Insert Title Here
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 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
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.
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
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.
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?"
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.
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.