Friday, March 30, 2012

More About Titles

My last post about the story Kubuku Rides (This Is It) generated some challenging feedback from people who disagreed with me about its title. I thought the title did the story a disservice because it has so little relation to the story's content. Two commenters thought the title was quite effective because it piqued their interest.

I agree titles should catch a potential reader's eyes and act as a hook. I just also think it should give the reader some sense of what to expect from the story, even if it's just a vague emotional sense. For instance, I wouldn't expect a story called Shivering to be about the hottest day in recorded history, or a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman in 1950. And I'd expect somebody in the story, at some point, to either literally or metaphorically shiver. Otherwise, why not give the story an equally catchy title that relates to the content? You could call the heat-based story Yes, Even Hotter Than That or the encyclopedia salesman story Knock Knock or something.

Personally, I like my titles to have layers of meaning. If my door-to-door encyclopedia salesman was frightened of strangers, I could use the image of knees knocking together in fright and call the story Knocking. If my salesman thought his job was pointless and stupid, I could use the insult-related meaning of "joke" and call the story Knock Knock Joke. I like titles that make sense before you've read the story, and then make even more sense afterwards.

But I want to thank those two commenters because they gave me quite a bit to think about, and they gave me an idea for discussion in the next OTP newsletter.

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