Monday, November 26, 2012

Gourmet Touches: Part 1--Titles

If you invite someone to dinner, you’re apt to add some special touches to the food and table d├ęcor. As a hostess, you try to make a dinner party special for your guests. Stories and articles deserve to be dressed up, too. Let’s take a look at two items that add gourmet touches to a story—titles and quotes.


The title of a story, article, or book draws the reader’s attention. It gives the reader a reason to read. Have you ever gone to the fiction section of the library or a bookstore and scanned titles? A few cause you to stop and pull the volume from the shelf. Something in the words on the book's spine called out to you. Ever wonder why?

When you meet someone new, they make an impression of some kind. Sometimes it’s  positive, and other times not. The title of a book or story also makes a first impression, and it either creates further interest or moves us to pass on by. So, it’s important to find a title that is creative or catchy in some respect. That doesn’t necessarily mean it should be outlandish. Some writers think an outlandish title will catch an editor’s eye, and it may. It might also make the editor pass it by in a hurry.

When Margaret Mitchell finished her epic Civil War novel, she played around with several titles. Among them were Tote The Weary Load, Milestones, and Not In Our Stars. Her final selection, Gone With The Wind, turned out to be perfect. In four little words, Ms. Mitchell let you know that her story dealt with loss and starting over.

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.

A title should intrigue the reader, but it must also use the same tone as the story. After all, the title is an introduction or a preview of what is to come. If you write a story dealing with a tragic accident and death, you shouldn’t use a title laced with humor. On the other hand, when you write a humorous book, you want to reflect that, as well. Nora Ephron's book of essays on aging is titled I Feel Bad About My Neck. She addresses women on her topic with humorous insight. Her title is so much more appealing than one that specifically mentions aging.

Some writers add the title last, and others begin with a working title. After the story is complete, the writer plays around with titles until the most satisfying one emerges. It’s the frosting on the cake, the dressing on the salad. It finishes the story.

Part 2--Quotes will be posted tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Nancy. I was just thinking about titles in the middle of the night, so your post is well timed, too. One of my cleverest titles ever is "The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro Agnew" -- and the inside was filled with blank pages!