Robert Jordan-style chapter headings, using Scrivener’s custom placeholder tags… his Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan changes the point of view of the narrative from chapter to chapter, developing several protagonists at once and weaving each one’s actions into the central plot.

In the WoT books’ original editions, which is what I own, Tor Books carried this POV sequencing into the books’ design by incorporating a unique icon for each character into the heading of all chapters featuring that character. Perhaps Tor still does this? At any rate, Rand’s icon is a dragon, Mat’s is a set of dice, Perrin’s is a wolf, etc. So when you see a dragon in a chapter heading, you know you’ll be spending the next few pages with Rand; see dice and you’re switching to Mat, and so on.

I think it’s a nice aesthetic touch, but it also makes it easy to skip through the books following a single character rather than reading the chapters in order.

So after conducting some experimentation and after a nudge in the right direction from Keith Blount at Literature & Latte, I’d like to share with you a process for creating rotating-icon chapter headings much like Tor Books did in WoT, using Scrivener’s Compile wizard.

In this very simple example I’ll use three icons to represent three protagonists: Lorem, Ipsum, and Dolor.  Lorem’s icon is a spark plug, Ipsum’s is a row of shot glasses, and Dolor’s is a stapler.

Note that this process is Mac-oriented, and assumes a basic working knowledge of Scrivener. If you’re new to Scrivener, or for more information about how easy Scrivener makes book creation, see my article “How to Publish Your eBook from Word to Kindle in under Ten Minutes” or my book How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace…in One Afternoon (for Mac).

1) Import your images into the Binder’s “Research” folder.

2) In the Inspector’s “Custom Meta-Data” pane, create two custom meta-data fields: “Image” and “Protagonist,” and fill these in appropriately for each chapter.

Here you see Chapter One.

By naming each image after its protagonist you could get away with using a single meta-data field, but this method allows you to change a protagonist’s icon as the book progresses. When you reach a chapter where you’re ready to change a character’s icon, click on that chapter in the Binder and change its image in the Image field. This won’t affect the images you selected in previous chapters.

3) Insert the appropriate placeholder tags into the “Section Layout / Title Prefix” and “Suffix” fields of the Compile wizard’s Formatting pane.

Here I’ve used two custom tags.

First, <$img:<$custom:Image>;w=150> is a compound tag with the following components:

<$img: — opens the Image placeholder tag.

<$custom:Image> — Scrivener replaces this tag with the contents of the “Image” custom meta-data field, which in Chapter One will yield “sparkplug” to the Image tag, causing it to insert the image with that name into the Title Prefix.

;w=150> — automatically scales the image to width and preserves the proportionality between height and width, since height wasn’t explicitly declared.  If I’d wanted to re-size both height and width, I’d have included, say, “;w=150;h=250>.

Then in the Suffix I’ve used the custom meta-data tag <$custom:Protagonist> to insert the appropriate character’s name under the icon. You’re about to see how this looks.

Note that in this example I’ve ensured the “Title” box is un-checked in the Formatting pane’s “Structure and Content” table for the hierarchical row I’m working on:

4) Compile and review

Here are three quick-and-dirty examples from the same .mobi, as shown in the Kindle Previewer.

Again, this is quick-and-dirty…but you could embellish the idea much further by adding better images, bracketing them in lines, or even by replacing the chapter title itself with an image, as shown here in an example I ginned up using the Spray Paint Fonts website:

One caveat -- if after compiling you discover what looks like an HTML error message in place of an image, try going into "Section Layout / Title Appearance" under the Formatting pane and turning off "Faked Small Caps" for the Title Prefix or Suffix as appropriate. This may very well cure your problem.

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