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Titles


Voleuse

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I did a search for a topic on this but I couldn't find it, although I think this is something more people struggle with: Thinking of a title!

 

I'm writing a story on a guy who moves to America from a foreign country, falls in love and does all kinds of sexy stuff. I can't for the life of me figure out the title though, all my brain comes up with is cheesy stuff.

 

It doesn't matter too much since I'm not looking to publish it or anything, but I'd still like to hear if you guys have any tips or tricks for thinking of a good title. How did you come up with some of your titles?

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I ask for help. Seriously, that's gotten me out of several jams. Sometimes things just come to me, or I'll pick out a line I really like but often coming up with a title is enough to drive me batty. Sometimes I'll write half a story and have NO idea of the title and it ends up being just the character's name in my file folder until inspiration hits. Some of my best titles have come from chatting with my writing friends/betas though. 

 

If nothing else, you can also try doing a detailed synopsis of the story if you were trying to pitch it for submitting. Going over the highlights of your plot and characters can often jog a phrase or specific element that would also work as a title.

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'Cumming to America'? :P

 

I'm not amazing at finding titles either. I often borrow a song title that somehow relates to the story. I did it with Brighton Rock, Sleeping With Ghosts, and am doing it with my Winter Anthology submission as well. I should probably cool it a bit with that, though. I don't want to be that guy. :P Other than that I tend to like sort of descriptive single-word titles. I often default to that when I can't come up with anything better.

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Titles are tricky. Sometimes they just fall into place and sometimes I'll go through several ideas before I get one that "works". For example, my second novel was originally titled the very bland "Ski Trip" but I eventually thought of the much more interesting "Falls Creek Lessons".

 

I usually subscribe to the comment Isaac Asimov once wrote, where he said his editor told him to keep titles short. That comment was in an afterword to his short story "The Weapon Too Terrible To Be Used", where he conceded that the title wasn't that accurate because it turned out that the weapon was used. Exceptions to the rule are always acceptable, though. :) I did it once with my short story "Georgie Wants To Make Friends", which is a very different sort of short story and hence the odd-ball long title works.

 

Titles can be bland and still be fine. My short story "Secrets" was originally titled "Deadly Secrets", but my editor suggested that the one word title was better. The trick there is to make sure that the title, while bland, is still something not normally seen in the genre.

 

A play on words is always good. dkstories's "The Rider's Pride" is a good example where it uses both meanings for "Pride" (proud, and a pride of lions). But getting a play on words can be tricky and very much subject to inspiration.

 

Another suggestion is to not go with the basic idea (though "Cumming to America" is, I'll admit, brilliant if it's going to be erotica), but use specifics in the story. You didn't say why the character went to America, but could "Forced Migration" work? Or maybe "Moving For Money" if the move was for financial reasons. If the main character gets sick soon after moving and that's how he meets his partner, "Arrival Fever" is a possibility.

 

Just a few additional ideas on how and where to look for story ideas. :D

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I am one of those lucky people that hasn't really ever had trouble with titles.  I mean, the worst luck I had was for Messy Business.  (I'm still not fond of that title)  Normally something just jumps out at me and I'm like, "THERE IT IS!"  But I agree with Cia.  Sometimes talking to other people and asking for their advice is the best way to go!

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Song lyrics, lines from poems and, when absolutely stuck, stealing from mythology and classic texts. ;)

 

(And just good old-fashioned 'happening to think up something cool'.)

 

I don't really worry about length, for the most part - if it's not going to be published, why not just use whatever works?

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I admit I struggle sometimes to find the write title. Even after I came up with So Little Magic Left, I second guessed it for a long time before I was truly happy with it. I usually just go over the basic themes and story concept until something pops in my head. When I've been stuck, I've never asked for help before. I don't know why. Maybe I should in the future.

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My two penn'orth as just a mere reader :) For me the title should reference some core aspect of the story, so a good start might be to list words or very short phrases that encapsulate your story - what's it really about? As already suggested existing book and film titles, famous historical events, places, paintings etc. are a good resource to mine to get sparks of recognition.  For example "A Latvian in New York" [An American in Paris], or "A Latvian Lover in Baltimore" [An American Werewolf in London]. Just be aware that some words or phrases might be a turn-off for some people. As an example, and this may spark a response but I'm just being honest and for you to be aware [this is very subjective, after all] "An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA" is a big turn off for me so I've not read it. That may be my loss but there you go, can't be helped. So a title like "The Rape of Nat King" - referencing the infamous "The Rape of Nanking" - might not be a good idea :P
 

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Just be aware that some words or phrases might be a turn-off for some people. As an example, and this may spark a response but I'm just being honest and for you to be aware "An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA" is a big turn off for me so I've not read it. That may be my loss but there you go, can't be helped. 

 

Oh thank you for posting that, I thought I was the only person here being totally put off by that title. I did finally start reading the story, which is actually very compelling and well written in spite of the subject. But the title still makes me cringe and fume a bit.

 

Meanwhile, back to the point of the thread: as a reader I find titles very important, and it annoys me if they do not reflect the content or the style of the story. Sometimes the problem can be helped by the small blurb written afterwards, but a catchy and appropriate title will help me remember the story and more likely return to read again. As a writer I spend a lot of time thinking up story titles, and I have a bad quirk that I'm trying to quit, but so far without much luck: using alliteration. I won't provide you with examples, 'cause it's embarrassing, but you'll see what I mean, if I ever get my story ready for posting.

Edited by Timothy M.
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I'm also put off by that title! As well as 'Chronicles of an Academic Predator', but that one I read and quite enjoyed, so maybe I should try English teen as well.

 

Oh yes, I forgot about that one. I also stayed away from this series for a long time, just based on the title. But I really like Mark Arbour's Bridgemont series, so I finally gave in and read CAP. As soon as I started on it, I realized how silly I had been in not reading it before, since it is easily one of the best stories here. Just goes to show that judging a story by it's title can be very wrong. However, I've still not worked out what the title has to do with the content, and who or what an Academic Predator is.

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There are stories I didn't read at first because of the title, but there are more stories I stopped reading although I found the title interesting, enticing w/e.

 

One time I wrote a story after I had the title; it is one of my favorite stories, sadly it doesn't always work like that. My new story has the title 'Unrequited', which is pretty cool because I won't need a blurb, right? :P

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But Sasha, you are in a league of your own in relations to titles. Not only are your story titles spot on, but your chapter titles are usually awesome. You are one of the only writers here who consistently do very good titles. And it can't just be that you are a proficient writer, because there are a lot of those here and very few of them have your skills with titles. So give - tell us your secret recipe for making a wonderful title - or let us sigh in envy as you state that they just 'come to you' :-)

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But Sasha, you are in a league of your own in relations to titles. Not only are your story titles spot on, but your chapter titles are usually awesome. You are one of the only writers here who consistently do very good titles. And it can't just be that you are a proficient writer, because there are a lot of those here and very few of them have your skills with titles. So give - tell us your secret recipe for making a wonderful title - or let us sigh in envy as you state that they just 'come to you' :-)

 

like the characters, they just come. i often tell people i write because i have to, and that's true. if a character shows up and i don't start writing their story, they screw around with things in my head until i a) go madder, B) start writing.

It does help if your brain makes lateral jumps. I'm a design technologist by training, a craftsman who thinks about problems and materials. we are trained to go the other way to com up with solutions. my brain applies this throughout my life.

 

Aslo i love the praise. Praise gets you many snuggles, and dinner if you're ever in my part of the world

Edited by Sasha Distan
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