Follow TV Tropes


In Which a Trope Is Described

Go To

In Which the Details of the literary Convention "In Which a Trope Is Described" will be Disseminated

A convention of giving a chapter (or work) a name that is a summation of the contents of the chapter (or work). It used to be a serious writing convention; many 17th- and 18th-century (and occasionally, early 19th-century) works had extended titles that pretty much summed up the main events of the installment, but it is not as likely to be taken seriously today. In modern works, this is a titling convention with an intentionally Retraux feel.

For a title to count as an example, it has to describe what happens, generally using either very formal or outdated-sounding words and grammar, whether that means randomly capitalized words, semicolons instead of commas, gerunds instead of nouns (e.g. "using" instead of "usage" or "use") or stilted conjunctions and adverbs like "wherein" or "being."

An equally old-fashioned variant is when the title consists of a number of short phrases that enumerate the main plot points of the chapter (and occasionally irrelevant side details). For instance: "A Trope is described.—The Summary of its Qualities.—'In Which Examples Are Listed'.—The Contributors provide the aforemention'd Examples.—End of the Page"

This trope probably comes from the poets' practice (common in the Renaissance era) of putting short summaries called "arguments" before every section of their poems.

Often a Spoiler Title and/or a very long title. Compare The Noun Who Verbed, which is more modern-sounding, the Either/Or Title, which also has a very Retraux feel, and The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles, which uses language just as florid but with more whimsy. Easily subverted if the title doesn't match up with what happens, making it a straight example of a Non-Indicative Name. Not to be confused with a Word Salad Title, which is more like an inversion of this trope.

In Which Examples Are Listed:

    open/close all folders 

    In Which Examples from Anime & Manga Are Described. 
  • Baccano!. Memorable episode titles include "Jacuzzi Splot Cries, Gets Scared and Musters Reckless Valor", "Isaac and Miria Unintentionally Spread Happiness Around Them", and "Ladd Russo Enjoys Talking A Lot and Slaughtering A Lot".
  • Dragon Ball Z often has its episode titles simply describe what happens. This is in part because each episode mostly corresponds to a chapter in the manga. Chapter names are the key plot element that happened this time.

    In Which Artworks Are Described. 
  • Dogs Playing Poker: The portfolio's name indicates that all of the paintings are about dogs who are, if not outright playing poker, doing something related to it.

    In Which Examples from Comic Books Are Described. 
  • Every issue of The Sandman (1989)'s story arc "Season of Mists" — for example, chapter 1: "In which the Lord of Dreams makes preparations to visit the realms infernal; farewells are said; a toast is drunk; and in Hell the adversary makes certain preparations of his own". The issues/chapters of "Brief Lives" also have something similar, as does "The Wake", where each chapter has a different definition of "wake", and the chapter titles say which one ("Which occurs in the wake of what has gone before"; "In which a wake is held"; and "In which we wake".)
  • Tom Strong: "CHAPTER ONE: In which an Origin is Revealed, an Aerial Crime is Attempted, and TOM gains a New Fan."
  • Every chapter of Anita Bomba starts like this.
    Chapter XI: "In which, at the last stand, one decides to rely on nobles moral values that are Love, Honesty and Dynamite..."

    In Which Examples from Fan Works Are Described. 

    In Which Examples from Live-Action Films Are Described. 
  • Dogville, which starts with "The film Dogville as told in nine chapters and a Prologue", and then proceeds to do exactly that, with a description for each chapter.
  • In Easy A, Olive retells her story in a vlog, divided into parts with titles like- "Part One: The Shudder-Inducing and Cliched, However Totally False Account Of How I Lost My Virginity To A Guy At A Community College".

