Story Titling

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Re: Story Titling

Postby Tamlyn » Sat Oct 31, 2015 1:09 pm

Dust Bunnies of Doom.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby kentagions » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:40 pm

On the 5 Minute Rant, Athena wrote:
I can't seem to name a story for anything.


Demand that they name themselves! wotf024

I would flip through a dictionary (The hardbound paper kind) and drop my finger on three different words. My favorite title using this method corresponded with a bad story I was writing about an assassin, 'Chamber Squash Nullify.'

I used to name all of my vacations (holidays) after the most common words and phrases I'd hear. Wow is a favorite, but I don't visit Drunk Diarrhea Idiot any more.

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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Story Titling

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Nov 23, 2015 6:03 pm

I have a mental block: without a title, I can't start writing. Oh, I might jot down a couple of paragraphs; but by the time I hit the Save button for the first time, I have to have a title. I'll sit there for hours until it comes to me. I generally like short titles. Four words make a long title for me.

And once I have a title, I almost never change it.

My most recent titles:

"The Vampire's New Clothes"
"Today I Am Paul"
"The First Reader Murders"
"Meet the Landlord"
"Hamal in Hollywood"
"Black Orbit"
"Early Warning"
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Re: Story Titling

Postby disgruntledpeony » Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:52 pm

I can write the initial draft of a story without a title, but there comes a point (roundabout draft three) when I feel like I *really* need one if I don't have it already.

I am at that point now, and have been since the end of October. It's maddening.
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dstein
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Re: Story Titling

Postby dstein » Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:41 pm

I've noticed that my titles tend to be pretty generic, and I often don't reconsider them if the story or its needs change while I'm writing it.

For example, my HM submission last year was a thriller about an android blackmailing a corporate executive so that he could afford to buy some more bodies to network together. It began with an accidental double murder with two corpses--one human, one artificial--and I thought for literally five seconds about the two kinds of blood mingling on the floor and called it "Red and Gold." Garbage title unless you explain it.

And the novel I'm working on, a colonial fantasy about a group of Wendigo shamans fleeing the destruction of their continent and tangling with a race of intelligent bird-people? I'm 50k words in, I've already written a sequence in which astral aurochs destroy an entire city, and it's still called "New Lands."

Barfity barf. I'm realizing now that a title needs to be INTERESTING at the outset, and not just THEMATICALLY APPROPRIATE in retrospect.
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Story Titling

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Nov 23, 2015 8:51 pm

dstein wrote:Barfity barf. I'm realizing now that a title needs to be INTERESTING at the outset, and not just THEMATICALLY APPROPRIATE in retrospect.


One of the major lessons in covers is that cover art isn't an illustration, it's an advertisement. It needs to grab the reader and drag them to the book. If it illustrates too, that's a bonus; but its job is to entice.

I think the same can be said of titles. If they grab, they're doing their job.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby orbivillein » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:19 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:
dstein wrote:Barfity barf. I'm realizing now that a title needs to be INTERESTING at the outset, and not just THEMATICALLY APPROPRIATE in retrospect.


One of the major lessons in covers is that cover art isn't an illustration, it's an advertisement. It needs to grab the reader and drag them to the book. If it illustrates too, that's a bonus; but its job is to entice.

I think the same can be said of titles. If they grab, they're doing their job.

Ah! But how, by all that's barfalatic, entice and say what thematically, and, and, and -- and no one size fits all.

Take "Red and Gold." What's the intent? Blood and oil, obviously, though comparable, are different functions. Blood supplies life support and flushes waste; oil lubricates and perhaps fuels. Blood is also a hydraulic fluid that aids metabolic processes -- blood pressure, oil pressure, hydraulic pressure. Red and Gold Pressure.

Maybe river metaphors, maybe. Red and Gold Blood River. Or pipeline metaphors, maybe, The Blood and Gold Pipeline.

