Friday, March 21, 2014

Choosing a Title

I'm drawing today's blog inspiration from the list of 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers. Let me know if you do the same!

Today's topic: Choosing a title

If there is one thing I am HORRENDOUS at when it comes to writing short stories, it is picking a title. Every single story I brought to Tom, my favorite undergrad professor, left his office with a dark blue slash through the title and bubbles with other title ideas around it. 

Every. Single. One. 

I learned from Tom that a title should not be sweeping and moral and attempt to sum up your entire story. (This advice doesn’t necessarily apply to novels…that’s a whole different beast that I'm no expert on.) A short story title should provoke and draw out even more meaning from the story. It’s like reaching your hand into a hole in the wall, all the way up to your shoulder, and pulling out a toy that had been dropped down there and forgotten. 

Often the title plays on your story’s symbol. For example, I titled a story of mine “Cinnamon” because the main character’s truck smells like the cinnamon gum his father used to chew when he drove the truck before passing it down to the MC. The father and son have all sorts of issues, but the cinnamon is sort of their link to the time when they got along. 

A title can also create a filter, a lens for readers to look at your story through. I wrote another story called “How to Meet and Marry a Military Man” and all the scenes were written in an instruction manual type format about a relationship between a woman and her boyfriend/husband who was in the Air Force. Without that title, readers might be confused, but with it, the story makes more sense. 

So that’s my opinion on short story titles, what I’ve learned after making every possible mistake when naming my stories. 

Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes! (Again, novels are different!)

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