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RJHubbard53
06-20-2011, 01:10 AM
How do you choose a title for your work?

I seem to have a hard time putting a title to the things i write. I just got an acceptance along with a request for a title - guess I forgot that when I submitted :)

I feel like my titles are always too...um... boring..

any tips?

RJ

C.W. LaSart
06-20-2011, 01:12 AM
I think titles are a knack-though the story I posted here was one of the few I had a hard time putting a title on, usually my title is one of the first things that pop into my head.

WesleySouthard
06-20-2011, 02:16 AM
The title usually comes first for me, but on occasion, when one refuses to pop up, I'll let my pre-readers suggest one. My story title for this contest was originally just "The Throat" but I wasn't really digging it, so a friend suggested "By The Throat". I like it well enough.

ozmosis7
06-20-2011, 02:19 AM
I've read a billion places that the key to a great story is a good title. It's kind of like that old saying, "Location. Location. Location." It's what draws them in to begin with. I recently attended a con with my publisher, and I noticed something. A lot of people looked for key words like hell, blood, beer, and things like that. I'd hate to make every title a word search with no meaning, but it is a marketing strategy.

RJHubbard53
06-20-2011, 02:50 AM
yeah, this is tough for me; I seem to suck at this :) Funny how you mention the title comes first for you, Welsey. I have one story where the only thing I know about it is the title. Someday it may develope into something

RJK1981
06-20-2011, 03:26 AM
I have the same problem sometimes, and sometimes I think of a title and end up changing it. I still have no title for a story I began for a college class and have worked on a bit since that I am hoping to expand on further. I did end up changing the title for the story I submitted here. I originally titled it Reset, but once I finished writing it I figured The Job sounded better to me

RichardThomas
06-20-2011, 04:15 AM
I LOVE TITLES. They are the first clue as to what is going to happen in your story. It is an additional bit of information for AFTER the story is over. It's the tip of the iceberg, a hint, or something so bizarre and obscure it SEEMS disconnected, but it isn't.

I've done a lot of one word titles. Not sure why. Transubstantiate was my first book. It means "to change". Disintegration is my second. It fits for what is happening. My story in Shivers VI is "Stillness" which alludes to the fact that the man is alone, but in reality, it's his head, his thoughts that are alone. My ChiZine winner was called "Maker of Flight," I like that one a lot. Recently I've had "Splintered," and "Daybreak," and "Victimized".

You can also pull a line out of a story. I have one called "Herniated Roots" that was totally pulled from the story. Some people like really long story titles. That's kind of a hip thing to do. The longest ones I have are "Rudy Jenkins Buries His Fears" (a double entendre, another cool thing you can do). But my longest is "Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave."

Often with my longer pieces of work it's a way for me to keep my focus, if I get stuck, I keep coming back to that one word, or the whole title, to remind me of what I'm doing. "These people are changing, they are given a second chance, what is their goal, why are the fighting?" That kind of thing.

Hope that helps.

RJHubbard53
06-20-2011, 12:29 PM
it does help; thanks, Richard. In my day-to-day reality, I write a lot of business proposals, requests for funding, etc. and often need a catchy abstract but never a title other than "Proposal to Acquire . . ."

my stories always seem to evolve into something other than what I orginally intended so if begin with a title, it may not be relevant later.

So I sent the editor a title for my accepted submission and he didn't say "OMG that sucks! you're out!" so I guess it wasnt too bad of a title

RichardThomas
06-20-2011, 02:45 PM
there's a story by Mona Simpson called "Lawns" that is a dark literary tale that is about a girl and her father who are having a sexual relationship, and it focuses on how she really doesn't make a big deal out of it, is looking for a boyfriend, and her everyday life at college - a lot of people have wondered WTH the title "Lawns" has to do with anything - you could have called it "Daddy's Little Girl" or "Incest" or even "Working at the Post Office". So don't feel like your titles HAVE to change if your story does. Sometimes that bit of mystery can be really interesting.

I wrote a paper on this story, about the title. Bascially, what "Lawns" has to do with is her desire to find a normal life. She just wants a home where the backyard is for cutting grass, tossing a ball, running through the sprinkler. Not a memory of her dad touching her. She dates a boy that cuts grass at the school, and she just wants him to love her for who she is, to not run away when he finds out about her past. So for this story, this title, which seems almost like a mistake, really eludes to some depth of character and story.

Just thought I'd toss that out there.

ozmosis7
06-20-2011, 03:05 PM
When things come together like that it's incredible.

Craig Wallwork
06-20-2011, 03:29 PM
I tend to find a good title writes the story.

