Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Titling 101

by Chasya

You know how I love a good bad title—the more hilariously bad, the better. In fact, occasionally I come up with some myself and mutter them aloud much to the dismay of my officemates. And I was positively inspired by our own DGLM bad title contest. But alas, not everyone is like me. It was when I stumbled upon this little primer from The Rumpus’s Eric Puchner that I realized some more helpful, more constructive individuals aim to steer authors away from unfortunate titling. Among the types to avoid: The Faux Poetic but Authentically Meaningless (“Hunt the Mist Slowly”) and The Lofty Abstraction (“The Lonely Shackles of Mortality”).

Authors, do you find the list helpful? And in the spirit of being constructive, what others would you add?


  1. I like 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil', but looking at that list, I'd say it was squarely between Scratch 'n Sniff and Lofty Abstraction. But then I also like 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' and it's never made me want to giggle.

  2. I like 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' too. And the list was more about what not to do than what to do, and there are so many "do nots" it's likely that a lot of good titles break the rules. It's more about what's right for the story, no?

    STEIN ON WRITING has a great chapter on titles and the effect they can have on enticing readers and sales.

  3. I agree with Liesl that the list was more what not to do, and of course, every title coming to mind right now breaks one of those rules. The list of what to do was so extensive that I'm not sure what's left. Trying to think of what's on my bookshelf, the only examples I can come up with that don't break those rules are the ones with simple, two-to-four word titles, usually beginning with "the": THE HISTORIAN, THE SPARROW, THE TIME-TRAVELLER'S WIFE, etc. These all describe or are a metaphor for the main character. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME might be one that successfully gets around that list while remaining catchy. Then there's always the simple one-word titles (ACACIA). But even THE SOUND AND THE FURY violates the lofty abstraction and the allusion to more famous literature rules.

  4. Titles are easy and hard. For me, shorter is better. If you can make a title short and have it still capture the readers attention-then that is great! It also makes it easier for people to remember. I am currently reading Andrew Petersons," On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness." Cute title, but its a middle grade novel and it captures the heart of the book so well! The title was what made me want to read it!