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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 23rd day of Collecting, Yr 19
The Neopian Times Week 57 > Articles > Insert Title Here

Insert Title Here

by shidi

INSERT LOCATION HERE - So you've written the perfect piece of literature and are admiring your genius. It's all set to submit to the Times, except for that terribly blank section just above your username. Taunting you with its lack of content, all it needs is those few simple words… but what do you put there? How does one come up with a title, anyhow? An inadequate or misleading title can ruin even the most well-written piece. Some writers find the title even more challenging than the daunting task of writing the entire work. The following article discusses some good strategies for coming up with the perfect title.

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?
One of those questions we may never know the answer to - which came first? In your case, you're probably wondering here - which do I write first, the title, or the story itself? Either way is acceptable, and each has its merits. Often, I'll think of a snazzy title that helps inspire the story to come. My most recent episode of Krawk Files, for example, came out title-first, as did this article. Some of my stories, including "I Never Promised you Forever" and "A Grarrl Called Harry" were titled after the writing of the piece itself. So do whatever you feel most comfortable with, or a mixture of both. Sometimes, after writing just a paragraph or two, the perfect title will suggest itself.

Alliteration
Alliteration is defined as the repetition of a letter, or a beginning sound, in a series of words. Alliteration in a title is both visually and verbally pleasing to the reader, and can be used to create a rather nice effect. Some titles that I have done alliteratively are "Harry Halloween" and "Stevo's Sewage Safari". While this technique can be a bit difficult to execute if you just can't think of some rhyming words that describe the theme of your general piece, it tends to be an eye-catcher that's bound to get your piece noticed.

Puns
People love to laugh, particularly when they're reading a story. So why not throw a bit of humour into your title? If your story has a fun side to it instead of the cut and dry, overdone 'How I Saved Neopia' or the 'How I Plan to Take Over Neopia' yawnfest, let the world know it by putting a well placed pun into your title. Some titles I have used that include a pun are "My Job Stinks!", "When You've Gotta Go", "14 Carrot Goad", and "Playing with Your Food". Be careful not to make the pun too esoteric if you want the general populace to get it- I'm sure some people just completely missed the humour in '14 Carrot Goad' just by not knowing what the word goad means.

Excerpt
A little piece of the story sometimes stands out as the perfect title for the piece itself. For example, "I Never Promised You Forever" is found within the story itself, as something Owner says to Korbat:

"But… you said you loved me! You said you loved me…" the Korbat repeated, over and over, as Owner's footfalls faded into the distance. "I never promised you forever…" Owner said, not looking back, as she became one with the horizon, and faded from sight.

Because this is the most poignant moment in the story, it becomes the perfect title. "I Never Promised You Forever" sums up the whole feeling of the piece nicely.

Character
Sometimes, naming the piece after, or partially after, a main character is the way to go. In "A Grarrl Called Harry", Harry the Grarrl and his search for identity is the focus of the story. In "The Tale of Garoo", the naming process was a bit different. The tale was told by an old grandfather Grundo - but Garoo was a better choice for the title spot because he's the actual focus of the Grundo's tale. Our ill-fated comic series (trust me, don't ask) was called "The Von Teshov Diaries", because they were based on the writings of the character Vladamir von Teshov. Character names can be very useful in creating a successful title, especially when combined with a short phrase. "Les' Secret Addiction", for example, is far more interesting than "Secret Addiction", and just plain "Les" is right out.

Functional
While certainly not the most exciting of titling options, the functional title is best for a dry subject or purely instructional piece. "The Search For Knowledge", for example, is a pretty straightforward functional title for a piece about using various site search engines to obtain knowledge about the site. "Planting a Vegetable Garden" is about… surprise… planting a vegetable garden. Be careful when choosing a functional title, however - I've seen some pieces where the title was extremely misleading. "How to Tend Your Shop", for example, shouldn't be the title for a piece that digresses into talking about the stock market. Your readers will want to know what they can expect from the piece at a glance by looking at your title, and you should provide it for them.

Question and Answer
Posing a question in your title is often a great way to draw a reader into the piece. They will want to find the answer to that question, and in order to do so, they need to read your work. Be sure that the question you ask is one that is actually answered by your work, or you will leave your reader with a profound sense of disappointment that may lead them to think twice before reading anything by you ever, ever again. Really! No, not really. Most likely, they'll just be slightly miffed. This technique works much better for articles than for any other format. Some articles I've titled with questions are "Bad Pet Name? No Problem!" and "Medieval World, Medieval Times?"

Continuity
When doing a series of interrelated pieces, you might want to use some sort of continuity technique in your title so that readers of your previous works will instantly know that this is part of the same group. For example, my Krawk Files short stories all start with Krawk Files: and then the episode name. This week's piece is "Krawk Files: Turmaculus Turmoil". If at all possible, avoid such cliché titles as "Epsiode III of So and So". If people have read the other two articles in the series, they know that this is the third already. If they don't, then chances are, they didn't read the other two and don't really care. When writing a sequel to a previous series or short story, don't burden the title with needless information . For example, my series "Harry's Debut" is a continuation of the life of Harry the Grarrl, who was in "A Grarrl Called Harry" and "Harry Halloween." Titling it "Harry the Grarrl's Debut (Third Installment of the Harry the Grarrl Chronicles ) " would have been way over the top and awkward. A small introductory prologue (a paragraph or two at most) in the actual series or story will suffice.

And More…
Of course, there are many more ways to come up with a title, including combining some of the above techniques in the same title. Just remember to ask yourself this simple question before coming up with a title: what is this piece really about? Remember, if you come up with a title before the work is actually written, your writing may take a complete left turn from what you'd originally intended. Go back, check your work over, and see if the title is still relevant to the theme. If it's not, back to the old title drawing board.

What to Avoid
Well, now that you've learned some ways to help you title your piece, you're probably wondering if there's anything you definitely should not do. I'm glad you're wondering that, because yes, there are certain common mistakes people make with titling. Going too long is a definite mistake. Once, while writing a piece in a bit of a hurry, I burdened it with an extremely long title. You may have seen it - "Kasuki Lu: Big Fat Sensation, or Little Flash in the Pan?" (Editor's note: Fixed). At the time, I thought that was a great title, but it's a layout nightmare. It looks just awful, wrapping around the words 'the pan?' to a second line and making it and me look pretty unprofessional. If I could go back in time, I would change that title to "Kasuki Lu: Big Fat Sensation?" If your title doesn't fit on one line, it's too long. Period. Another common titling mistake is to have a title that seems to have very little to do with the piece itself. This is usually due to the title being written first, and then the author changing the direction of the work as they go along. Remember to check that title again once the piece is done.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and best of luck in coming up with great titles for your work! As always, if you have a question, comment, or complaint, feel free to Neomail me and let me know what you think.

Week 57 Related Links

Krawk Files: Turmaculus Turmoil
"Blimey... what a sheila..." Les whispered, hastily running some Studio Stunt Hair Gel through his long blonde mane.

by shidi



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