    In Which Examples from Literature Are Described. 
  • Rick Riordan uses this in the Riordanverse, sans the "in which", usually to great comedic effect. Individually (and with specific examples), they are:
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The first book, The Lightning Thief, begins with "I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher".
    • The Kane Chronicles: Sadie meets Anubis in "I Have a Date with the God of Toilet Paper".
    • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Magnus breaks the fourth wall with some of them, such as "Oh... So That's Who Fenris Smelled in Chapter Sixty-Three" and "If You Understand What Happens in This Chapter, Please Tell Me, Because I Have No Clue".
    • The Trials of Apollo has all its chapter titles in haiku. The first book, The Hidden Oracle, begins with "Hoodlums punch my face / I would smite them if I could / Mortality blows".
    • The Heroes of Olympus is the only exception. Since all the books use Switching P.O.V., they just mark chapters with whoever is narrating.
  • Jules Verne:
    • Five Weeks in a Balloon, for instance:
      The End of a much-applauded Speech.—The Presentation of Dr. Samuel Ferguson.—Excelsior.—Full-length Portrait of the Doctor.—A Fatalist convinced.—A Dinner at the Travellers' Club.—Several Toasts for the Occasion
    • And Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. The last chapter's title is "IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT PHILEAS FOGG GAINED NOTHING BY HIS TOUR AROUND THE WORLD, UNLESS IT WERE HAPPINESS".

