Writing Tools: Titles

Our series of Writer’s Tools continues with Shirley’s next instalment – Story Titles!

What’s in a story title? I’d say it’s everything. It’s the access point of to your story. The welcome mat….

A lot of the writers I encounter at our story writing workshops ask about why, so often, their story will be published under a different title from the one they chose.

There are lots of reasons, not least the obvious one: that their title simply wasn’t very good. So what makes a good title?

I’ll acknowledge here that a lot of writers give their story just a one or two word identifier because they assume we’ll change it. A South African writer of my acquaintance from way back always used to submit stories “slugged”, as he called it, things like, Heartbreak, or Bus Stop, or Supermarket. And that’s fair enough, I guess. A busy writer wants to save time like everyone else. But it doesn’t exactly sell the story, does it? And that’s what you’re trying to do right from that first page: sell your story to me, both literally and figuratively.

So, back to that question: what makes a good title?

A good title isn’t the one that prompts the writer to include in their accompanying letter Don’t let the title put you off.

A good title isn’t one that’s so generic that it says nothing about the story: Heartbreak, Written In the Stars, Peace Of Mind, Song Of Summer….

Do any of those pique your curiosity and entice you to read on? Do they give you a hint about what the story might be? Or even what type of story it might be, whether romance, family…. They might equally title half-a-dozen other stories.

How about The Apple Tree Bench, Dressing Up For Debbie, A Special Double Date, the Poke Bonnet. They’re better, aren’t they? They give a clue as to the story itself. They make you a bit curious.

On my desk right now I have Our Home In The Sky; Wanted: Fairy Godmother; The Accidental Christmas Cake; Grans, Nans And Football Fans.  Each one of them is beckoning to me, saying read me now, read me now. And because of those titles, I want to. They’re welcoming me, inviting me in. That’s what your title should do.

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Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.