For example; Never really knew what the term "gutterball" meant, not being a bowler. Someone told me, and i thought, Mmmm that's an interesting title. I wonder if someone could have it as a nickname? But why? Why would someone be called Gutterball is they never played 10 pin bowling? At the time, I was suffering with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which is an inner ear problem where calcium deposits dislodge themselves and float around the cochlea, or the inner Labyrinth. It totally knocks you off balance if the calcium deposits bang the walls of the ear. So, yeah, maybe this guy has a problem with balance, that as he walks, he veers off course, into the gutter. But what if this guy's problem wasn't BPPV? What if it was something bigger than calcium deposits, like a pillow, or an animal lodged in his ear? YES, an animal! So, I wrote Gutterball's Labyrinth which is about a man who consumes large objects into his ears while asleep. At the end of the story, a medical student ends up crawling inside Gutterball's ear where he meets all the pets the guy has ever owned and all the objects Gutterball has ever consumed.

That was all from one word presented to me.

I find story stories are very easy. Novels, not so much. One of my novels, The Death and Life of Sadler Truman, went through many title changes. First it was Casualties of Fear and Distraction, then Sympathy for the Dead, then Suicide Fan Club, before finally becoming the aforementioned.

Unlike Richard I tend to have long titles. 13 is probably my shortest. Revenge of the Pussy Eaters (title came first, story later), The Whore that Broke the Camel's Back (again, title first, then story), Sigourney Weaver Stole My Shadow, and Morning Birdsong & the Hell Demons, are all fairly long.

The key is, RJ, let it come naturally. if nothing pops up from the prose, watch some TV, go for a walk, listen in on a conversation, play the radio while driving to work (I get a lot of ideas from that), and hopefully it'll hit you across the face. Personally, I think 13, is one of my poorest titles, but strongest stories. Just goes to show.

Nik Houser
06-20-2011, 03:29 PM
Yeah, a title can absolutely draw me in. If someone throws away a title, it's not a big incentive for me to pick it the book or story. I think Stephen King is one of the worst at naming his books. Yeah, the names get the job done, and sometimes they're great (The Stand, The Dark Tower, IT), but they're mostly no-frills jobs that could be better. Then again, I published a story simply called "Q&A," and that title sucks. But it's the most appropriate title I could give it because it's a murder mystery in which letters of the alphabet are getting killed.

Titles used to fly out of my brain faster than I could write them down. These days it's a combination of getting a title right away, or laboring over it. It's usually the latter. So I'll brainstorm for a while, latching onto words that seem to fit with what I'm writing, and then try to come up with a creative/compelling way to use them. I also don't have a problem using a metaphorical title that doesn't directly match the story, if it sounds cool and it fits the theme. One of my stories is called "The Kissing Booth Burns Down," about a kid who spends his entire life living at a kissing booth he built as a boy, waiting for the man who kidnapped his childhood best friend to return. The kissing booth never burns down, but the title is meant to work on a thematic level. That being said, titles that work on a logical/practical level are probably the best.

So yeah, find some good words you like and that fit and that you wanna use, and then use one or more of those words as "the steak". Then pick other words to season it with. Story take place in the ghetto? OK, how about Once Upon a Time in the Ghetto? Not that that's a good title, I'm just exemplifying how you can turn a key word or theme, and embellish it for something different and potentially eye-catching. Which can be key is standing out in the slush pile.

And HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on being published! Is this your first acceptance?

Nik Houser
06-20-2011, 03:31 PM
Those are some outstanding title's, Craig. Sigourney Weaver Stole My Shadow is fan-fucking-tastic.

Craig Wallwork
06-20-2011, 03:36 PM
Those are some outstanding title's, Craig. Sigourney Weaver Stole My Shadow is fan-fucking-tastic.

Thanks. Hopefully Sigourney Weaver will never reads it, otherwise she may sue me. :O

RJHubbard53
06-20-2011, 03:40 PM
And HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on being published! Is this your first acceptance?

thanks, Nik! Yep, my first submission (aside from this contest) and my first acceptance. I'll try not to let it go to my head :)

TerryE
06-20-2011, 04:20 PM
RJ, again congrats on that acceptance. When everything is finalized, you'll have to let us know when & where to pick it up.

As far as titles are concerned, I"m never too happy with mine. They're usually just a noun describing the main part of the story. Sometimes the title writes the story, and sometimes vice versa (like most everyone else here). Now I love when the title can be taken two ways, or even several different ways. If you've ever seen the cover of Rush's album "Moving Pictures" there's at least 3 different interpretations of the phrase in the cover art. I've got one story idea that I'm trying to use nearly every English definition of a certain word in the context of the story, to give it meaning on several different levels.

