Monday, December 9, 2013

Troublesome Titles

Thinking up titles can be troublesome. On the other hand, some come easy. But getting the title of a piece of writing right is important … sort of.

I’m currently trying to think of a suitable title for a novel I’m writing. Novel titles have a lot of work to do. Ideally, they should convey something about the plot, or at least the genre. However, generally, novel tiles should be short. Sometimes a title may be one word. That’s a lot of work for one word to do.

Short story titles can be longer. One of my published short stories went by the title: It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, which for those of you who are not good at counting is eight words. It was published with this title, although when I sold it to an Australian magazine the editor cut it to A Good Life. Personally, I don’t think that’s as good. In my opinion, the If You Don’t Weaken is much more revealing about the story’s plot than A Good Life. A Good Life could be about anything: a nun, or a charity worker. But the phrase, If You Don’t Weaken immediately tells the reader that temptation is close by! Still, the Australian editor went with the shorter version, and at the end of the day, an editor knows best for their magazine.

For magazine articles, titles can be straight forward. Many articles take a numeric approach: Seven Ways To Drop A Dress Size Before Christmas (which’ll probably be to eat less on Monday, eat less on Tuesday, eat less on Wednesday …) Or, if they fill a regular column the title may be obvious. An article about the joy of finding a church unlocked for The Simple Things magazine had to take the column’s regular name as the first part of the title: Things I Miss … What came after was obvious really: Things I Miss: Unlocked Churches.

If you’re stuck for ideas for potential titles, consider the following:

- a play on words/phrase:  Amazing Feat (walkers who’ve achieved something spectacular).
- alliteration: Seven Seductively Secret Saunters (walks with hidden promises).
- a song title: Happy Holidays. (Be careful with song titles, though. You have to exercise caution when using lyrics, so if the song title comprises lyrics it may be better to think of something else.)
- stating the bleedin’ obvious: How To Build A Boat.
- a quote, proverb, or saying: From Tiny Acorns …

Of course, whatever you come up, you have to remember the editor may have his/her own ideas. The image at the top of this post is an article of mine appearing in the January 2014 issue of Cumbria magazine. I’d given it the title Cumbrian Weather Forecasting For Tourists. As you can see, the editor has changed it to something else: It Rains ... Get Over It!

‘nuff said!


Good luck!

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