"Keep scribbling! Something will happen." Frank McCourt

Friday, May 28, 2010

Title Attraction

He stared at me.

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but...you’re not doing it for me anymore,” I said.

“I am what I am." He tapped his toes on the floor.

“You don’t have the lure and excitement that you once had. You're making me look bad.”

"I was enough yesterday."

“In the beginning of this relationship, you were brilliant. You said what needed to be said, but I’ve found another... with a better story.” My voice had become shrill.  “You have to leave.”

“What does that even mean- with a better story?”

“Get over it, you’re a title for goodness sake and I've found a better one."

“In your mind,” Title said and stormed out.

What do blog posts, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and songs all have in common? They normally have a title.  A title should attract readers to the words you have authored and attract Internet users to your blog posts and websites. But have you given much thought on the technique of creating a good title? How is it done?

In his March 9th post, C. Patrick Schulze shares that your title should :
  • Be a clue to your plot
  • Sell the story to the potential reader
  • Reflect the mood and meaning of your writing "your title needs to paint a picture"
  • Be easy to pronounce
  • Be five or less words
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent,  recommends researching Amazon for book titles in the genre you are writing and make a list of those that attract you. Then, decide why YOU like them and why you don't. (Read more about creating a good title by clicking on her name.)

I would add to this, for bloggers, to list post titles that you think are clever and decide why they appeal to you as the reader. Did you want to read the post because of the title? What did it tell you about the post before you read it?

Elizabeth Spann Craig, who writes cozy mysteries and her blog posts on Mystery Writing is Murder wrote in  Titles and Names that she put thought into naming her first two novels by "punning Southern sayings". But, she adds that people misspoke the titles. Her new book due out July 6, Delicious and Suspicious rhymes and is, in my opinion, a delightful title. (Read her post by clicking on Titles and Names.)

Life Along the Dousinberry is my dad's latest writing. It happens to be about the adventures of a young boy who lives near a creek called the Dousinberry. The title gives a glimpse of the story.

The magazine that I wrote children's read aloud stories for in the 1980's kept none of the titles I wrote. Was it me or was it their policy? I don't know. What I do know is that my love affair with my current murder mystery title, When The Keepers of the House Tremble, is unhealthy. The title is way too long and really has nothing to do with my book. But, it's poetic and is... beautiful or something. No?

Sometimes as a writer you have to practice tough love and throw out the title and begin again. 

How do you create the titles for your writing?  Is a process? 

21 comments:

  1. Teresa, you are really on to something here, especially with online writing. I have found many online writers are in a hurry to find their content and a title that tells them their topic is covered in your article is essential to getting them to select it, once they've queried their browser. Cute and catchy sometimes does not get it. I've changed my titles on some on my Triond articles and found that suddenly they have picked up.

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  2. Good information. I choose titles for simplicity, sometimes using just one word. But other times more is needed. I typically read blogs because of the persons writing them or the subject, not because of post titles.

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  3. Very informative post. I really hadn't given it much thought, but I see your point. I'm going to start working on that.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

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  4. I find have to careful because my title makes sense to me because I know the post but others don't have a clue.
    Usually I avoid readings with long titles because it is usually an indication that the author's work is wordy. (Like this comment. Sorry)
    Maribeth
    Giggles and Guns

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  5. It seems like the title is the shortest synopsis writers have to create! It says so much. I heard an agent once say that it helps to have food in the title!

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  6. Thanks for the mention!

    I'm tweeting this post...good collection of info here!

    I do love punny titles, but it can create a real problem for online book shoppers. I think it's okay for folks in brick and mortar stores.

    I had my own ideas for the "Delicious and Suspicious" book's title, but Penguin rejected them and their title is much better than mine were. :)

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  7. I don't know if I should say this but the title to all my mystery novels are clues to solving the codes within.

    CD

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  8. Hi Teresa .. mine usually come straight out .. not sure how. When I've thought about it for too long .. then the title's lost its hook. Occasionally I get too clever .. lost the hook again ..

    Love everyone's comments .. interesting read .. Hilary

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  9. I like coming up with titles. It's like naming the baby. My process is walking around with the ideas for a while. I have written them out, switched things around, but I usually come to an "ah-ha" moment, or I take a phrase from something within the story. Rhyming is good, or alliteration.

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  10. It's a lot of work, as your post suggests! But when the right one comes along, you just know it. (like love lol)

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  11. I just posted on another blog about titles - it must be Title Friday. They always give me trouble, so I need all the help I can get. Thanks.

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  12. This is very interesting to read. Thank you. I do think your title is poetic and interesting, even though it might not fit the rules.

    I choose titles that work for me (as in I love them a lot) as I'm writing, figuring a publisher will make changes. And looking forward to being at that point of my career. :-)

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  13. Excellent food for thought Teresa...I haven't given it much thought, but will in the future.
    Lesley

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  14. Both my books had their titles changed by the publisher.

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  15. Judy, I think - just think- that I need consider titles more than I do.

    Cindy, I too read posts because of the writers, but I am also lured in by interesting titles.

    Mason, Thanks - me too.

    Maribeth, I think you are on to something. Long titles are not in. :)

    Joanne, I love this "the title is the shortest synopsis writers have to create".

    Elizabeth, Wellll I think Delicious and Suspicious sounds like your creation. Thanks for Tweeting my post.

    Clarissa, I won't tell a soul. :) I think that's cool.

    Hilary, You are someone who can blurt it out the first time and get right. Not me.

    Mary, I need to think of it like naming babies, because I love naming babies and my pets.

    Karen, I hope I know when the right one comes along.

    Carol, I would say greats minds run together, if I had a mind.

    Deb, Thank you, I thought it was poetic too, but I realized one day it relates to very little in the story.

    Hi, Lesley, Long time no hear, but then you've been travelling.

    And Brian, I love the title "Playing with Matches". As creative as you are I thought the title came from you. I wondered how many times the publisher has their way with the titles. Oh, I started reading it but put it down to finish The Graveyard Book. My ADD helps me get ahead of myself.

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  16. I absolutely love the art work on your blog header. Beautiful. Can't wait to look around. Writing--it is so elusive at times.
    Mary

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  17. Mary, Welcome and thanks. Hope to see you again.

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  18. Good topic and reference links. I try to come up with eye-catching titles when I can. I often try to use my title to create a link between my subject matter and something that would be in a frame of reference for the reader, like a song lyric, poem, or common saying.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  19. I tend to just go with a working title until the whole thing is finished. Then I'll agonise over chapter titles and book title. The more I try to be clever the lamer they seem :-)

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  20. And all that information you espoused is precisely why I pick a quick title then, if it's not a blog, will *cough* deal with it later. My current project has only a working title and that's because I haven't bothered to spend time thinking of "a good title" that does all you stated. So, for me anyway, finding the right title for a manuscript is DEFINITELY a process. Good luck hunting for a new and awesome one (btw- I liked your other title :) )

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  21. Oh titles, I hate titles. I usually start with something that helps me locate a wip and then as I near the end I start getting a better idea of what my title should be.

    Love this post, glad I stumbled across your blog.

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