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Writing Tips (Part Three): Creating Great Titles

November 1, 2014 | Richard Scarsbrook | Comments (0)

Studies show that a book has approximately four seconds to make a good impression on a customer.  A short story probably gets even less time!  A great title can sometimes be the difference between a story being read and enjoyed and going unread.  The title of your story makes the story’s first impression.

Don’t worry about the title too much until the story is finished.  Then, try to create a title that reflects the genius of your work in one or more (preferably more) of the following ways:

 Three Rules for Great Titles:

 1.  Use Great SOUNDING Words!

 Pay attention to the rhythm, meaning, and sound of the actual words in your title.   Words that sound good together, or that create friction with each other make for memorable titles.

 Some titles that I think accomplish this:  The Sweet Hereafter (Russell Banks), Dance Me Outside (WP Kinsella), Deception (Philip Roth), Fifth Business (Robertson Davies), A Patchwork Planet (Anne Tyler), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Cheeseburger Subversive


2.  Use an important Character, Place, Symbol, Metaphor, Theme, or Pivotal Event   

      from your story


Name of Character – Barney’s Version (Mordecai Richler), Muriella Pent (Russell Smith), The Hobbit (JR Tolkien), The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Suess),

Theme – Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Suess), A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline D’Engle), For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)

Place – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), The Bridge to Terabithia


3.  Pay off the reader!


It’s always rewarding to a reader to get to a climactic passage in a story, to discover WHY the title is what it is! 




During his residency, Richard will work on three new books: a novel called Meet Me at La Bodeguita del Medio, a short story collection titled Rockets Versus Gravity, and a poetry collection called (d)Evolution. Through workshops and one-on-one meetings, Richard will draw on his years of writing and teaching experience to help developing writers find their voices and perfect their works.
Writer in Residence Program