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Chapter titles in A Song of Ice and Fire - Input Junkie
May 17th, 2012
12:40 pm


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Chapter titles in A Song of Ice and Fire
The chapters are titled after the character whose viewpoint is being followed, so you have the same chapter title showing up again and again in the course of thousands of pages. Lately (I think this is a recent development), we've been getting a few chapters named after a character's situation rather than the character.

I don't exactly find this disorienting, but it does make it harder to find particular events. I can't think of any other books which handle chapters this way, though I think I have some which simply don't have chapter titles.

I can see an advantage for the author-- Martin doesn't have to worry about whether a descriptive chapter title would be a spoiler, he doesn't have to give the characters distinct voices-- they have distinctive concerns, which isn't the same thing, and if a reader wants to follow one character's story, it's relatively easy.

Anyway, if you're reading the books, how do the chapter titles affect your reading experience? Has Martin written anything about why he made that decision long ago, or what he thinks of it now?

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[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
He did the same thing as editor of Wild Cards, so it's been going on for a loooong time IIRC. It might be nice to have "$CHARACTER n" for the nth chapter with a given character, but I can't say I miss chapter names per se.
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC)

Asimov's Robots of Dawn has a similar thing. Each chapter is named after the main character or characters in that chapter, where "main" varies by context but often is the character that Baley interviews in that chapter. The chapter names are unique, in some cases because "Again" is added. (E.g., "Again Baley".)

[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red has chapter titles based on the first-person narrator: "My Name is Black", "My Name is a Corpse", "I am Shekure", etc. It added to the aesthetics of the story, even though the chapter titles were no longer unique. I don't know if this was a postmodern convention or a reference to an older style of narrative.
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Date:May 17th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
Victor Hugo and Ayn Rand both used character names as titles for the major divisions of books, but they referred to an important character rather than point of view, and they didn't repeat titles.

I have lots of books with chapters that have no titles, including Ellis Peters' The Hermit of Eyton Forest, which is my current read.
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
William Faulkner did this, for As I Lay Dying at least. I remember finding it disorienting at the time that I read it (in high school) because I'd never read a book that did that before. When I picked up aSoIaF, I thought it was kind of neat. But yeah, it does make it hard to go back and find particular events.
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