Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week 18 - The Title

29 Apr - 5 May

"There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts." Charles Dickens

Hmm, that's not very encouraging....  Then again, perhaps Dickens was referring to those books that have really excellent and outstanding titles on their covers?

  1. What is a title?
  2. What purpose does it serve?
  3. How do I find a good one?
These are the questions I asked myself before beginning this post, and these are the answers I came up with:
  1. A title is a brief representation of a story; it can be a key phrase, an idea, an appropriate quote or an image.  It can be a name, a place, a colour, a number, or a combination of these things.  In other words, a title can be pretty much anything.  But it does need to be short enough to fit on the cover.
  2. It is intended to interest an agent or editor, as well as attract the reader in a bookshop or library (or online), and remain in the reader's mind after the story is read.  It can be a hint at what the book is about, or it can be what the book is about, as is generally the case in non-fiction, or novels with character titles.
  3. Common sources of titles include; the Bible, Shakespeare, classic poetry, songs, adverbs, nursery rhymes and folk stories, a dictionary or thesaurus, or a significant phrase from the body of the story.  Tools that can be used to reach an effective title include; brainstorming, word association, mixing and matching words on index cards, or inviting friends and family to contribute ideas.

The Novel Writing Help website contains some good ideas about titles:  It suggests considering;
  • the main character, e.g. Rebecca;
  • the main character with a descriptor, e.g. The Great Gatsby;
  • a description of the main character, e.g. The Tourist;
  • the main setting, e.g. Tyringham Hall;
  • an action that is or represents the plot, e.g. Coming Up For Air; 
  • the theme, e.g. Pride and Prejudice;
  • quotations, e.g. For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Note that these ideas focus on the basic notion of formulating a title, whether it be a working title or one that is marketable.  The influence of a publisher on a final title is another story, I'm sure.

Right, I'm off to write down and shuffle around some cool words for titles (or perhaps I'll just skim through the bible Hemingway-like).

Exercise 35.  Think of three titles for novels you’d like to write.  Briefly describe the main character and the main source of conflict that you’d employ (either internal or external).  Write a story based on the title and the characters you've created.

Exercise 36.  Make a list of book titles that appeal to you and think about why they are memorable.  Go back through your stories and think of alternative titles, using the resources mentioned above as additional inspiration. 

For the blog or article writer (i.e., me), go back through your posts and include creative sub-headings.  Continue doing this in the future.   

In Week 19, I will look at Vocabulary.

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