Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Types of book titles I avoid using

Writers want their prose and their plots to be memorable. Why would it be different with their titles?

Below are a few types of titles I avoid in my writing. Regarding the examples I give, my criticism refers only to the titles, not the books/movies/TV shows/songs themselves, many of which are wonderful if not classics. And there are exceptions within my own work, such as Vanished: True Stories of the Missing—though I didn’t choose that title!

single words

reason: “Rosebud” aside, a single word is most likely not memorable, or even original. Search any word on Amazon and most have probably already been the title of a book.
note: This category also includes single words with “the” (The Goats—great book, by the way).
exceptions: Made-up words like Dinotopia or “Sussudio” because those are something we haven’t heard before.

two names

examples: Hondo and Fabian, Franny and Zoey, Laverne & Shirley, Lilo & Stitch.
exceptions: None really, but at least the names in the above examples are atypical.
reason: Names alone don’t reveal character—or anything about a story.

common phrases

examples: “No Way Out,” “Home Sweet Home,” “Time for Bed,” every song title on Bryan Adams’s album Into the Fire.
reason: Same as for “single words.”

"The Man/Woman/Boy/Girl Who…"

examples: The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Woman Who Wasn't There, The Boy Who Changed the World, The Girl Who Played with Fire.
reason: The character trait or accomplishment such titles single out usually seems more universal than the author may have intended. In other words, there are many boys who changed the world. I’d rather see a title that captures the essence of a person in a more specific way, or at least one that presents a fresh turn of a phrase, however inscrutable at first.

Lest it seem that I’m only being critical, think of it this way: by pointing out these types of titles, I’m also saying that the majority of titles do win points with me—namely, everything but the above.

No comments: