Your book title isn’t a place to take risks. It’s the first thing your readers see about your book. But, if you had fun with a book title, chapter titles are even better. You can have some fun here.
Think about, of course, what happens in your chapter, who the chapter centers on, and what’s most significant about it. But also think about wordplay, alliteration, metaphors, small hints and cliffhangers to keep people reading. I’ll never forget the first time I read the Amber Spyglass and there was a chapter titled “Lyra and her Death.” Get people thinking, “what does that mean?” and “you didn’t really…” It’s another opportunity to keep them turning pages. Just don’t overdo it. Balance your teaser chapter names against some neutral ones. People can get annoyed with too many “I’ve-got-to-keep-them-reading” tactics. They do know what your trying to do.
This is a great opportunity to show people your style, and your playful side. You might not even notice your patterns until later. For example, I didn’t notice until recently that in my book “Acapella Angels,” I was more inclined to give lighthearted chapters longer names (like “Cassandra and Travis’s Mansion Adventures”), and heavier chapters short names (“Warrior”). Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it can be a fun way to give your reader little hints of what’s to come.
Chapter titles should only be done if you enjoy them. They’re for fun. If you don’t enjoy doing them, just post numbers. Even if you do enjoy them, ask yourself if you can keep them up, and be consistent about them. Be especially careful if you have a series. You wouldn’t want to publish your first book with every chapter named, and then your second with numbers only.
Deciding not to have chapter names certainly won’t detract from your book, but chapter names are a good opportunity to express more of your personal writing style, and get your personality across. Play around with them, and see what you can come up with. Whether or not you decide to use them, you’ll certainly have some fun!