But don't let the title stress you out. If you've ever seen a list of Seinfeld episodes, they always went with very simple titles (The Contest, The Jacket) with the intention of keeping the writers focused on the script and not trying to think of some cutesy title for the episode. Your title can come from a line of the story, a character name or nickname, or the theme of the tale. Some people use the last line of the story, but I usually don't like that since the whole story seems like a set-up of a joke.

Randy D. Rubin
06-20-2011, 05:09 PM
Congratulations RJ! I love to hear when someone gets published, gets their foot in the proverbial door. Well done.

RJHubbard53
06-20-2011, 05:49 PM
thanks, all. It is a very small piece but its better than nothing; kinda feel silly about even mentioning it but a credit is a credit, no?

ozmosis7
06-20-2011, 05:57 PM
Yes, I missed that. Gratz on the acceptance.

Craig Wallwork
06-20-2011, 05:57 PM
RJ - I think you need to christen the Acceptance thread. Congrats. :)

RJHubbard53
06-20-2011, 05:58 PM
RJ - I think you need to christen the Acceptance thread. Congrats. :)

when it's more than an email and i have a link to the announcement, i will

Nik Houser
06-20-2011, 07:24 PM
thanks, all. It is a very small piece but its better than nothing; kinda feel silly about even mentioning it

F*CK THAT. Say it loud and proud, man. You've earned it.

mlouisdixon
06-20-2011, 08:16 PM
How do you choose a title for your work?



Well, use the Random Title Generator (http://www.modplug.com/title_generator.html)--of course!

MLD

*Got these:

Chocolate-Covered Effluvium
Impulsive Cadavers
Putrid Frogs
Frozen Humans With Digital Verisimilitude

Dan Hocker
06-20-2011, 08:20 PM
Well, use the Random Title Generator (http://www.modplug.com/title_generator.html)--of course!

MLD

Oh man I love those random name generators. The Prison Bi*#h Name generator is the best. I think I remember my one high school history teacher being "Tossed Salad".... lol (sorry off topic)

ozmosis7
06-20-2011, 10:09 PM
LOL! That is a funny site. Bookmarking it. Never know.

Ever fool with this?
http://iwl.me/

KT Wagner
06-20-2011, 11:16 PM
I love this thread! I love learning about how others handle writing challenges. Titles are a hurdle for me.

Great ideas - I wish I could add something clever but...

...oh well. Back to work on my untitled WIP.

KT

ozmosis7
06-21-2011, 12:03 AM
For the title of my first book, "These Trespasses" came from a repeated text. Once I had it in there twice it just sort of felt right. "Grave Revelations" actually was text I pulled out of the 1st book. Those came easy to me. Most don't though, and an interesting feature in my crit group is that they grade the title. Cafedoom has a really good structure and sometimes just getting a grade on your title makes you dig deeper.

Kenwood
06-22-2011, 01:40 AM
A lot of times I just come up with a generic title at first. I can't seem to work on stories until its got a title, even a generic one. Something tells me that makes me a bit crazy. Haha.

If I can't sit back and think of something interesting, I'll then turn to looking through the story. Usually something in the writing will jump out at me. For instance, I wrote a story called "Kissing Death" a few years ago. In it, there's this line:


Despite the comfortable temperature of Loganís room, she always found it to be cold. A deeper kind of cold; one that crept into her bones and chilled her heart.

And now the story is called "A Deeper Kind of Cold," which I like much better.

I'm also a huge music fan, so often a song title will jump out and seem perfect for something I'm working on. My story in The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, for instance, is called "Goddamn Electric." This is a Pantera song, but it's also the perfect title for this story.

ozmosis7
06-22-2011, 02:02 AM
A lot of times I just come up with a generic title at first. I can't seem to work on stories until its got a title, even a generic one.

I do that. It's rarely an untitled for long, before (say if it is a vampire story) it becomes the Bloody Sucking Tour, just for the hell of it. And over time, as I write it--I hope for a better title. If not, I now have a website to fall back on LOL.

