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  1. #1
    Junior Member Metronome35's Avatar
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    Default Synopsis-like chapter titles/opening descriptive text

    I've noticed that some older novels and the Sandman comics often begin their chapters with a basic description of what happens in the chapter, or the chapter title is the descriptive text itself. For example, one chapter of Gulliver's Travels begins, "The country described. A proposal for correcting modern maps. The king's palace; and some account of the metropolis. The author's way of travelling. The chief temple described."

    I was wondering what the name for these things would be, when they were most common, when they went out of fashion, and possibly why too.

  2. #2
    is a very dirty girl Athena Bast's Avatar
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    From what I recall, Tom Clancy has little chapter titles in his books.
    So, there's this thing ​NEW! 5/3/13

  3. #3
    Junior Member Metronome35's Avatar
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    I don't suppose you could give me an example of Clancy doing it? I just want to make sure that we're on the same page here.

  4. #4
    Peace and Quiet. Jonathan Bogart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metronome35 View Post
    I was wondering what the name for these things would be, when they were most common, when they went out of fashion, and possibly why too.
    I can't find a name for the sort of thing you're talking about (and I seriously doubt Tom Clancy has ever used them; merely titling chapters isn't the same thing), but descriptive chapter headings were common up to the early nineteenth century. I would guess that they went out of fashion because as writers began to focus more on plot, and particularly on suspense, they didn't wish to give away anything that would happen before its time.

    They were a holdover from the days when most books were nonfiction -- particularly theological and scientific texts would include a brief summary of the topics covered in a chapter before the chapter began -- and sometimes they were simply thrown in by publishers or printers, and not necessarily part of the authorial intent at all.

  5. #5
    is a very dirty girl Athena Bast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metronome35 View Post
    I don't suppose you could give me an example of Clancy doing it? I just want to make sure that we're on the same page here.
    From Red Storm Rising... (My fave Clancy book before he got all political and still wrote good military action fiction)

    1) The Slow Fuse
    2) Odd Man In
    3) Correlation of Forces
    4) Maskirovkai 1
    5) Sailors and Spooks
    6) The Watchers
    7) Initial Observations
    8) Further Observations
    9) A Final Look
    10) Remember, remember
    11) Order of battle
    12) Funeral Arrangements
    13) The Strangers Arrive and Depart
    14) Gas
    15) The Bastion Gambit
    16) Last Moves/ First moves
    17) The Frizbees of Dreamland
    18) Polar Glory
    19) Journeys End/ Journeys Begin
    20) The Dance of the Vampires
    21) Nordic Hammer
    22) Ripostes
    23) Returns
    24) Rape
    25) Treks
    26) Impressions
    27) Casualties
    28) Breakthroughs
    29) Remedies
    30) Approaches
    31) Demons
    32) New Names, new Faces
    33) Contact
    34) Feelers
    35) Time On Target
    36) Shoot-Out at 31 West!
    37) the Race of the Cripples
    38) Stealth on the Rocks
    39) The Shores of Stykkisholmur
    40) The Killing ground
    41) Targets of Opportunity
    42) the Resolution of Conflict
    43) A walk in the woods
    So, there's this thing ​NEW! 5/3/13

  6. #6
    Junior Member Metronome35's Avatar
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    Mr. Bogart, you are a star. That's a rather comprehensive answer, and it goes a long way toward satisfying my curiosity on the subject. Thanks.

    I appreciate your help, Athena Bast, but Bogart was right, it's not quite the same thing. Here's two more example of what I mean.

    From Don Quixote:
    "About the prodigious and unparalled battle fought between Don Quixote de la Mancha and the lackey Tosilos, in defence of the duenna Dona Rodriguez's daughter"

    And from Sandman:
    "It always rains on the unloved -- Wet dreams -- A fishing expedition -- She kisses wyverns (The Disneyland analogy) -- Dinner etiquette and chocolate lovers -- Desire swears by the first circle -- "Things are changing" -- What can possibly go wrong?"

  7. #7
    vs. mode Sanagi's Avatar
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    I think it's a rather baroque stylistic choice(in the sense of being overly ornate) and can easily be cloying if it isn't used well. Gaiman's use of it in Brief Lives is the best I've seen, boiling each scene in the chapter down into an intriguing little blurb that doesn't give away too much.

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