Tuesday, 10 September 2013

THE POWER OF TITLES




Choosing a title may only be one of many important decisions you make as a writer, but it is the first step in catching a reader’s eye. Your title is the hook which intrigues and attracts people to  your book - and don't forget that wonderful anticipatory moment between seeing the title and reading the first words.

The majority of titles fall into two types: descriptive and evocative. Descriptive titles have a direct link with the novel’s subject. Classics like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities fall into this group with novels like Chocolat or The Sisters’ Brothers continuing the tradition. These titles have a clear direct connection with the book’s subject and almost summarize the story. They inform you – in a general way – what to expect from a book. 

Evocative titles work because they fascinate and tempt readers. I think The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a wonderfully beguiling title because, even if it’s on a shelf titled ‘Modern Fiction’ there is no clue as to where this story will take you. A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies are two other titles which fall into the enticing category; it's almost as if not understanding what the title refers to invites you to find out what the book is about - and it may not be what you expect.

Of course, the question is how do writers choose their titles? John Steinbeck's title Of Mice and Men is from a line in  Burn’s poem To a Mouse, and J.D. Salinger's title Catcher in the Rye combines the children’s song with Burn’s poem Coming thro’ the Rye. So poetry can be a fertile field when looking for a title. However, using quotes from other writers can be a delicate issue, because if you don’t have permission you can be accused of plagiarism. Older works such as religious texts or Shakespeare’s plays etc. are generally safe but if you choose this route, check with a legal expert to be sure.

Many writers choose titles which describe the story (Treasure Island), main character (Anna Karenina) or even introduce the setting (Dune). A line or quote from your book can be a good choice, and although this may not mean much by itself at first, it comes to mean more once the book has been read. You can also choose something which resonates with the theme – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a good example.

Once you have settled on a title you can ask friends, family, other writers for feedback but ultimately the decision is yours. My advice is don’t make your title the last thing on your list. I think, if you can, choosing a title early gives you time to live with it - and decide if it is the one you want. 

Writing Update
The more I edit the more I delve into, and understand, words as tools of the trade. It’s a new and fascinating aspect of writing for me. Rather than focussing on the story, character, setting or events, I’m working at a different level.  In some ways it feels like the minutae of the craft, but I’m also seeing how lots of  tiny, tiny steps add up to big steps. Sometimes it feels as if the world could be experiencing an apocalypse but all I want to do is find the right word! I’ve now finished 11 of my 21 chapters so have passed the halfway point and the patience is paying off.
I've a few bits and pieces to add as certain characters need a a bit more filling out, and I’ll work on that once this editing marathon is over. As far as titles go, I’ve got two under consideration. I feel a definite pull towards one of them, so I’m living with it and seeing how it feels.

Dear Google, I try not to moan but where are the rest of my posts gone? I've been blogging since February but my website shows only one post for 2013.  I've been into layout and edited the archive arrangements - nothing. Surely changing the template doesn't mean you start again?
Aagghh!!

TODAY’S HAIKU
Coffee Shop
titillated tongues
lean forward exchange secrets
friends gossip and giggle

Useful links:
This post is a good read, and a reminder of things we can forget:

Reading Recommendations:

http://amzn.to/18SbSaG  Gold Dragon Haiku  - my first attempt at publishing poetry!

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku

To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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