Friday, May 7, 2010

Does Choosing Titles Drive You Crazy ?

Has the dense and complicated maze of titles made you break into a sweat? Have you like me been tormented and tortured by title trouble, then, this post is just for you. I love writing, but, when it comes to choosing a title for my work, then, I end up tearing my hair in frustration. In the initial stages of my writing, titles use to drive me crazy, they would tie me up in tricky knots.

Right from my college days, my journalism lecturer (the first person to notice the complete mismatch of title and content) constantly urged me to choose better titles for my articles and features. According to her my titles never did my writing justice. This habit continued even when I started writing for newspapers. Often the titles of the features and stories I sent were changed. And changed for the better.

I constantly wondered how other writers came up with such awesome and amazing titles. Jealousy and envy stabbed my heart whenever I read their titles. Days later when I discussed this with a writing friend, she agreed. She too was tortured by titles. But her advice was something I just loathed. “I never give titles for my stories, the editor will anyway change it. So why waste time?”

I was extremely firm about not letting someone else choose titles for my hard work. It’s like allowing other people to name one’s children. That privilege should solely rest with the parents, and in the case of titles it’s the duty of the literary parents: the writers.

To become title savvy, I plunged headlong into the world of titles. It couldn’t be that hard, I thought. If few writers could achieve wonders with it, so could I. Whenever I read any articles or books, I pondered over the titles. Did it suit the story? Was it a perfect match? Slowly I transferred this detailed attention onto my work. What was I trying to tell my readers? What was the article/book all about? How could I sum up the work in few words? What was the best way to convey what I had written? Which words correctly described my story?

It was a tedious task, but eventually I got the hang of it. Nowadays the title trauma no longer affects me. For the past several years, the editors have thankfully retained most of my titles. In my title quest, I have learnt several things about them…

1. A title should be like a Teaser. It should arouse curiousity. Based on the titles readers pick up books, or, read the articles and stories in newspapers.

2. Diving into the heart of the story to emerge with a suitable title is a great idea.

3. Short and Snappy titles have immediate attraction.

4. Popular and catchy phrases work better than long and boring ones.

5. Titles that have Instant Recall are seldom forgotten.

What about you all? Do Titles Trouble and Torment you? Or, are you the lucky ones who come up with winners? Do you have any title tips that you would like to share?

1 comment:

  1. I turn to poetry for my titles inspiration. I have a heck of a time getting it to feel right too. I'm in the process of giving a WIP a working title and I must admit it is fun!