Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Titles - AKA the Bane of My Existence

Titles are crucial.

Titles set the stage.

Titles grab the reader, enticing them to read more.

Coming up with a title sucks.

Serious, epic, suckage.

To be effective, a title must:
- capture the reader's interest
- say what the story is about
- establish the story's voice

Yes, that's right, I'm repeating myself. You might have noticed that the three items above are exactly the same requirements of the beginning of a story, as discussed in my post on Beginnings.

The reality is that a title must work as hard as the beginning of a story. Because if the title doesn't catch your reader's interest, then they aren't going to read the beginning, are they?

Capturing the Reader's Interest: The Hook

The title should have a "hook" that reels the reader in, like a fish on a line.

Sometimes irony provides the hook. Title example: Calm Chaos.

How exactly can chaos be calm? You want your reader to jump into the story to find out.

Sometimes an intriguing quote provides the hook. Title example: Destiny Lives in the Tattoo's Needle.

What sort of destiny can be inside a tattoo's needle? The title essentially poses a question or theory that the reader will want to explore.

Feel free to read about other types of hooks in my post on Beginnings.

Saying What the Story Is About

Often, the title of a story or novel will give the reader a good idea of the upcoming plot and/or theme of the work.

Including this aspect in a title makes the marketing department sigh with relief.

Librarians will be able to remember in a snap what your book was about and recommend it to potential readers.

Establishing the Story's Voice

I know, I promised to do an extended post on "voice", but still have not delivered.

Quick definition: Voice is characterized by the tone or feel of a story, portrayed via word choice.

Voice is like the "flavour card" in front of the ice cream selections at Baskin Robbins, a few words that describe to you how the ice cream will taste.

Wherever possible, the title should illustrate to the reader a sense of how the story will feel. Will the tone be sarcastic or literary? Is the main character a pill or a logic-crazy savant? Will I flip through the pages like candy in a state of insane tension or will I pause and reflect on the lyrical prose after each rich chapter?

At this point, you're probably wondering why titles are the bane of my existence, my nemeses. And they really are.

As a matter of fact, over the last few months I have been agonizing over the title for my upcoming short story collection. We're talking multiple brainstorming sessions, emails back and forth with the editor (and the copy editor), long car rides with my partner, sessions with the Stop-Watch Gang, dinners with fellow writers, the whole enchilada.

Do I have a title yet?

Not a freaking chance!

***This is where you come in, my dear readers/audience/friends/enemies/others.***

I need a title for my collection. SOON!!

For a list of the titles of the twenty stories in my collection, check on my personal blog (maybe not tonight, because it's getting late) but in the next few days (assuming I hit my NaNoWriMo targets each day).

I would appreciate any and all suggestions from the ether.

If/when/once I manage a short list, I will post a poll, probably on my personal blog.

***Thanks in advance for all of your help.***

Titles are essential. You need to rock them, big time! Even if you want to kill them at every opportunity.

Which I do.

Pretty much.

Do it now
Skim through your current work-in-progress for the coolest sentence that would make a great title.

Think about some titles for my collection and post them in the comments section.


  1. I feel your pain. I'm still struggling with the title for my Green Man story due at the end of this month. Nothing yet.

    1. Keep checking through the story. A phrase or some dialogue might scream "title worthy" when you least expect it.