A saying could help, a theme from, you know, anonymous, I guess, "blood, sweat, and tears" and the comparables between human life and machine life -- comparisons and contrasts. More specific color labels, too, might say all that, and, in all, entice, advertise, and grab readers out their seats. Crimson Oil and Sunshine Blood. Water and oil don't mix, right? Bloods and Crips gangs mix violently, don't mix, really. Push them in: Bloods and Oils' Sweats and Tears. Not too hard, not hit them readers over the head -- subtlety and curiosity incitement.

No one size fits all: some theme titles, some proverbs and sayings, some metaphors, some dang-well curious oddities, some about peoples, places, times, events, and etceteras.
Last edited by orbivillein on Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Story Titling

Postby MattDovey » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:21 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:I have a mental block: without a title, I can't start writing. Oh, I might jot down a couple of paragraphs; but by the time I hit the Save button for the first time, I have to have a title. I'll sit there for hours until it comes to me. I generally like short titles. Four words make a long title for me.

And once I have a title, I almost never change it.


I'm the complete opposite. When an idea for a story hits, it hits in an avalanche, plot points and twists and world building cascading one after another, and I need to write it all down _now_, before I forget it or lose my enthusiasm. Stopping to think of a title would kill that momentum, and would likely be rubbish at that point anyway. The story will change as I write it, so I can't necessarily come up with an appropriate title until the end.

Even when I come up with a killer title and try to write to that--We Exist to Protect Your Culture from You--I end up having to scrap it when the resulting story has twisted and stretched away from the original idea.

Working titles all the way for me, and I only come up with those because I need a filename.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:09 am

My titles tend to make more sense after finishing the story.
They also usually have to do with the ending. Like, "Ah, that title makes sense now."

Not sure that's the best idea, but the intent is for it to be a mental bonus that adds to the story after its been read.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby MattDovey » Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:02 am

Dustin Adams wrote:My titles tend to make more sense after finishing the story.
They also usually have to do with the ending. Like, "Ah, that title makes sense now."

Not sure that's the best idea, but the intent is for it to be a mental bonus that adds to the story after its been read.


Personally speaking, I've usually forgotten the title of a short story by the time I'm three paragraphs in wotf005
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dstein
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Re: Story Titling

Postby dstein » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:12 pm

MattDovey wrote:
Dustin Adams wrote:My titles tend to make more sense after finishing the story.
They also usually have to do with the ending. Like, "Ah, that title makes sense now."

Not sure that's the best idea, but the intent is for it to be a mental bonus that adds to the story after its been read.


Personally speaking, I've usually forgotten the title of a short story by the time I'm three paragraphs in wotf005


It's pretty rare for a short story's title to mean much to me. Maybe it's because short stories are usually more concept-driven and easily summarizable, and so the story's identity weighs more firmly in your mind than the arbitrary words the author used to describe it?
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Re: Story Titling

Postby Dustin Adams » Fri Nov 27, 2015 6:01 am

dstein wrote:It's pretty rare for a short story's title to mean much to me. Maybe it's because short stories are usually more concept-driven and easily summarizable, and so the story's identity weighs more firmly in your mind than the arbitrary words the author used to describe it?

This here is precisely why titles are important.
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Many titles may just be throwaways, but that's why I personally do my best to make them "sticky" by giving them a revealing or double meaning. (If/whenever possible.)
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Re: Story Titling

Postby dstein » Fri Nov 27, 2015 1:11 pm

Yeah, best of both worlds. I think of titles which seem to have almost nothing to do with the material they reference, even in retrospect, and which can even push people away (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and titles which seem compelling in advance and rich in retrospect (Tuck Everlasting), and there's a pretty clear division there even with complete unfamiliarity with the work.

Of course, these are only the rules for popular/mass-market fiction; if you're writing literary stuff you can call your mind-bendy time-warpy novel anything you like because your market isn't window shoppers.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby orbivillein » Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:30 pm

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is intended irony, the title's incongruency of literal statement and actual intent the verbal irony, not per se the sarcasm of the title. Ironic titles might appeal and be memorable for their irony. Likewise, titles that allude to well-known matters: allegory. Tuck Everlasting is allegory of Scriptures' eternal life and Robin Hood's Friar Tuck, and memorable and appealing for the allegory.