  • The 44 Vintage by Anthony Price has chapter titles like "How Corporal Butler Was Saved By His Boots" and "How the Germans Spoilt a Good Plan".
  • The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. Every chapter is titled with a description. For example, the very first chapter is HOW IT HAPPENED THAT MAESTRO CHERRY, CARPENTER, FOUND A PIECE OF WOOD THAT WEPT AND LAUGHED LIKE A CHILD. Collodi was contemporary with Queen Victoria.
    • Also notable for a chapter title that memorably subverted a Spoiler Title: "In Which Pinocchio Finds In The Body Of The Dogfish... Whom Does He Find? Read This Chapter And You Will Know, My Children".
  • The classic textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach does this in chapter subtitles. For instance, the chapter titled "Knowledge Representation" begins with:
    In which we show how to use first- order logic to represent the most important aspects of the real world, such as action, space, time, thoughts, and shopping.
  • Bulldog Drummond has chapter titles like "Chapter IV — In Which He Spends A Quiet Night At The Elms". (That particular one is employing irony; he's surrounded by enemies and comes close to death a couple of times.)
  • Since it's a homage to Victorian serials, many of the chapter titles of Beyond the Western Sea are in this style.
  • Voltaire uses this in Candide. Given how short the chapters are and the straightforwardness of their titles, a reader can get a pretty solid gist of the book just from the table of contents (though there are a few titles that don't directly state what happens). Considering the satirical nature of the novelette this may very well have been intentional. Chapter titles include:
    "How Candide was brought up in a magnificent castle; and how he was driven out of it"
    "How the Portuguese made a superb auto-da-fe to prevent any future Earthquakes, and how Candide was publicly whipped"
    "Candide and his Valet arrive in the country of El Dorado. What they saw there"
  • The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers includes "A very short chapter, in which not much is going to happen". Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Quite a few in The Confidence-Man — "in which the last three words of the last chapter are made the text of discourse, which will be sure of receiving more or less attention from those readers who do not skip it."
  • For a non-fiction example, most of the sub-sections in The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, have long titles in this vein. For instance:
    "How Jean-Jacques Rousseau, having won one prestigious essay competition, then lost another (coming in over the permitted word length), but finally went on to conquer the whole of human history"
    "In which we discuss Marshall Sahlins's "original affluent society" and reflect on what can happen when even very insightful people write about prehistory in the absence of actual evidence"
    "In which we enter something of an academic no-go-zone, and discuss the possibility of Neolithic matriarchies".
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. In which the Victorians rise again; Extensive use of nanotechnology and robot-horses in Post-Cyberpunk China.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel All-Consuming Fire (a Sherlock Holmes crossover). The headings usually use Literal Metaphor or sardonic Understatement, so when you get to the relevant part you think "Wait, that's what that meant?"
  • In Don Quixote, every chapter's title as it appears at the top of the page is different from the chapter's title as stated in the index, maybe because it is too long to fit.
    • Inverted in Some Chapters that don’t Summarize really Anything:
    • Quite possibly lampshaded with a couple of others:
  • Dragaera:
    • As it is a parody of Dumas' work, the Khaavren Romances have chapter titles in this style, sometimes playing off of specific Dumas chapter titles—which are, of course, also in this style. The most memorable was probably "In Which The Plot, Behaving In Much The Same Manner As A Soup To Which Cornstarch Has Been Added, Begins, At Last, To Thicken".
    • Several of the Vlad Taltos books have front-cover blurbs in this format. "In Which Vlad and His Jhereg Learn How the Love of a Good Woman Can Turn a Cold-Blooded Killer Into a Real Mean S.O.B. ..." or "In which Vlad must survive among an alien race: his own."
  • Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles uses this trope extensively. Perhaps the height of it would be the chapter "In Which It Is Exceedingly Muddy". The same volume also contains "In Which The Plot Thickens", followed shortly by "In Which The Plot Positively Curdles".
  • The 18th century Spanish novel Friar Gerund makes fun of this with titles like "In Which We Accomplish The Promise Made By The Previous One", "In Which Something Happens", and "In Which Someone Sneezes And The Story Continues".
  • Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland books - currently published are The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, with chapters like In Which a Girl Named September is Spirited Off By Means of Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle and In Which a Girl Named September Keeps a Secret, Has a Difficult Time At School, Turns Thirteen, and Is Finally Nearly Run over by a Rowboat, Thereby Finding Her Way into Fairyland.
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann created deliberately misleading chapter summaries for his comic story The Golden Pot; for example, in the section summarized as "How Deputy Headmaster Paulmann put out his pipe and went to bed", that is hardly the most important thing that happened — it's actually about Paulmann's daughter Veronika slipping out of the house after her father is in bed, to pay a visit to a witch for some love magic.
  • Fielding's The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. The book is divided into "Books" which are subdivided into "Chapters". Each "Chapter" is about ten pages and the header summarizes it. The first chapter of each book is an analysis of literary techniques used in the upcoming book. It's worth pointing out that Fielding wrote the book serialized, publishing roughly a chapter a week from 1742-49, so perhaps the clunky chapter titles are necessary for the reader to remember what was going on.
  • Howl's Moving Castle and its sequel Castle in the Air use this trope in the chapter titles. First chapter: "In which Sophie talks to hats".
  • A book by Carl Sandburg called The Huckabuck Family: and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back.
  • Joe's World: The chapter titles of Forward the Mage by Eric Flint use this. Notable in that several chapters consist solely of their title. How the book starts:
    In Which We Introduce the Gentle Reader to Our Tale Through a Most Cunning Usage of the Ancient Narrative Device of The Plunge Direct Into the Turbulence of the Times. Taken From the Autobiography of the Notorious Scapegrace, Benvenuti Sfondrati-Piccolomini.
  • The Polish novel Księga urwisów uses the "plot point listing" variant for nearly all chapters. Such as "An opportunity comes up. Unforeseen obstacle. Escape".
  • The Late George Apley (1937) uses this for every chapter. Chapter VIII, when we read of George's youthful romance with an Irish girl, is titled "Interlude: Dealing with a Subject Which Would Not Ordinarily Be Discussed in a Work of This Nature." The Direct Line to the Author Framing Device for the story imagines that it is a biography of George Apley by his old friend Horatio Willing. In 1937 this was already an old-fashioned, outmoded style, and In-Universe it serves to mark Willing as an old fogey out of touch with the times.
  • Howard Whitehouse's Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones has three books:
    • The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken
    • The Faceless Fiend: Being the Tale of a Criminal Mastermind, His Masked Minions and a Princess with a Butter Knife, Involving Explosives and a Certain Amount of Pushing and Shoving
    • The Island of Mad Scientists: Being an Excursion to the Wilds of Scotland, Involving Many Marvels of Experimental Invention, Pirates, a Heroic Cat, a Mechanical Man and a Monkey
  • A Man Called Ove gives every chapter a title which begins with "A man called Ove..." and always has something to do with the events therein. For example the chapter in which Ove reluctantly allows a disowned gay teenager and a stray cat to stay at his house is called "A man called Ove isn't running a goddamned hotel".
  • Mariken, a Dutch children's novel by Peter van Gestel, is an adaptation of the miracle play or prose novel (depending on who you ask) Mariken van Nieumeghen from the 16th century and it straight up uses this trope. E.g.: 'Waarin Archibald uit de stad wordt verjaagd en tussen de bloeiende ganzeriken een klein meisje vindt', which is in English: 'In which Archibald is driven from the city and finds a little girl between the flowering cinquefoils'.
    • The original uses a variant: it has no clearly marked chapters because it's written like a play, but the acts are divided by descriptions beginning with 'How', e.g.: 'Hoe heer Ghijsbrecht Mariken zijnder nichten tot Nimmeghen ghesonden heeft./Hoe heer Gijsbrecht zijn nicht Mariken naar Nijmegen zond.', which is in English: 'How mister Gijsbrecht sent his niece Mariken to Nijmegen.'note 
  • Philip K. Dick's A Maze Of Death subverts this; the table of contents contains a brief summary-like name for each chapter, but every such "summary" is about one of the fourteen characters doing something that has nothing at all to do with the chapter contents, or the novel at all. It might be symbolic of how all the events and backstories in the book are just part of a virtual simulation, one of the hundreds of different ones that the characters have already experienced.
  • Many of the chapter titles in Les Misérables. Because Hugo was short on words.
  • "Moby Dave: In Which a Mysterious Sea Captain's Obsession with the Great White Bonefish Leads His Faithful Vessel and Crew Directly into the Bizarre Vortex of the Lethargy Zone. And a Lot of Beer" by Dave Barry.
  • The novel Nameless Magery plays with this by giving its chapters titles beginning with "In Which I Don't..." (e.g. "In Which I Don't Keep My Dress Clean").
  • Umberto Eco's book The Name of the Rose, in part a wonderful pastiche of Sherlock Holmes set in a 14th century monastery, in which most of the divisions are headed with such a description, except for the Seventh Day, "In which, if it were to summarize the prodigious revelations of which it speaks, the title would have to be as long as the chapter itself, contrary to usage." Done largely to avoid having to put something like 'In which it is revealed that X is the murderer'.
  • Older Than Print: The Nibelungenlied consists of 39 chapters (âventiuren). The first is untitled, the second is called "Of Siegfried", but the other 37 have titles starting with Wie ("How"), starting with "How Siegfried Came to Worms" and ending with "How Lord Dietrich Fought With Gunther and Hagen".
  • The Parasol Protectorate: Many chapters use this convention, and it becomes more common later in the series. Examples include: "In Which Parasols Prove Useful", "Wherein Things Disappear, Alexia Gets Testy Over Tents, and Ivy Has an Announcement", "In Which Ivy Hisselpenny and Professor Lyall Are Given Too Much Responsibility", "Wherein Alexia Will Not Be Flung", and "In Which There Is Almost a Bath and Definitely a Trip to the Theatre".
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture uses this for some, but not all chapters: "Wherein Professor Mmaa Begins His Lecture", "Wherein The Reader Will Find A Further Section Of Professor Mmaa's Lecture on the Bold Ape", etc.
  • Used in Lloyd Alexander's The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen, with short collections of titles, such as Mafoo Comforts His Toes - The Ear of Continual Attentiveness and etc. However, chapters dealing with the six key items are simply titled, The Tale of the Thirsty Sword, et alia.
  • The multiple-sentence-long "In which..." chapter titles in The Rest Of Us Just Live Here tell a typical teen Urban Fantasy story. The chapters themselves tell a slightly overlapping story of "normal" students in the same world.
  • Telly Brats and Topless Darts: A non-fiction example: Chris Horrie and Adam Nathan do this at length, their history of the notorious cable TV channel, L!ve TV. The result of this is that the table of contents not only gives a pretty decent overview of the subject before you get into the book's content proper, but is also hilarious.
  • This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself, because... yeah.
  • This is the Way the World Ends, a novel about nuclear war, uses headings with its characteristic bitter, bitter humor: (paraphrased) "In which the limitations of civil defense are explored in a manner that some readers may find disturbing."
  • Used in Vanity Fair, e.g. Chapter XXVIII: In Which Amelia Invades the Low Countries.
  • The majority of chapter summaries from A Void are like this. They rarely refer to any of the major events in the chapter.
    In which luck, God's alias and alibi, plays a callous trick on a suitor cast away on an island
  • A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books follow this style for the chapter names. The first story, for example, being: In which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some Bees, and the stories begin.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt is divided into several sections, but the first section features chapter headings in this style.
  • Used in a joke about the Warrior Cats series: one of the Erin Hunter authors wrote about a fan who'd told her the series wasn't realistic for actual cats, and she ended the story by saying "Watch for series five: 'In Which The Clans Realize They Don't Actually Like Living Together And Split Up'." Due to an outcry by fans, she had to clarify that it was in fact a joke and that it should have been obvious because it was too long to be a real title.

