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Titling Fiction

Hey, gang!

I'm stuck on the title of a short story and I'm curious, do any of you have unusual ways of generating titles for your stories?

What are some of the things you keep in mind while choosing your title? What's important to you?

I may use some of your responses in Packing Heat if I get enough ideas to carry a whole episode :-)

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( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
dysonrules
May. 4th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
You're gonna laugh. I SUCK at titles so badly that now I flip to the dictionary and grab a one word title that starts with "P".

I dunno why I picked that letter, but there are a million P words that fit every story ever written. So yeah. That's how I cheat.

(Sometimes I pick a different letter.)

:D
jordan_c_price
May. 4th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
I was wondering if anyone embraced randomness like that! How perfect. I'm tickled that was the first response!
dysonrules
May. 4th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I should probably just change my middle name to Random. It would be fitting. :D
cassandra_gold
May. 4th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
I suck at titles too. Either one pops into my head right away or it's like pulling teeth. I want my titles to sort of encapsulate the story, so I agonize over them.

I like to do a pun or play on words if I can, or sometimes I'll pull a significant word or short phrase from the story. I also do a LOT of brainstorming with my crit partners.
jordan_c_price
May. 4th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Ooh, yes, that happens to me to where either the title pops right out and hits me on the head, or I have to totally agonize over it.
andy_slayde
May. 4th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
Sadly, I can offer zero help. I hate coming up with titles - if it were up to me everything would be 'untitled'.
Honest
Just ask Ali ;o)
jordan_c_price
May. 4th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, "untitled" would make it really hard to order your ebooks! "Hey, wait, I have that one already!"
andy_slayde
May. 4th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
There's an indie movie called untitled
jordan_c_price
May. 4th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
I always feel ripped off when I'm looking at a painting in a gallery, I go to see what it's called, and the plate says "untitled."
andy_slayde
May. 4th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
Titles are not my area, nor are character names, other than the main ones. every time Ali asks me for one I answer with Hank or Chuck ;o)
txilar
May. 4th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
I use AC Swinburne's poetry as my personal title-o-matic.

Ok, occasionally, I'll use other poets, philosophy quotes, puns, mangled movie titles, or single words that sort of 'sum up' the story, like say, Atone or Reconciled.

I can't say that I'm good at titles, but I enjoy coming up with them. Sometimes a title hits me first and I write a story to suit. ^_^
jordan_c_price
May. 4th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I see a photo that would make a good book cover and that generates a story idea!
merriehaskell
May. 4th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
I sometimes use an exercise from The Novelist's Notebook by Laurie Henry. I'll tell you the methods, her examples, and mine.

(My example was an alien conquest story.)

Source - Title Example - My Example

The Bible - Exodus by Leon Uris - Strangers and Sojourners Among Us

Shakespeare - The Sound and the Fury - Thin Air

Pop Culture - Waiting for the End of the World by Madison Smartt Bell - (didn't have one)

Theme - Crime and Punishment - By Right of Conquest

Subject - A Passage to India - The Third Million

Character's Name - Debby by Max Steele - (didn't have one)

Central Image - The Scarlet Letter - Monuments in the Sky (or The Conquest Beacon)

Catchphrase from the Novel - Up the Down Staircase - All that is Sacrificed

Setting - Bullet Park by John Cheever - 3514

Alliteration - Pride and Prejudice - An Almanac for the Alien Invaders

Time Reference - Never Come Morning by Nelson Algren - (didn't have one)

Most of them ended up sucking, but on the other hand, at least two of them would be good working titles for the novel, and one of them ("An Almanac for the Alien Invaders") came to be the title of a short story that was essentially the prologue to the novel I haven't written yet--and I managed to publish it. (I only bring all of this up because there's a notecard with this all written on it in the page of the book when I turned to it.)

I feel like I have two modes of title generation: can't turn it off, and can't turn it on. This exercise only helps some of the time.
jordan_c_price
May. 4th, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Holy cow...this is awesome stuff! I'm gonna look at it again in the morning. My brain's usually WAAAAY better in the morning.

I agree with the can't turn it on/ off modes. When I was writing Striking Sparks, it felt like every other paragraph had a potential story title in it. This short story I'm working on now? Nothin'.
ali_wilde
May. 4th, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
Find a word that in some way relates to your story, then google it. The last time I did that, Google gave me a list of Twitter responses that were happening right at that moment where people were using that word. I'm pretty sure we got the title for our last story from there - perhaps tweaked just a little.

Failing that, look through your CD collection and song titles in your music library and tweak one of them.
ali_wilde
May. 4th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
Also, sometimes we go completely off the wall and quirky. Andy and I wrote a short story recently and called it 'Angels We Have While High'. It was Christmas themed and we weren't sure they'd accept the title. They did but, unlike 'Sandalwood and a Potato', we're not sure if it helped.
jordan_c_price
May. 5th, 2010 09:00 am (UTC)
Oh, googling a concept from your story is another really cool way of embracing the randomness. Especially the twitter feeds.
becky_black
May. 5th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
My big ol' Oxford Dictionary of Quotations can be handy. I'll pick something that's a theme of the story, say "sacrifice" and go look up quotes and sayings related to it and see if I can extract something from that.

I can maybe get a halfway decent one after a lot of sweat and thinking. But the really good ones are always a flash of inspiration job.

My favourite of all my titles: "Shoot the Humans First."
Favourite working title while waiting for the real one to show up: "Kickass Chicks in Space."
jordan_c_price
May. 5th, 2010 09:02 am (UTC)
OMG, those titles are great! My working title is Happy Un-Holiday Thing, which was cute in a way, but the story veered away from it.

The quote book sounds like a good resource!
aglarien1
May. 5th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
I go to a quotes website and scan through different topics looking anything that fits. It's worked for me so far, and sometimes will even inspire a plot.
jordan_c_price
May. 7th, 2010 08:03 am (UTC)
I like that you take the topic of the story before you start looking for expressions. To me, that would say you have a good handle on your story's theme.
sarahblack5
May. 5th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
I really like titles that rock and roll- cool rhythms and sounds that stick in the mind. Book covers don't do much for me, but a good title will really suck me in.

My favorites of mine- Death of a Blues Angel, Vindaloo and the T-Bird, Tootsies. I like these titles- they sort of hit the feeling I was going for.

Great titles from my book shelves that I really like- The City and The City- China Mieville; The Gentle Ax by RN Norris; Visigoth, Gary Amdahl; The Nimrod Flipout Etgar Keret; Absurdistan. I probably bought these books just for the titles.
jordan_c_price
May. 7th, 2010 08:02 am (UTC)
What I love about all the titles you mention is that they're entirely different from absolutely everything else out there. It was a revelation I had this year, that I can't name a story something like Secrets and expect it to stand out from the crowd in any way. I think, using that epiphany, I came out with better titles for stories like Spanish Fly Guy, and Moolah and Moonshine.
sarahblack5
May. 7th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
that's exactly right- Spanish Fly Guy and Moolah and Moonshine are such fun titles to say, great sounds and rhythms. You can't help but smile when you say it. I suspect real wordies love a good title more than the blurb or the cover
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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