Titles ~ A to Z Blogging Challenge

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Certain literary titles make for appealing and memorable books. War and Peace, for one.

Of course, there is more to books than titles, but same as with meeting someone, the first impression counts.

Book titles taken from literature speak to curiosity.

Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! taken from the Books of Samuel. Another, and more recent, P.D. James’ The Skull Beneath the Skin, taken from T.S. Eliot’s Whispers of Immortality. Of course, if the books were no good, this would be nothing more than cocktail trivia. 

Well-conceived titles entice the reader, at the very least, to pick up the book, wouldn’t you say?

The lyricism in  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example. The cool sound of Dr. Seuss’ One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  How about Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Some publishing houses have strict formulas for titles, no matter the author’s grand idea, looking for short declarative phrases, like Run Fast or Hold Tight.

Imagine the titles mentioned above under such rules. On the other hand, I have yet to meet the reader who set a book down based on dislike for the title.

Literature Is the Question Minus the Answer

My title decision for Stranger or Friend was pretty immediate. The OR in the middle fell under Literature Is the Question Minus the Answer. While the mystery was solved, I hope the story remained an expression of the pursuit of the answer.

The mystery I’m currently working on is still Untitled, which, to me, means that I am somehow interfering with the story. Then again, daily blogging can do that. :)

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Image: www.theperfecttitle.com

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14 responses to “Titles ~ A to Z Blogging Challenge

  1. I’ve always had a difficult time with titles. Whether that be a title for poetry, essays, journalism, short fiction, or my untitled novels, titles are one of the last things I do. I envy that you come up with them so fast! How do you determine your titles? Is it based on a theme, idea, or concept in the piece? An excerpt that was quoted somewhere?

    • With Stranger or Friend it was immediately obvious because the main character returns home where she is looked upon as no longer a local, but a stranger. There are times when it doesn’t immediately come to me. For a short story I wrote about an abusive father, I simply couldn’t come up with a title, and for the longest time it was called The Father until I got it and it became A Blurred Reality. I like it to the the overall theme somehow, but that doesn’t always work. Thank you for visiting and the comment.

  2. Titles are very important! Even for blog posts. When a title hasn’t popped out by the time I finish a draft, I know I’m not publishing my best work. Bummer!

    • So true about blog posts, Sammy. Many times I find myself clicking away pulled in by the title. I too feel weird if I’m done with the first draft and don’t have a title — something of a creative limbo land. I think that’s way many authors use the name of the character as the title. Thank you!

  3. I sure would rather think of my own title than letting the publishers.

  4. Between the A – Z Challenge, answering blogs, and writing your brain must be fried! I’m only doing part of what you are accomplishing and my brain is already fried! Wonderful post!

  5. I have the seeds of the idea, then the characters start talking to me, but before I write a single word of the story, I give it a title. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a title. Most of the time, the title I give my articles, is the one the editor uses. Titles, they’re like naming a child. Very personal. And, I think they give a strong first impression.

    • So true, Mary. Like naming a child, because our stories are our babies. Having a title gives me a sense of knowing what I’m doing, of having captured the main idea. Thank you for reading and the comment.

  6. A title is the essence of a book. Just like the cover it draws you in. I always wonder if my titles work – yours certainly does!

  7. I am terrible at titles. Which is probably good. When I get a publisher, I won’t have any trouble letting them change the titles.

  8. Hi Silvia – it’s interesting this aspect about titles and how we come up with them … I know my blog post titles can have their moment .. but totally appreciate short sharp appropriate titles … love Stranger or Friend … it’ll be interesting to see what title you choose … cheers Hilary

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