    In Which Examples from Live-Action TV Are Described. 
  • Each episode of the John Steed-Emma Peel era of The Avengers opened with some cryptic, usually punning statements describing what would happen in the episode. They did not actually contain with the words "in which," but the effect was otherwise similar.
  • A Television Series, Being A Merry Situational Comedy, Concerning Friends, In Which Most Episodes Are Named "The one with ..." and Ross Obtains A Divorce.
  • A first season episode of Fringe is entitled "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones". In it, Wicked Cultured villain David Robert Jones is, in fact, introduced.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has blunt episode titles about what happens in the episode. Sometimes it's a single event ("Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire"), sometimes it breaks the pattern entirely ("The D.E.N.N.I.S. System"), but usually it just says what the episode is about ("The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby", "Mac Fights Gay Marriage", etc.).
  • Private Practice's Idiosyncratic Episode Naming takes this effect.
  • Played completely straight In-Universe on the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Author, Author". The Doctor writes a holonovel in hopes of having it published on Earth, but its unironic use of this trope between segments, all the more out of place for being an interactive medium, goes a long way towards demonstrating how much of an amateur he is as a writer. That said, when it gets published, it surges in popularity. Perhaps people think it's So Bad, It's Good, or perhaps they appreciate The Doctor's Auteur License for giving them something new and nonconformative, even if it deviates from established practices.

