Friday, 28 October 2011

Being an Author: Talking Titles

So just how important is the title of a novel or short story? The answer is simple. Very.

When you're trying to sell your novel, tout your short or pass on your poem, you need something that stands out - something memorable. I received a compliment over one of my titles recently (Alice in Monsterland) by the author and editor (etc) bundle of awesomeness that is Chris Bartholomew. That's what led me here.

Some of you are going to outright say that titles aren't that important - it is after all the content of the story that sells it - but long term, you want - no, need - your readers to remember.

And by remember I don't mean: I loved that story by Fred Horroribus, you know the one, that really creepy one where the vampire hamsters discard their rocket launchers for thermonuclear warheads.

I mean: I loved the Fred Horroribus story - Vamphams Bring the Big Boys!

So what do we need to put into this title of pure hamster brought awesomeness? Well, lets look at some titles and see if we can't see the pattern.


Okay I hear you shouting... calm down. Everybody knows what Frankenstein is about.

But think about this... when it first went for publication, when the public first picked it up... what did it mean? Nothing. What was Frankenstein? It's creepy to say, rolls off the tongue and leaves you wondering.

Is it a top title? Yes.

So what about...

The Rats/Rats/Piranha/Alien... Hamster

The concept of naming the title of your story/whatever after a direct reference of a feasible and nameable antagonist is tricky. To do, or not to do?

The plus: yeah, I'm going to rock the world by reading about a *maguffin* and that's going to be awesome. 
The minus: Yeah, I know what this story has in for me.

It gives a good plus and minus. If I read a story called Killer Hamsters I know what I'm getting. Surely in the forefront of the reader's mind is that they want to read what they want to read.

So is it a top title? Yes.

-All You Zombies-

You can see this referenced here. If you haven't heard of this, -All You Zombies- is a story about time travel. It has roused infamy for two things. First, it's an outstanding (if not complicated) short about time travel. Second, the title has no bearing on the content whatsoever, apart from a passing comment in the last paragraph.

Why? (Don't ask me).

I can't say much, so is it a top title? I don't know. But hey, I've gotten to know it just because of the title... so... yeah I suppose.

So the bad titles?

I'm not going to point fingers. The short answer really, is jsut to say that a bad title can be one of two things:

  • Non-sensical

Titles that literally mean nothing, at least, not in their native language. Lord of the Rings for example (Good title) could have been published with an Elven title. Wouldn't really help the reader, now, would it?

  • Misleading 

My Story for Fives and Under: Fluffiest Bunnies. This should not have bunny stew in it. Do you get me?

Anyways, I've vented...

'Til next time...

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