The Deadly Crayon

Titles, they are one of the first things you notice about any story. So if your title doesn’t command attention you are at risk of losing a significant slice of the market before they have even read that crushingly great first line that you spent three months perfecting.

So what makes a good title? Obviously it must stand out, that goes without saying, but it also needs to be relevant. For example, I’m not going to mention anything about a crayon in this post, deadly or otherwise. Feel that flash of disappointment? You don’t want that to be someone’s reaction to your story.

I should point out, before you get too excited about the prospect of me giving you the formula for finding that perfect title, that I have a problem with titles. I have a novella with a working title of ‘science fiction story’ another is called ‘future story’ and a YA novel I’m 60,000 words into is called… ‘YA novel.’ Someone in my crit group recently subbed a first chapter of their book called ‘the New Novel’ so at least I know I’m not alone with this problem.

But  bad-titleisis is not just an affliction of the unpublished. The following are examples of the author’s original title, as well as that which it was finally published under (or at least their English translations):

Something That Happened – Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck) 
First Impressions – Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austin) 
Men Who Hate Women – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

But perhaps my final word on titles will go to Dan Brown. He wrote an intriguing little story about the Catholic Church, and puzzles and death and stuff called Angels and Demons (ho hum). It sold less than 10,000 copies before the release of the next instalment; The Da Vinci Code. Now this title hinted at puzzles and intrigue, and has sold 81 million copies to date. I rest my case.

So don’t throw away your first and best chance to grab a reader. And don’t release a story called ‘Future Story’ –because I’ve got that one.


3 thoughts on “The Deadly Crayon”

  1. hmm, I rather like The Deadly Crayon. Very catchy. Maybe you should do you titles first in future! I know heaps of writers who need to know the title before they start writing, but I’m one of those who does the title at the end. My philosophy is that if the title doesn’t ’emerge’ for me, then there’s something wrong with the story (or chapter)!

  2. You’ve got me thinking about titles. I always thought it would come to me like a comet at some point.

  3. The truth is often it does hit like a comet, and like Ellen said in her comment, I do wonder if there is something wrong with the story if I don’t know the title. But don’t worry, sometimes that comet doesn’t hit until the end! 🙂

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