Monday, June 6, 2011

Titles--A Gourmet Touch

I'm working on a short story about an old woman who lives in the Flint Hills of Kansas, the largest tallgrass prairie left in the world. The picture above was taken out on the prairie where the sky meets the hills in exceptional majesty and beauty. 

The story came together bit by bit, and I sent it to my critique group who all were complimentary but also gave suggestions to make it tighter and stronger. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon revising the story and finally felt satisfied. I had a working title and had told the crit group I wanted a better title and was open to suggestions. 

They came up with a couple but they weren't much better than the one I'd started with. So last night, I sent the story to a writer friend whom I knew would be helpful. She did send back a nice list, but she added that some were definite cliches. Those I eliminated right away. I'll mull over her suggestions today and go back and read the story again tonight to see if one fits. Or maybe I'll have a revelation sometime today for a title.

Why all the fuss about a title? Some writers might suggest tagging it with anything that comes to mind. But I think titles are of great importance. When you're in a bookstore or the library, what first attracts you to a book? Probably not the color of the bookjacket, although that can have appeal sometimes. No, it's the title that draws you in or causes you to pass on by. A person reading a literary magazine is going to want to read some of the stories sooner than others and they'll be ones that had intriguing titles. 

The title is your bait that will draw the big fish to your story. So take some time when selecting one. Use something quirky or ask a question. Use a quote from within the text of the story. The title can be taken from the meaning of the story, a comment made within the text, or a strong image the story projects. A proper name can serve as a title, too. If the book or story is a success, the name will live forever. Don't we all know and love a boy and a book named Huckleberry Finn? The unusual first name piques interest.

Some writers start with a title and then write the story, while others add the title once the story is completed. Whichever way you do it, take time to think about it. The title is a gourmet touch to your story. 

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