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Tips for Titles

Here's the Bard himself choosing a title for a famous play

Title time

by Pamela Love

What do these works have in common?

Black Beauty; The Princess and the Pea; Anne of Green Gables.

Answer:  Alliteration.  It’s the repetition of a beginning sound in words, and it’s a quick and easy way to make your titles memorable.  I’ve been writing children’s fiction since 1995, and I’ve sold nearly four dozen pieces with alliteration (for example, my picture books A Loon Alone and A Moose’s Morning) or some other form of word play in the title. It can be useful to think of a common saying or phrase and substitute a word for something relevant to your tale (as I did in my short stories “Where There’s a Well, There’s a Way,” and “Glide and Seek”).

One way to do this is by naming your protagonist something which will make forming an alliterative title easy.  That’s why the little boy with autism is named Simon in my short story “Simon Says,” (also a common phrase , obviously) in the anthology Family Matters: Thirteen Short Stories.

Target the audience with a sly wink in the title.

Overall, use these techniques with care when writing for adults; you will find the adjustment easy to make. You can produce a humorous or ironic effect; just consider the sexy contemporary romantic comedy Charmed and Dangerous by Lori Wilde, or Jasper Fforde’s hilarious satire First among Sequels, or Wishful Drinking, the uproariously sober memoir by Carrie Fisher. All of these titles target a more mature audience with a sly wink in the title.

And don’t forget famous alliterative titles like The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Angela’s Ashes, Love’s Labors Lost or Fahrenheit 451.

Titles in general are very important. Do what you can to make yours stand out from the others in the pile of manuscripts on the editor’s desk, and (with luck) the row of books on the library or bookstore shelf!

_______________

After working as a teacher and in marketing, Pamela Love became a children’s writer in 1995. Scholastic/Children’s Books published her easy reader Two Feet Up, Two Feet Down. Down East Books published her four picture books: A Loon Alone, Lighthouse Seeds, A Cub Explores, and A Moose’s Morning. Her stories, poems, and plays have appeared in such magazines as Highlights for Children, Ladybug, Cricket, Pockets, and Jack and Jill, among others, and in two anthologies. She lives in Columbia, Maryland.

Permanent link to this article: http://goldenkeyscribes.com/blog/tips-for-titles/

8 comments

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  1. Peace4all

    Howabout "Diet Another Day" byPamela Downs?

    1. ScribblrScribe

      Which not only reworks a catchphrase and movie title, but also contains alliteration. A twofer!

  2. Lorri

    Title time is just a misery for me. I usually ask my friends.

    One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of title reference Shakespeare. Even just looking at Star Trek, two examples spring to mind, “Dagger of the Mind” and the Conscience of the King.” Or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

    Of course other writers are fair game. Hemingway quoted Donne with For Whom The Bell Tolls.

    Just to let you know, this post seems a little bit weird from my android phone. Who knows perhaps its just my phone. Great article by the way.

    1. ScribblrScribe

      Right you are Lorri! And don’t forget “All the World’s a Stooge,” by the Three Stooges! Hey, comedy films and stories also need titles!

  3. Carmen Teresa Norman

    Yet there are great titles that don’t fit into any of your neat little categories. Like The Kingdom of Little Wounds or Love and Other Foreign Words.

    1. ScribblrScribe

      You know it! There will always be people who come up with brilliant titles that are hard to quantify. If you’ve got that knack, then more power to you. More likely, though, they agonized over it for long months or years. 🙂

      1. Dani Becker

        Or else their editors changed the original titles, and made up the ones we know and love over the protests of the original authors.

  4. Dani Becker

    Fast & Furious. It alliterates, and is a common phrase, as well.

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