Interesting enough, in a recent critique I had a story that translated in a different manner than I intended to our friends over the pond. So I would advise if you are sending it to a venue that isn't American, or might be intended for multiple regions--check your title and make sure it isn't something completely different, lost in translation.

blasko66
06-25-2011, 04:04 AM
I usually have a working title first that's very, very basic. Something to just remind me what's what. Often it's from a song title. For instance, the last novel-length work I finished (and got rejected from Leisure's Fresh Blood contest) was titled Murder for the longest time. This was after the Ours song which was on my playlist that I listened to while writing it. (The Ours album Mercy. . . Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Friend was a hugely inspirational album for that.) I was almost finished writing (and gearing up for revising and editing) before I changed the title to Music for the Dead and the Dying.
In the Trenches, my contest entry, had no other title. I thought it fit alright and the story was so short I didn't really need a more interesting title.

portrait in flesh
06-25-2011, 06:07 PM
For me, titles are usually tougher to come up with than the actual stories. I try to find ones that don't give too much away but which still have some kind of hook. It really depends on the individual piece. So far, I've yet to really craft a story just to fit a particular title, though.

Draven Ames
06-25-2011, 06:33 PM
Usually it is a line from the story that seemed to sum it all up. For this contest, I had a real hard time picking out a title. Often times, I'll pull the line from the story and keep it as the title. Theme has a lot to do with it to, as the word(s) should sum up the theme.

That's me. I try to stay away from using names in titles. Something about it.

Randy D. Rubin
06-26-2011, 04:11 PM
For me, titles are the easy part. Its that hurdle from the middle of the story to the end where one can't leave any ragged edges or stones unturned that I struggle with sometimes, in my yarns.

RJHubbard53
06-26-2011, 04:51 PM
What I struggle with is that I know the beginning, end, and most of in between; however, I don't seem to Have the patience to get the story out. I'm thinking quicker than I can write and I lose stuff because I don't get words to paper soon enough.

Craig Wallwork
06-26-2011, 04:55 PM
What I struggle with is that I know the beginning, end, and most of in between; however, I don't seem to Have the patience to get the story out. I'm thinking quicker than I can write and I lose stuff because I don't get words to paper soon enough.

“As I take up my pen I feel myself so full, so equal to my subject, and see my book so clearly before me in embryo, I would almost like to try to say it all in a single word.” G C Litchenberg

RJHubbard53
06-26-2011, 05:00 PM
“As I take up my pen I feel myself so full, so equal to my subject, and see my book so clearly before me in embryo, I would almost like to try to say it all in a single word.” G C Litchenberg

Heh, well there ya go. I think mr. Litchenbrg was a little mor eloquent than I in stating that.

Craig Wallwork
06-26-2011, 07:35 PM
I had that quote in my signature for a long time over at Write Club. I think it resonates with most writers. i also quite liked, “Simplicity is always the secret, to a profound truth, to doing things, to writing, to painting. Life is profound in its simplicity” – Charles Bukowski.

Nik Houser
06-27-2011, 03:23 PM
“As I take up my pen I feel myself so full, so equal to my subject, and see my book so clearly before me in embryo, I would almost like to try to say it all in a single word.” G C Litchenberg

What an amazing quote. Doesn't apply that often to me, though, much to my chagrin. I sit down with a pretty clear vision, but mostly the theatrical trailer form of what's going to happen in the story. So often the story decides to do something I didn't anticipate. I'm sure you guys no stranger to this phenomenon. And when the writing is going REALLY well, the story takes that left turn you didn't expect and begins to unearth something so unplanned, yet so seemingly whole and unique unto itself, that it appears as though it's been there this whole time, and that I'm not writing the story, but rather, unearthing it. Oh man, those moments can make it all worth it. Am I right?

Craig Wallwork
06-27-2011, 03:29 PM
You're not wrong, Nik. You're not wrong.

ozmosis7
06-27-2011, 03:51 PM
Totally true. I write in a similar way Nik. Sometimes my characters even make decisions for me. In fact, while writing the sequel to my 1st book, one of the characters suddenly decided to reveal a deep secret to me that changed the entire outcome of the story I had in mind. Sometimes, its more fun that way.

C.W. LaSart
06-27-2011, 07:30 PM
Totally true. I write in a similar way Nik. Sometimes my characters even make decisions for me. In fact, while writing the sequel to my 1st book, one of the characters suddenly decided to reveal a deep secret to me that changed the entire outcome of the story I had in mind. Sometimes, its more fun that way.

My characters drag me all over Hell and back-they do what they want. I rarely have any influence over the outcome of my stories-they come to me-I write them to stop the itch-I move on. It's a very schizophrenic process for me. :)

KT Wagner
06-27-2011, 09:43 PM
“As I take up my pen I feel myself so full, so equal to my subject, and see my book so clearly before me in embryo, I would almost like to try to say it all in a single word.” G C Litchenberg

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to convey it all in one word. My reference library could be reduced to a single book - a dictionary.