marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

the trouble with titles

Sometimes, of course, they are no trouble at all.  You knocks off the story, a perfect phrase presents itself, you stick it on the story before throwing it to the slush pile.

Sometimes. . . .

It's particularly annoying when you think of a title, are inspired to write the story, and conclude at the end that, no, the title doesn't fit that story, but the stories that spring up titleless and frisk off to their ending, and through several revisions, without proposing a title, are not exactly fun either, because then you have to try to work one out, and it needs to be intriguing and evocative so as to inspire people to read the silly thing, and it needs to be truth in advertising so that the reader is the one who will tell everyone what a great story it is, not the one who will go huh, and tell no one at best since it's not his cuppa at all, but without giving away any of the plot.  (Unless, of course, you want to give away part of the plot for reasons of dramatic irony.)

It's not the first sentence that is your first chance to hook the reader.  It's the title.  In a panel discussion once about first lines, one panelists read the first line of "Bears Discover Fire" -- but I observed that while it wasn't that much of a hook, "Bears Discover Fire" had its own elements of intrigue.  On the other hand, trying to ladle in the drama may lead to those cliched titles we all know and love. . . .

Style helps.  You can overdo poetical styles in the story, since it is, after all, prose, but a title is short enough that cadence and alliteration can work on their own (though I think rhyming would probably be overdoing it).

My own first impulse is to refer to my stories by the main character's name.  Alas that we are no longer in Victorian times where you could do it like that.
Tags: irony, style, titles
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