    In Which Examples from Music Are Described. 
  • "Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!," a Beatles song whose lyrics John Lennon adapted from an actual Victorian-era circus poster.
  • "This is an / album by / The Black Keys. / The name of / this album is / Brothers."

    In Which Examples from Tabletop Games Are Described. 

    In Which Examples from Video Games Are Described. 

    In Which Examples from Webcomics Are Described. 

    In Which Examples from Web Originals Are Described. 
  • Tales of MU, in which the chapter subheadings are all ironic. Of course, all are perfectly logical once you read the story. For example, the title "Girly Fight" in conjunction with the subtitle "In Which Mackenzie Gets The Finger", implies that dear old Mack is in a word fight. You're wrong if you think so. In one of the most hillaristurbing scenes in the world, she Mind Rapes one of the adversaries to the point that her corrupted memory had to be removed, and she rips the other's fingers off with her teeth. Perfectly logical. Mack gets the finger, and all of the participating parties are girls.
  • Each new episode of Kevin Smith's podcast, S Modcast, is summarized via this, e.g. "Episode #150: In which our heroes meet Melf (aka Sugartits, the antisemitic house elf)."
  • A side story of The Descendants used this in the chapter titles combined with Antiquated Linguistics.
  • Docta Watson's ongoing Let's Play of Grand Theft Auto IV follows this rule for each episode, with episode titles like "In Which Niko Gets a Sweet Motorcycle" and "In Which Niko Must Make a Very Important Choice".
  • A lot of screenshot-based Lets Plays on Something Awful forums are like this.
  • The infamous Dirty The Pooh "audio books" usually start with these. Like everything else in the Dirty Potter series, they're full of potty humor.
  • Every chapter of Pay Me, Bug! starts with a subtitle in this format.
  • Fantasy epic parody The Saga of Pretzel Bob uses this format for all of its chapter titles.
  • The RPG.Net forums have "In Which I Watch" threads where people watch a show for the first time, or at least not having seen it recently, and comment on what they see.
  • In the RPG.Net review of F.A.T.A.L by Daren MacLennan and Jason Sartin (link), one of the chapters is called "In Which I Demand That Rats Should Be Fed To Other Rats".
  • Farce of the Three Kingdoms uses this format for all chapter titles, though how much of the chapter they sum up varies.
  • The first book of Only Villains Do That titles all its chapters this way.

    In Which Examples from Other Works Are Described. 
  • A number of people undertaking NaNoWriMo like to take advantage of the bonus wordcount this trope confers.
  • In which avowed fan of the trope, Neil Gaiman, even does it in his Tweets

In Which the Indices are listed and there may be an Advertisement: