Writing Tips: The Perfect Title

In Autumn Term 2014, The Looking Glass went to Inklings to share, amongst other things, our top tips for writers hoping to submit to the anthology. The positive response to this was huge, so we thought – why not expand on these pointers to help guide our writers even more? This blog, then, is the first in a series about The Looking Glass’ top writing tips. Today, we’re starting with what your readers will start with – the title!

A title is as important as the content of your work; it’s what will represent your work on the contents page and will hopefully pique the reader’s attention. Unfortunately when it comes to creative writing pieces, there’s no formula to follow when trying to think of a fantastic title for your equally outstanding creative piece. However, here at The Looking Glass, we want to help you as much as we can, so here are our top 5 tips for a great title:

great gatsby
A more fitting title for The Great Gatsby?

1.  Relevance. It is essential that your title makes sense to the subject of your writing. In her essay Poetry and Paraphrase Angela Leighton speaks about George Herbert’s poem Prayer, stating that the poem “is itself one extended paraphrase of its own title—as all poems are, in a sense.” Other examples are T.S. Eliot’s Landscapes and, in terms of novels, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Each title encapsulates what the poet or author is writing about. If you’re stuck on coming up with a title, relevance should be your first thought. Pick out a word or theme that is central to your work and base your title on that to ensure a perfect fit.

2. Appropriateness. In his article Choosing the Right Name for Your Story John Floyd highlights the importance of keeping your title related to the genre of your writing. He discusses Charles McGarry’s espionage novel, titled The Secret Lovers, which lead many readers to believe it would be a romance! You want to surprise your readers, but definitely not fool them!

 

cliche everywhere3. Memorablity. A memorable title makes for memorable work! Simple techniques such as rhyme and alliteration can make for memorable titles, for example Pride and PrejudiceConcision and wit are also great, take The Twits by Roald Dahl and even the animation film Up.

4. Originality. While well-known similes and metaphors seem ‘safe’ and ‘familiar’ you want to express your creativity and show your readers that your writing is fresh and original. There’s no harm in using famous phrases, especially if they hold some importance to your work, but you don’t want to seem lazy and lackluster about your own work; you need to display enthusiasm! Even putting your own twist on familiar phrases will express your originality.

 

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

5. Intrigue. Your title needs to grab the reader’s attention on a busy contents page. In Choosing the Right Name for Your Story John Floyd also states that, “a good title is like a good opening paragraph: it should be interesting.” You can make your title interesting in many ways, for instance you could experiment with length – a sharp, poignant one word title will stand out on a contents page as striking. Alternatively, with a longer title (think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet) it is possible to create intrigue through an irregular image or idea.  Also, your title reflects your writing, and gives the reader a first impression of your work, so the more unique and interesting your title the more inclined a reader will be to go on and read your work.

 

All in all, when it comes to a title you can be blunt and basic, concise and quirky, or wacky and witty – it’s another chance to flaunt your creativity. Whatever you choose, it’s definitely worth checking in with these points just to ensure that you’ve got the perfect title! Happy writing!

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