These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
So much to learn!
I really don't have much to pick from yet, but I guess the only one that gets close is:
I. R. Stupid
Jan, I'm really sorry to see the classes stop for a while, but so happy to know you'll be refreshing your soul with all the good stuff! Have a wonderful summer
Maybe by the fall, I'll be caught up on all the back lessons.
Best wishes and God Bless,
I'll be honest....I'm terrible at titles! I often wait until just before submitting my piece to come up with something that captures the essence of it. Sometimes I'm blessed with (seemingly) divine inspiration. I think most of my better titles come as I'm already formulating my idea and I haven't written it yet....that seems to help, like having your "theme" for a 5-paragraph essay.
That said, my favorite titles are:
Wanted: Cute Boy That Loves Jesus
(ironically, met my boy a few months later)
From My Perspective
(which, based on the topic, should have given the teeniest clue as to the identity of the MC, so I thought it a clever hint)
The Twelve Daisies of Christmas
(obviously a play on words, which is my favorite kind of fun....I should try that more often! I can't take credit for the title, though - my brother came up with it first and my sister-in-law suggested using their story as a base for my own)
Thank you for the education on the creation of titles. My titles shall be much more thought out from this point on....well, maybe....if I'm not squeaking in at the last second....
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Carol, I'm truly amazed that you come up with a title first! Isn't it fascinating how we all work so differently?
Of the ones you listed, I really like the Darwin title, too, for the reasons you mentioned. It does exactly what a good title should do--it makes a potential reader think I've got to find out what that's about..
Oh, Ruth--thanks for my morning laugh--just thinking about "Someone WILL Die" made my morning. But I've got to agree with you again about "Silver Bracelets"--an awesome title, because the reader keeps thinking about it, all through the piece, and there's a superb aha! moment attached.
By the way, can you send me a link to the "Someone WILL Die" picture?
Yes, it's absolutely fine to use a bit from the end of your story as the title if it doesn't give away any vital information. I've done that many times, myself.
And likewise, long words can indeed make a funny title. I was thinking more along the line of a title like "A Discussion of the Ontogeny of Recapitulation". Not so funny.
Love your "Rice Cake and Salsa" titles, which really illustrated my point--a title doesn't have to be ALL salsa words, as long as one or two of them are hot and peppery.
And of the titles you mentioned, I've got to ditto you especially on "Lethal Return". If you'd named it "Boomerang", it would have lost all of its impact. The title you chose was truly masterful.
Chely, I just read "The Indelicate Demise..." again...oh my, that's some good stuff. A perfect meld of title and story, and the 'lunch box' line made me snort coffee.
As for your WIP--I vote for 'Up the Down Staircase'. No one else will think of that.
Leah, your titles are fresh and cute, just like their writer! I'm like you--I love a great play on words--and I was surprised when looking through my own titles not to find many at all. I guess it's a matter of appreciating them, but not being able to come up with them at all.
Jan, this class has been so great!
You have taught us new words and techniques in a fun and interesting way. Don't you love learning the name of something that you've known, but just didn't know you knew it?
I love the titles of your stories...and often I can guess yours by the title.
Here's some of mine that I liked:
This uses the way a child will interpret a big word in a way they think it should be said.
The Annual Christmas Fruit Cake Bake-Off Gala
Actually, this started as a choice of a few different shorter titles, but I decided to combine them all into one long title. I suppose I could have left off the "THE".
Bricks and Bubbles
I chose this title, using alliteration and contrasts.
It's such a temptation to me to use the punchline or twist..I don't know why. I have to remind myself that it's a secret until the reader gets to the end.
Also, I find that articles (entries) should not assume that you've read the title. It shouldn't include vital information. You should be able to understand the story without seeing it. I can't find any examples, but I have read some entries like this.
Thanks again, Jan, for all the work you put into this. Have a great summer and I can't wait until next fall for your next class!
Yvonne, I'm glad you included "The Annual Christmas....", because it gives me a chance to clarify my "The" rule. It works fine with long titles like yours, but "The _________ " with a noun isn't as effective.
And thanks for your excellent insight about assuming that the readers have read the title. I often go through several entries in a row just by clicking the "next entry" button, and that exact thing has happened to me...I've read the title last and only then did the story entirely click for me.
Intersting that you can pick mine by the titles sometimes! My oldest daughter often tries to pick out my entry, and she's done the same thing, notably with one from several quarters ago called "A Dozen Crumpled Pages".
Now if only I could come up with one for my "Up and Down" entry...
Yvonne, thanks for always having wonderful contributions to this class!
1. My first ever entry, "My Sister, Socrates" which works with the name in a title and introduces the theme of the entry.
I'm big on allusions and my titles tend to work this way because my writing tends to work this way. So, I'll go on a little about this instead of #2 or #3 and people can take, leave, or adapt this strategy as they wish for their hooks:
(In 31 challenge entries, I'd probably change a lot of them and plenty based on this lesson, so I'm no master at it.)
First, to back up the lesson, my salsa words: Poop, bloody dip, unbareable (yes, I know it isn't spelled properly), and stupid...not enough to be sure.
Now, allusions in titles:
"Bridge to Nowhere Certain" is about the bridges of man and plays off recent political uses of the phrase
"The Irony of Laughter" is about Kierkegaard and so the title plays off his famous dissertation about Socrates and Irony.