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Re: Story Titling

Postby dstein » Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:11 pm

I should clarify that I don't mind the title, but I don't think it's an asset to the show; I know easily a half-dozen people who had to be persuaded pretty intently to watch the show (even if they ended up loving it), because the title put them off. I think it creates a very generic initial impression.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby orbivillein » Sun Nov 29, 2015 9:06 pm

I understood the title before I saw any trailers or content and it aroused my curiosity somewhat even for being generic. Though the series is more or less of the same plot formula as any other situation comedy skit back through time to at least when vaudeville revue playhouses were in tents (sic) and the open air.

I guess a less generic title would have less spanned the series' scope or might have troubled trademarks for the City of Brotherly Love: It's Always Abel and Lilith in Philadelphia; It's Always Brotherly In Philadelphia. I'd recast to rid the pesky "it's." Philadelphia Sunshine and Kinship!? Maybe add a verb for memorableness' sake. Philadelphia Shines Kinship!? Oh bother.

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Re: Story Titling

Postby Athena » Mon Dec 07, 2015 4:08 am

orbivillein wrote:The four root words dust, gift, monster, awake permutations number 56 possible sequences. Used as adjective, adverb, noun, or verb (or gerund) adds another exponential possible number of variances. Add preposition of, maybe by, from, etc., and articles a, an, or the, possible titles become astronomically numerous and possibly most are sensible. Say twelve variables; word, part of speech, and connection words -- 12 ^ 11 : 743,008,370,700 possible title constructions. All possible variables using only the four root words, several parts of speech, and prepositions and articles numbers on the order of 100 variables, 100 ^ 99. A large number. Therefore, memorableness matters, or not, or both matters and doesn't. Also, specificity might name types of dusts, gifts, monsters, awakenings. An impossibly large number.

Dusty Gift by the Monster Awakened
Gift from an Awoken Dust Monster
Monstered Dust of an Awakened Gift
Awakened Monster for a Gifted Dust

ad infinitum and nauseam


I'm trying and failing to resist the urge to use this as a writing prompt. wotf001
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Re: Story Titling

Postby orbivillein » Mon Dec 07, 2015 9:08 am

Oh my, fantastic that a thought exercise could be a writing prompt. May the namesake god be with you.

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Re: Story Titling

Postby J'nae Rae » Sat Jul 09, 2016 7:45 am

Sometimes I don't like the title I start with, so I consider it a working title. Other times, the title fits from the beginning.

My HM, which I'm still trying to find a home for, is "Naídin's Song". Naídin is the main character and music is an undercurrent in the story that relates to him.

My published flash piece, "The Trade's On", takes it's title from the opening line of the song that inspired it.

I love both these titles, and they were in place at the beginning of writing.

I hated my original title for my current submission to Q3. It was too generic, though it was relevant. One of my edits sparked a better element to pull from the story for a title.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby LaurieG » Sat Jul 09, 2016 8:10 am

Dave thinks titles are important. KD Wentworth and Robert Sawyer (Finalist judge) didn't even read them. So it depends on the judge/ editor.

This thread shows all the different ways we come up with ideas. But I'm in awe of those of you who, once certain elements are in place you get a rush of ideas. I have to drag my ideas out piece by piece. Like a sword stuck in stone. (Guess I'm not the right royal.) Or giving birth during a long hard labor.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby LDWriter2 » Sat Jul 09, 2016 11:04 am

LaurieG wrote:Dave thinks titles are important. KD Wentworth and Robert Sawyer (Finalist judge) didn't even read them. So it depends on the judge/ editor.

This thread shows all the different ways we come up with ideas. But I'm in awe of those of you who, once certain elements are in place you get a rush of ideas. I have to drag my ideas out piece by piece. Like a sword stuck in stone. (Guess I'm not the right royal.) Or giving birth during a long hard labor.



I don't know about the current batch of editors but not long ago some of the more well known ones had a habit of changing a title on a writer. I don't know if Dave has ever done that.

For a while I had not real problems with coming up with titles but the past year or two I have. But sometimes even with the older stories I have had problems and decided I wouldn't care if an editor changed that title. Q2's title fits the story I believe and I like it but Q3's is-is-well it is. It's very basic and fits the story but it's nothing to write home about. That last description fits way too many of my stories lately.

Not sure why the problems lately with titles lately but maybe I need to set aside more time to think on them.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby emilymccosh » Sat Jul 09, 2016 11:19 am

When I first started writing I would agonize over titles. I couldn't think up decent ones to save my life. I'd slap a generic one-word at the top of the manuscript and be done with it. But since I started writing seriously (er, obsessively?), titles come more and more easily. I actually enjoy coming up with them and I've had some that I'm rather proud of. My Q2 and Q3 titles, which obviously I can't tell you at this point, are two pof my best and I'd actually be proud to say them out loud. Reading WotF volumes has helped me with that aspect of my writing as well, because many of them have gorgeous titles. I remember once spending half an hour in one of my more... well... boring college classes analyzing my favorite titles from V30 and how they related to their stories and how I could pull of such a feat as an amazing title.

Frankly, it feels quite satisfying when the perfect title just falls in to place and I think oh yeah, that's awesome/gorgeous/badass/elegant/magical...
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Re: Story Titling

Postby storysinger » Sun Jul 10, 2016 2:49 am

Most of my stories end up with different titles than they start with.
During the editing a title that works better usually comes to me.
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Re: Story Titling

Postby LaurieG » Sun Jul 10, 2016 12:28 pm

Tamlyn wrote:Dust Bunnies of Doom.



This one is priceless. We should each write a flash with this title!
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Re: Story Titling

Postby emilymccosh » Sun Jul 10, 2016 12:40 pm

LaurieG wrote:
Tamlyn wrote:Dust Bunnies of Doom.



This one is priceless. We should each write a flash with this title!


Oh, yes, yes, yes! We should make that a challenge! wotf022
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Re: Story Titling

Postby LaurieG » Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:43 pm

emilymccosh wrote:
LaurieG wrote:
Tamlyn wrote:Dust Bunnies of Doom.



This one is priceless. We should each write a flash with this title!


Oh, yes, yes, yes! We should make that a challenge! wotf022


You're on. By next Sunday, July 17? Or maybe we should wait to set the deadline until after some of the others learn if it. wotf002
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Re: Story Titling

Postby emilymccosh » Sun Jul 10, 2016 5:10 pm

LaurieG wrote:
emilymccosh wrote:
Tamlyn wrote:Dust Bunnies of Doom.



Oh, yes, yes, yes! We should make that a challenge! wotf022


You're on. By next Sunday, July 17? Or maybe we should wait to set the deadline until after some of the others learn if it. wotf002


Hold that thought, and check "The Contest - Quarterly Topics, and Other Items" in three minutes...
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Re: Story Titling

Postby MattDovey » Mon Jul 11, 2016 12:45 am

LDWriter2 wrote:I don't know about the current batch of editors but not long ago some of the more well known ones had a habit of changing a title on a writer. I don't know if Dave has ever done that.


One of the WotF32 stories did have its title changed, I think, though it's not my place to say which one.

I think the WotF32 selection shows how a strong title helps, though--I reckon a strong title puts an editor in an optimistic frame of mind for the story they're about to read, whether they realise it or not, whereas a generic/cliché title sets them up to expect a generic and cliché story.

Someone passed this over to me on Twitter the other day--it may prove useful to some of you :) Title Generator
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Re: Story Titling

Postby pdblake » Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:08 am

My stories always start life as Untitled. They get a working name once I've finished them. Something usually snaps into place by then.

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Re: Story Titling

Postby Ember » Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:20 am

Titling is a real weakness for me. I pretty much never have a title while I'm writing the first draft. Occasionally I'll come up with a good title after it's finished.

My best ever title happened to sell on its first outing ... Coincidence? (Maybe - it also has the strongest voice I've used so far).

Thanks for that titling generator link Matt - I've already used it once to come up with a title I actually like for my Q2 story! I only wish that I could ask Joni to quickly rename it for me.
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