"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Title Tricks

Some writers can’t seem to create a title until their story is complete. Others often start stories based on a title. Below is an exercise I recommend to help spark the imagination.

Supplies Needed:
1) A variety of magazines (preferably different magazines or journals as opposed to multiple issues of the same one.)
2) A notebook and pen or computer.
3) Some quiet time.

Start by opening one magazine to the table of contents and scan down the titles. Do NOT look at the stories, just the titles. You are looking for a title that can easily be divided in half or a title with two clauses. Take half of one title and write it in a column in your notebook. It can be either the first half or the second half of the title. (Remember, titles are not under copyright protection, so you are doing nothing wrong here.)

Once you have an entire column of phrases, find a different magazine and start a second column with more half titles.  When you have your second list done, scan both columns. Take half of a title from one list and combine it with half a title from the other list. Then write the story.

For example, in Ladies’ Home Journal, I found the title “Science of a Streamlined Marriage”. I wrote down “The Science of”. Then in an issue of Parents, I found the title “How to Raise A Happy Child” and I wrote down “Happy Child”.  When I finished my lists, I chose these two to combine to make “The Science of a Happy Child.”  Then I wrote the article.

This exercise works no matter what genre you are writing. After you choose a title, be sure to keep your lists for future practice.

A similar exercise is to randomly select words from the dictionary, a magazine or other book. Then rearrange them to make a unique title. Happy Writing!


Jen said...

I am hopeless at titles, so I will definitely give this a try. Thanks for sharing, Sylvia!

Paula Martin said...

Neat idea, Sylvia - but my current problem is the opposite! My novel is written but I can't decide on a title for it! I have several 'possibles' but so far not one of them has jumped out at me so that I can say 'Yesss, that's it!'

mooderino said...

I tend to collect words and phrases that catch my eye that I think I might use as titles somewhere down the road. I have notebooks full of them.

Moody Writing

Rob-bear said...

An interesting exercise for writers, particularly new writers.
Proving once again that, if you're gong to be a writer, you have to do your homework.

Christine Rains said...

That is a neat trick! Thanks for sharing.

Sylvia Ney said...

Jen, Mooderino, Rob-bear and Christine - this exercise can be lots of fun. Thank you for stopping by!

Paula - you can still try this exercise, just look for phrases that exemplify your own work. Best of luck!

Collette said...

Oh Sylvia, that's a brilliant idea! I love writing the stories, but the titles are almost as hard as the marketing. :) I am going to try this at home!

Lorelei Bell said...

Interesting trick. Never heard of this before.

I sometimes listen to the lines of music. Choose a phrase in the song, sometimes I mix and match. I also will find a word that hits me that sounds great.

Now, to find names for characters--lots of ways to find those!

Jessica Ferguson said...

I lost my first comment. Why do I have so much trouble posting comments on your blog?!? Here it is again and I hope it doesn't show up twice!

Fun tip. I used to do something similar to this a long time ago; forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder.

BTW, I'm teaching my course at McNeese University (in the classroom) now that Lamar has closed its CE doors. This will be a fun exercise for my students.

Wish me luck!

anthony stemke said...

This is a great exercise, Thank You.

Jenny Milchman said...

Interesting approaches. I must admit, I love titles. They usually come to me first!

Anonymous said...

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Sheila Deeth said...

Neat idea. I might suggest this to our writers' group--we've been talking about titles in previous meetings.

Pat Carroll Marcantel said...

Good tip, Sylvia. Love your blog. Look forward to seeing you at our Nov. conference.