"...God's Tooth" uses Dillard and I, well, I borrowed this fantastic metaphor.
"...Sonny Blue" is a Baldwin character and I, well, I borrowed the name for my writing because the writing was a reaction to this story.
"...Sneaky Fox" is a play off Dora's Swiper - used in the article.
"Filling the Void with Purpose" plays off of Genesis 1 and creation, which is what the piece is all about.
"Buck" my only 1 word title is playing off of the buck in a referenced story this piece used for inspiration.
So, allusion after allusion, some imbedded reference made in order to show a trace of a thought to something else that inspired the story...this is quite often what I do and usually it is because of what I outlined in the first ever entry,
So, those are the title methods of a con.
“Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.” ~Dillard.
Tom, your titles fit your style of writing, which is something that I should perhaps have mentioned in the original lesson. For writing that's rich in allusions, a title which also gives a nod to a source work is excellent! It's another example, really, of making sure the right lid is on the right bottle.
Now, Miss Jan, “The Ontogeny of Recapitulation”? Methinks someone has been reading the Theology boards!
As everyone has said, your class is so wonderful. I know I will suffer withdrawal. Enjoy your break.
I agree that titles are incredibly important and I usually agonize over them, although sometimes they come in a flash. I end up getting comments on 60-70% of them, but I think lots of folks get comments on their titles.
As I read all of this, I was reminded of my search for a title for my novel last year for the Operation First Novel at Christian Writers Guild. The first draft was done and I was editing and I still didn’t have a title AND the deadline for submission was a week or so away. Interestingly enough, I thought I already had the title for the sequel! Anyway, God gave me the title in a dream. Every once in a while I will have a dream that makes we wonder whether it is a message from God. I will usually pray for the discernment to know whether it is such a dream. It almost always isn’t. But if it is, I then pray for the interpretation. So, I had this dream—which had nothing to do with the book—not the characters, not the setting, not the action. But it was one of those dreams. And as I started to pray, I realized that this one didn’t need interpretation. Rather, in the dream, I had said something like “What a persistent pursuit!” about some people who were hounding me. And the Lord just showed me that that was basis for my title. At first I used “The Persistent Pursuit.” But I changed it for submission to “A Persistent Pursuit.” Now that I am ready to shop for an agent or publisher, I am thinking about just going with “Persistent Pursuit.” If anyone has the time I would love to hear which you like better.
Now, for your questions. There are so many great book titles. The first two that occurred to me were Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and I Buried My Hear at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.
The first book is about the Manson family murders and the title comes from the Beatles song of the same name. The Manson family wrote the misspelled “Healter Skealter” on the refrigerator in the victims’ blood at the LaBianca home. “Helter Skelter” was a key term for the Manson family, which whey interpreted to mean a coming race war. The title captures so much of the insanity of the murders, the family, and the times.
The second book is about the history of the American Indians of the West and their wars with the American government and relocation to reservations. The title comes from a line in Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem “American Names.” It captures the poignancy of the last chapter about the Wounded Knee Massacre, which itself serves as a poignant capstone to the entire book.
There are also some authors that I think of as having many good titles. I love how Agatha Christie mixed her “Mystery of” and “Murder Of” titles with titles based on nursery rhymes: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe; Ten Little Indians; Five Little Pigs; A Pocket Full of Rye; Hickory Dickory Dock. She also used titles with literary, and mythological references like The Hound of Death; Evil Under the Sun; The Labors of Hercules (and the stories therein); Taken at the Flood, The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side; By the Pricking of My Thumbs; The Postern of Fate. Some authors have many great titles (although I don’t know whether they controlled their titles or whether editors were involved like they are now), for example, Earnest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder.
As for my Challenge titles, I don’t think I have three favorites—I haven’t written enough of them yet. But my very favorite is Once Upon a Time in a Litter Box. I wanted a title that did not give away the premise until it was safe to give it away, which did not have to be at the very end—it could be earlier. It also contains a nice play on words once you find out who all the characters are.
To pick up on another of your points, namely long titles, I will mention The Other Reason for the Reason for the Reason for the Season—And How We Ought to Respond. How’s that???!!!
And I guess for my third, I’ll mention one that is probably in my second tier and that someone mentioned attracted them to the article. It’s The Devil’s Dance. I probably could have left the “the” off this one. This one just emphasized the bad guy in the piece without giving away the end or the unique mode of telling the story.
One last comment. Jan, you mentioned your suspicion about punctuation. At the National legal Foundation, when we write fundraising letters, we always include ellipses, exclamation points, parentheses, etc. in the “teaser” on the outside envelope because we believe (based on studies) that this helps people read the teaser and want to open the envelop. Obviously, if they throw the envelop away unopened, we don’t get a donation.
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien
As requested here it is...
http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y112/s ... wnkitt.jpg
Now...about that A...
When Jesus said, "It is Finished!" what He really said was, "PAID IN FULL!"
"History is not for the meek in heart."
Steve, I vote for "A Persistent Pursuit". I'd pick that one up, for sure.
As for your other titles, I also really love "Once Upon A Time In A Litter Box"--it's clever and intriguing--just what you want in a title.
Thanks for confirming my punctuation hunch, and for your always kind words.
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