Jul 16 2008
Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.
- One Brown-Haired Girl With A Stick. This title slaps readers across the face and dares them to start reading.
- A Labyrinth of Entrails. This story easily bests its horror competitors with comically gruesome imagery.
- Moral Issues Aside. This has potential, but I think it would help to identify its genre and subgenre or add details about the plot. For example, “Moral Issues Aside, It’s Time For You to Die” or “Moral Issues Aside, Killing My Boss is a Bad Business Move.”
- Lead and Flame. It foreshadows an action-heavy fantasy and uses strong nouns. However, it needs to be more stylish and stick out more.
- How the Sala Sen Learned to Speak. Although I don’t know who the Sala Sen are, I feel that this story gives us enough so that we know it’s about an alien species interacting with humans. With a rewrite, I could see this as a candidate for awesome.
- Tired of Death. This does a strong job of foreshadowing a story about immortality. The word “tired” is excellent. Something like Beating Death would have been worse, I think.
- Cured. This title would almost certainly benefit from more words. What kind of story is it?
- The End of History. This is effective, but Francis Fukuyama got there first.
- Japan, 1988. Why should I be interested by what’s going on in Japan, 1988? Although this title gives us a time and country, it doesn’t foreshadow the story very well.
- Time Debt. Doesn’t sound too interesting, but I feel like I know what kind of story it is.
- Unsuitable Subhumans. Could be interesting, but this title could probably be smoother.
- Satan’s Soul. It does a reasonably good job of describing the story and making the sell.
- Tirra Lirra by the River. I can’t decide whether this is ineffective or acceptable. On one hand, I have no idea why I should care about Tirra Lirra, whether it’s by the river or not. But I think that some fantasy readers fond of Tolkeinesque atmospherics will respond well to this.
- Fighting The Plague. This seems cliche, but at least I know what kind of story it is.
- The Soul Chasers. Workable.
- Confinement. Cliche, but again we know what kind of story it is. [B. Mac disagrees! “I don’t think we do know what kind of story it is. Maybe it’s about a guy in prison. Maybe it’s about somebody confined by an unpleasant job or relationship, or about an animal in a zoo, or somebody in quarantine, etc. We need more specifics.”]
- The Other Side of a Singularity. It foreshadows the plot well, but it needs more flavor.
- Fear Itself. Cribbing from FDR is barely acceptable here. The only reason I liked it is because it identified itself as a psychological horror story.
- Breaking Through. Breaking through what? I think that this story would benefit from more specifics.
- Buffalo Rhetoric. I have no idea what this means, but it does a better job of intriguing me than some of the other scratch-your-head titles.
Awful (But Fixable!)
- Ekwamedha’s Children. Who’s Ekwamedha? Don’t know, don’t care. I would suggest something like “The Chieftain’s Children.”
- AIDA. I have no idea what this acronym means. Next! I would suggest rewriting this title using English words that readers will understand. [B. Mac’s take: “This is definitely awful, but I’d imagine that there are a few readers out there that will guess that this is a sci-fi retelling of Aida. It’d be significantly better to try something like Aida: Artificially Intelligent + two words that establish the protagonist and/or what’s at stake.]
- The Price. This doesn’t give me nearly enough to be interested. Hinting at what is being paid for would certainly have made this title better.
- A Certain Soldier’s Daughter. This feels way too coy. Who is this certain soldier? Changing this to “A Soldier’s Daughter” or “Sergeant McCoy’s Daughter” is better, but still doesn’t suggest enough to interest readers. I’d suggest adding something like “Sergeant McCoy’s Daughter is Not a Murderer,” or something else that establishes some particulars about the plot.
- The Kingdom Under Stone. This title is hard to understand and pretentious. I would recommend changing it to “The Underground Kingdom.”
- Stella Delfina. Who’s Stella Delfina? Don’t know, don’t care. I would recommend adding details to this title so that we are interested in Stella even before we’ve been introduced to her.
- Eleven to Seven. What does this mean? Probably a shift of work. This doesn’t tell us enough about the story to be interesting.
- Ensnared. This does a reasonably good job of foreshadowing the plot, but it’s cliche. This was not as effective as this week’s Confinement. I would recommend adding a detail or two.
- Hope. Highly corny. What kind of story is this? Besides the theme of hope, I have literally no idea. (Genre? Characters? Setting? Conflict?) It needs to suggest far more about the story.
- The Will. I don’t know what’s going on here. It doesn’t suggest enough to interest me.
- Mages In Twilight. This is border-line acceptable, but “in twilight” seems like a needlessly circuitous and pretentious way to suggest that this story is about the fall of the mages. Try “The Twilight of the Mages,” maybe?
- Summer Dream. This may be a reference to Midsummer Night’s Dream (strike one). In any case, I can’t think of any reason I would want to read a story about a dream, summer or otherwise. Next!
- Research. What kind of research? Why should we care? Try “The Mad Scientist’s Research.”
- Sugar. This is similar to “Buffalo Rhetoric,” a real head-scratcher. But Buffalo Rhetoric is strange enough that I might start reading it on that basis. I have no idea where this story is going, so I won’t even attempt a revision.
NOTE: Like prospective readers, I evaluate titles before reading the stories. When I suggest title revisions, I make my best guess about what kind of story it is. Also, all of these titles are copyright their authors.
This article was the first part of a series. If you’d like to read our reviews of other batches of titles, please see the list just below.