Your Beast, By Any Other Name

Surfing the ‘net today I found an interesting article at on  the art of writing novel titles:  Your Beast, By Any Other Name.  If you are in the process of writing a story or novel, it will probably be worth a few minutes of your time to check out this article.  In it, Mr. Searls gives his thoughts and a list of examples of what are excellent titles.  I posted a lengthy comment to it, which I will quote here for your convenience:

Excellent list of titles!  Though I have few published works, from all those I have in the works, I know it is difficult finding exactly the right title that intrigues the passerby while giving something of a clue as to the nature of the story.  My paltry four published stories I think meet this criteria, but I would like to hear your opinion of them:  “Dream Warrior”, “Wolfsheim”, “A Tale of Hell”, and “Murder by Plastic”.

As a bit of trivia, Hemingway had an interesting way of choosing titles.  He would search the Bible for catchy lines under he had a list of a hundred, and then would start crossing them off as he searched for the best one.

As I think of it, having an emotionally-charged verb in the title, such as “murder” or “dying” or “rampage” in the title would be a good idea, because of the sudden, visceral impact it would carry.  Though not a horror novel, Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” would be a good example.  A good emotionally-charged noun and/or adjective would be a good second choice.  Some examples of these are Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart” or “The Damnation Game” or “Books of Blood”.  “Psycho” is another good example.  “Hell House” is a good one; “Interview with a Vampire” is another.

And a mysterious title that needs explanation thus drawing the reader into reading the work out of sheer curiosity is another good technique.  “The Call of Cthulhu” is the prime example of this to my mind.

Thoughts?  Comments?


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