Titling Tips

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LizV
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Titling Tips

Post by LizV » January 13th, 2014, 9:52 am

I find myself with not one, but three stories in need of titles. My favorite way of doing titles, as the Writing Excuses folks say, is when they just come to me on their own. But then there's the rest of the time....

If a story deals with a particular field that has its own lingo, I'll sometimes browse jargon files, looking for something that rings true or has a potential double meaning.

In theory, song lyrics should be a good source, but in practice I find that they depend too much on knowing the rest of the song.

Quote databases seem like they ought to be useful; I'm not sure how true this is in practice, but they're at least entertaining. I'm playing with http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3 right now, which has the merit of offering groupings by theme.

Random title generators don't usually hit the mark, but sometimes they can inspire something else that proves useful. Here's a couple I've had fun with:
http://www.kitt.net/php/title.php
http://www.mcoorlim.com/random.html


So, what are your tricks for coming up with titles? Any resources to share?

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polymath
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by polymath » January 13th, 2014, 2:53 pm

I rarely have issues with titling my works. In the first place I realize that if a title doesn't fit a work and publishers want it they will retitle it. In the second place I compose titles that fit their works.

One method I use is evaluating what any given narrative is about. Is the story mainly about a character on a personal journey? Then the character's name should be in the title. Annie Potter and the Wild Backyard. Other aspects a given narrative might emphasize include setting, event, theme, etc. The Bright and Lively Purple Yonder; The Battle for Corudinum' To Whom It May Concern; Lemonade from Cumquats.

A title should also be memorable. Perhaps the title borrows memorableness from the celebrity of another title or circumstance that nonetheless is what the story is about. The Unbecoming; Jimmy the Kid; How He Died, How He Lived.

Titles may emulate proverbs, conundrums, puzzles, riddles, epitaphs and epithets, charades--the short, pithy, witty pallor game sort of charade from the Gilded and Victorian ages. Proverbs are pieces that are also short and witty. They generally are allusions to popular or classical motifs, some from scriptures, some from literature, some perhaps from news report sound bites, or etc. Life with Serpents; Into the Breach; The Cool Shark; Hellbound; Prodding Miss Makeready; One and One Makes One.

Titles may be taken from somewhere in a narrative's text, some thematic line that signals what the, inciting crisis, climax, or denouement is about. Return of the Raptured; Breaking Wickedward Ways; Been the Bully, Been Dead, Been Redeemed.

Some titles might signal a more than average writing sophistication using, say, two or three clauses punctuated with a colon and commas as in scholarly writing. Bighand: The Damning of Kicking Deer; Blood Clot: Quiting the Crips, On Death's Row; Cakemaker, Homemaker, Lifetaker: The Widow of Heartbrake Lane.

Poetic features may entice readers to read on past a title. Unconventional syntax and diction, metaphorical, is one poetic method. Meow Cats--Girls What Dances. Repetition, substitution, amplification Boys, Bucks, Men. Alliteration Bees, Birds, Bores, Bones. Imitation Lares, Cheatham, and Steeles (a law firm's partner's names). Synecdoche Big Tiny, the Last Mobster. Metonymy White House Tyrannts. Surprising contradiction Brother Susanne, the Popeof Server Street. And so on. Enticing titles express mystery.
Last edited by polymath on January 14th, 2014, 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RC O'Leary
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by RC O'Leary » January 14th, 2014, 9:32 am

great reply post ;)

lfizz
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by lfizz » January 29th, 2014, 4:21 pm

these tips are so helpful!

I am terrible with titles (not just of my books and poems, but also of things like...oh, I don't know, names of cities and towns and universes and such--quite problematic when writing....anything at all).

I'm going to apply some of these suggestions!
Laura Fissel
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Kaitlyn MB
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by Kaitlyn MB » February 6th, 2014, 4:13 pm

I've never gotten terribly stuck, but I probably think what's worked best for me is the concept of the title referring to the over arching theme. Maybe it has little to do with the read as you go chapter by chapter, but it relates more to the heart of the matter, the central theme. If this is a series, what is the theme of the series? Sometimes that may tie into the individual books themes, or it may not. That also helps me stay on track with plot. If your title is the main, central theme, then you can usually stick with it. :)

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Matthew MacNish
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by Matthew MacNish » February 7th, 2014, 12:45 pm

My friend Adam Heine has a great post about selecting titles: http://www.adamheine.com/2013/11/coming ... title.html (sorry I can never remember the BB code for making the link look nice)

LizV
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by LizV » February 7th, 2014, 3:14 pm

I've run across that post before, and it does indeed have some great tips. (Except that I think The Con of War is a way better title than any of his finalists -- always distracts me from his methodology!)

LizV
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by LizV » February 7th, 2014, 3:17 pm

Kaitlyn, I agree that theme is generally the way to go -- but then there's the issue of expressing that theme in a catchy way, and then I'm back to the song lyrics again....

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polymath
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Re: Titling Tips

Post by polymath » February 7th, 2014, 3:26 pm

Matthew MacNish wrote:My friend Adam Heine has a great post about selecting titles: http://www.adamheine.com/2013/11/coming ... title.html (sorry I can never remember the BB code for making the link look nice)
The post a reply BB code bar has a URL button. Paste the url into the open code tag along with an equals sign after "[url" before the close bracket. Enter the text string between the open and close tags. This syntax substituting angle brackets for the curly braces:

{url=http://www.someplace.comish/topical}descriptive text string{/url}
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