..I do it. I actually have one specific, very short quote that sort of sums up the theme of the book for each of my romantic suspense manuscripts. Appears at the beginning of chapter one, above the text. Whether any publishing house will use them or not I have yet to find out. ;0)

And to someone who wondered if they go in after or before...for me it's after. I've considered doing each chapter, but gosh that's a lot of work. :0/

Cassondra said...

Jane, wooot on getting the GR! How's the weather where you are? It's gotten warm here, so one day, perhaps, I'll lure him back to Kentucky.

Doglady, congrats on the RWA scholarship! I'd missed this. Hooray!!!!

Nobody deserves it more. We'll have such a ball at the conference!

Cassondra said...

Kate said:

OMG, Claudia! LOL. Please don't agonize over this. You seem to be doing everything just right. :-)

Oh yes. I'm in 100 percent agreement here. Don't change anything. I'm panting for the next Courtesan book.

Keira Soleore said...

I love these epi-something. Julia Quinn does this marvelously well. I'm doing it in my current WIP, too. Congratulations Kate, on your successful deadline-meet.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Maureen!! And hey, better duck. We've got some high-powered lawyer types waiting to strike back at any moment! LOL

And Gillian, don't blame you for the fan girl moment. Wait'll you read Jackson's story. It's fabulous!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Aww, Cassondra! Thanks! I've missed being here. Really, this is like home, ya know?

I'm sure our legal team could take me down if they wanted to. I expect a rash of dumb blonde jokes to pepper the blog any minute now. :-)

And thanks for the insight on your process. Hope we'll be reading your books very soon!

Kate Carlisle said...

Keira, it's good to see you. I hope we'll be reading your books soon, too!

Michele said...

Hi Kate!

Congrats on getting your book to your editor! Yay! (Of course, there were absolutely no doubts you would meet your deadline, but still what a feeling, right?) :-)

I love quotes at the beginning of chapters...those examples you gave in your post are fantastic! I'm going to have to check out some of those books now. Thanks!

Take Care!

Maureen Child said...

Gillian!! WOW! Thank you for that! I'm so glad you're loving the King brothers!! And I have to admit, Jackson's story was my favorite so can't wait to hear what you think of that one!

Hey, Michele's here too!!

Kate Carlisle said...

OMG, hi Michele! I'm so honored that you came by the Lair today!

Thanks for the congrats on making the deadline! It really was a great feeling to hit "send" and ship that baby off to NYC. Of course, I just got revision notes yesterday from my extremely speedy editor (yay!) so in a few weeks I'll get to relive that "Hit-Send-feel-relief" feeling all over again. And nope, I'm not complaining! :-)

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Kate, I've realized I misquoted my joke. It's:

Why do they use lawyers instead of rats in lab experiments?

There are some things rats won't do.

Lawyer Banditas! I feel awful!!! Ya know we loves ya, don't ya?

Christie Kelley said...

I like small quotations at the start of a chapter. But for some reason Chapter titles don't do anything for me.

And congratulations on meeting the deadline. It's a lot harder than you first imagine, isn't it?

Kate Carlisle said...

Oh Anna, that makes it so much better. LOL. I know, we're bad and we're gonna get smacked. :-)

Christie, you obviously know what you're talking about. I couldn't believe how hard it was! Of course, I was a petrified lump for at least two months after the call came in. Finally, kicked myself into gear. But still, it wasn't easy. I'm glad it's over...for now, anyway!

limecello said...

Congratulations on the meeting your deadlines! Sometimes I like the chapter blurbs- but sometimes they don't add much and are distracting.
lawyer jokes made me sad. :( But it seems that everyone's quite enjoying them. And has quite a few to share!

Kate Carlisle said...

Limecello, thanks for the congrats! It's good to *see* you here!

And I know what you mean about the jokes. I'm so sorry they made you sad! I agree, they're sort of awful, aren't they? But since I'm surrounded by lawyers in my family and my circle of friends--and wouldn't you know, they're the ones who come up with the worst ones!--I guess I've become immune to them.

Joan said...

Congrats on Roostie, Jane!

As to snippets....completely demends on the story as to whether they add anything to my reading experience. Shanna Abe in her Drakkon series book Queen of Dragons precede each with a conversational sharing of the trials and tribulations of the race from existence to the present....really adds the mystery to it before leading you into the current story.

And I know know lawyer jokes. And don't you DARE bring out any nurse ones! :-)

doglady said...

There are good lawyers in the world. I educated four of them. I am immensely proud of my four former students and I taught them well as they use their genius for the law for good, not evil. However, they tell the very best lawyer jokes around! One of them even collects them!

Had to stop by before my head explodes. I just found out Lost in Love is a finalist in the Laurie. I never in my wildest dreams ever expected to have a year like this. I am going to have to work my tail off to be worthy of all this!

Caren Crane said...

Jane, you nabbed the GR AGAIN?! Is he addicted to the big city or what? *g*

Kate, congrats on turning the book in! I adore chapter titles, blurbs, lead-ins, tie-ins. Name it and I'm there! I used that in my last book, where I have a blurb from an article the heroine has written as a lead-in to each chapter. It was such fun to write!

I think, too, it shows the world the author is creating as more three-dimensional. These people aren't talking heads, they have lives and jobs and there is lots going on that we never see. That really adds to the experience, IMO.

I can't wait to read your book!

Kate Carlisle said...

Congratulations, Pam! You truly are having an amazing year! Completely deserved, of course! I've got my fingers crossed that the perfect editor snaps up your manuscript post-haste!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Joanie! Wait--there are nurse jokes? No way!! Come on, tell us one!

Seriously, I've truly never heard one and wouldn't believe it if I did. Nurses are wonderful, honorable and brilliant people and I refuse to accept that anyone would ever dare tell jokes about them. Especially since, you know, nurses have the key to the drug cabinet! :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Ooh Caren, I love that idea of starting your chapters with bits from the article. That sounds so clever.

I hope and pray I'll be reading your books very soon!

Joan said...

Wow Pam! You ARE on a roll.

Have you bought your lottery ticket yet?

Oh, the nurse jokes we keep tucked the plunging necklines of our mini skirted white uniforms and flowing masses of hair sporting a sexy little cap.....

Talk about stereotypes...that this one happens to be true is a whole nother story :-)

doglady said...

Thank you all so much for the congrats!

Joan, my BFF is a retired RN and I am sure she has some good nurse jokes. I will have to bug her for them.

Love the picture of Nurse Naughty you described!