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I've come up with a good title for my story, but it would also work really well as the title for the first chapter. However, I wonder whether it's at all advisable to do that. Do other stories do that?

For what it matters, the title has a slightly different meaning for the first chapter vs. the story as a whole.

Would the answer be any different if it were the last, or any other chapter?

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    I think adding the actual title in question would help a little for context. It is not vital, but I think it might be good idea. – A. Kvåle Aug 9 at 21:05
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I think you need either a more general title for your book, or a more specific title for your first chapter.

The main thing I see wrong with that is it will make it seem like the whole story is about Chapter 1, and then Chapter 2 is about ... another story? After the story?

But many stories are named after the crucial event in the story. The title "When Harry Met Sally" is really satisfied in the opening, Harry meets Sally almost immediately. But obviously, that meeting changes their lives, though neither of them realize it at the time.

Still, if that were a novel, I would not recommend both the book Title and First Chapter Title be identical. Nor would I make it the final Chapter Title, when Harry runs to find Sally and, when he meets her, rather indirectly proposes to her (it's a romantic comedy).

I think book Titles should reflect some central element of the whole story, and Chapter titles should reflect some central element of the chapter, and I wouldn't try to make a book title do double duty as a Chapter title; even if a pun is involved, or second meaning of a word, or whatever.

Now in "Harry Met Sally", their initial meeting is a catalyst for everything that happens afterward, and in that sense is the central element, the "inciting incident" we call it in writing. But the whole story isn't really about that meeting.

In other cases, the whole story is about the title. e.g. "Mrs. Doubtfire", or "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", or "Goldfinger".

I am not opposed to book titles (or chapter titles) that consist of a name and focus on that character, or book titles or chapter titles that focus on an Event. "Alice in Wonderland" is what the whole story is about. "Gulliver's Travels" is what the whole story is about, a first chapter title of "The Beginning" or "Lilliputia" or something like that would be appropriate.

And, of course, some titles are intended to be puzzling, and make sense in retrospect. We saw this quite often in The Big Bang Theory; one I rewatched recently was "The Bow Tie Asymmetry". In retrospect, it was an inability to tie a symmetric bow tie for his wedding that led one of the characters to realize a new scientific theory (which is crucial to the entire plot of the final season and series finale).

I think you need either a more general title for your book, or a more specific title for your first chapter.

  • Thank you! While I still think that my title both describes the content of the story as a whole and the content of the first chapter (with slightly different meanings), I hadn't considered that this could be confusing. Using the same title for the first chapter would probably blind the reader to the second meaning, which would be a pity. – Llewellyn Aug 10 at 20:57
  • @Llewellyn You might be able to work the book title into dialogue somehow with a character explaining the second meaning, perhaps as humor, or reflection on what just happened. Echo the second meaning to resonate with the title; e.g. Once they were back on the road, Harry said, "When I write the poem for this, i'm calling that The Unfortunate Incident at the Red Oak Inn." James laughed. "Indeed, sounds perfect." – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 11 at 12:02
  • It's not a pun. I meant that, at the end of the story, the reader might realize there are two possible meanings to the title and wonder which of the two is the "correct" one. (As a reader, I always like it when that happens.) In the first chapter, only one of them applies, so if I were to use that one, the reader is more likely to assume that to be the "correct" one and not even consider the second one. (Consequently, I've decided to change the chapter title.) – Llewellyn Aug 12 at 16:46
  • @Llewellyn Not a pun: Okay, I still get that. But I agree, there is no point in risking confusion. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Aug 12 at 16:54
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As the other answers have stated, I don't believe re-using the story's name for the first chapter is a particularly good idea, especially if it means something different later on in your story. However...

Would the answer be any different if it were the last, or any other chapter?

Yes.

It's not unknown for anime to name their final episode after the series itself. The example I know of off the top of my head is Vividred Operation - the final episode is also named "Vividred Operation". This works because, at the climax,

Akane and Rei fuse in order to fight the main villain, and become the titular Vividred.

So you could re-use the story title for your last chapter, but in order to pull that off, your last chapter would need to explain the title to some extent.

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In my opinion,

I would use the story title as a chapter title if that chapter explained or in some other way made sense of the story title. If not, not.

  • Mmm. Though, to avoid ambiguity, I might consider whether the chapter title could be tweaked slightly. For example, in the case of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ above, perhaps the first chapter might be called something like ‘Harry Meets Sally’? – gidds Aug 10 at 16:24

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