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Thread: how do you choosing titles for your work?

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    how do you choosing titles for your work?

    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
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

  2. #2
    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication C.W. LaSart's Avatar
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    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.

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    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.

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    Senior Member Hearing Voices ozmosis7's Avatar
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    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.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    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
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session
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    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

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    Senior Member Inmate RichardThomas's Avatar
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    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.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    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
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member Inmate RichardThomas's Avatar
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    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.

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    Senior Member Hearing Voices ozmosis7's Avatar
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    When things come together like that it's incredible.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Craig Wallwork's Avatar
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    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.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Nik Houser's Avatar
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    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?

  13. #13
    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Nik Houser's Avatar
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    Those are some outstanding title's, Craig. Sigourney Weaver Stole My Shadow is fan-fucking-tastic.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Craig Wallwork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nik Houser View Post
    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

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nik Houser View Post
    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
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session TerryE's Avatar
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    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.

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    Senior Member Inmate
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    Congratulations RJ! I love to hear when someone gets published, gets their foot in the proverbial door. Well done.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed RJHubbard53's Avatar
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    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?
    It ain't braggin' if you can do it. . .

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    Senior Member Hearing Voices ozmosis7's Avatar
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    Yes, I missed that. Gratz on the acceptance.

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    Senior Member Involuntarily Committed Craig Wallwork's Avatar
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    RJ - I think you need to christen the Acceptance thread. Congrats.

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