For me, I’d have to say that book titles or short story titles are more difficult to create. Titles are the nicknames of story or plot. They are essential to grabbing a reader’s attention to purchase or actually read the story.
Can I come up with a perfect nickname—or title—right away? Nope! Sometimes a title comes to me as I start to create a manuscript, but more often than not, the title changes by submission time.
Titles need to be clear, concise, and direct to be of any use to both readers and writers. You want to make a reader stop and consider the subject or topic in your writing from the title. You are enticing the reader into your story, your pages, your book. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, titles need to encompass the meaning of your writing.
*I realize some literary titles may not conform to these ideas.*
Have you noticed that non-fiction titles are usually longer than fiction titles? I feel this is because non-fiction writers want to be clear about what is in their pages. Let’s take The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown as an example. This historical non-fiction title lets the reader know exactly when, where, and what will transpire in the pages of the book. [It’s a great book, by the way!]
I realize that many writers feel a short title is easier to remember than a long title. And that’s basically true, as long as the short title captures the essence of the story. Here are just a few titles I plucked from my shelf to show you how the titles encapsulate the story.
Louis Sachar’s YA novel Holes encompasses the main thrust of the story in the one word title. The reader [or maybe just me] immediately wants to know why the youth are digging all these holes in a desert. Is it just punishment or is there a deeper secret?
In Elizabeth George’s novel What Came Before He Shot Her, the whole story is literally about the days before the protagonist supposedly shot someone. In essence, it explains how the whole situation came about.
Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is thematically a story about communication. In it the reader discovers the inner thoughts and lives of the characters that, unfortunately, they can’t seem to communicate to each other in the story present.
For my short stories, I tend to create shorter titles: Brotherly Love, Natural Instincts, and Emerging from Darkness, to name just a few. In those titles, the editor felt the story was encapsulated: brothers struggling to listen to each other; a protagonist understanding and thereby surviving in nature; a protagonist finally coming to grips with her past to be able to live her present.
In one of my non-fiction titles: Pedalers’ Express: Ocean to Ocean, the title tells the reader how [on bicycles] and where [from ocean to ocean] the journey takes place.
I could go on and on, but I’m sure you have thoughts on the purpose of titles and their construction, too. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.
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