Aug 03 2008

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 4)

Published by at 1:39 pm under Titles,Writing Articles

Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.

Above Average

  1. Evil by Choice. This one has a lot of style and markets itself well to the readers of psychologically-themed and villain-as-main-character stories.
  2. Rails Across the Dragonlands. This sells a steampunk fantasy well, but it would be more effective if it gave us something to care about.


  1. Drastic Measures. This illustrates the theme of desperation, but I think that this prepackaged phrase is too bland here. You could apply it to so many different books that it says little about the setting, genre and characters of this one.
  2. Sweet Seconds. This is interesting, but I think the word seconds makes it unhelpfully ambiguous and bland. This could be a story about someone savoring the last seconds of his life, or a story about a story about a second round of eating, or a runner narrowly winning a race, etc. Replacing “seconds” with an appropriate synonym would probably help this title make the sell.
  3. Sparkle Fairy and the Great Banana Slug. I love the phrase “Great Banana Slug,” but this title could do better if it revised Sparkle Fairy. Is that a name? Why should I care about it?
  4. Hell’s Rebellion. This adequately suggests what the story is about, but lacks style. Why should we read it instead of some other story about hellish infighting?
  5. Two Men and a Sword. This one is unusually generic, but it at least illustrates it is fantasy with the word “sword.” I think that replacing the word “men” with a more specific word would probably make the title more interesting and intriguing. For example, I’d pay $10 to read “Two Firemen and a Sword.”

Awful (But Fixable!)

  1. In Love and War. This is a prepackaged phrase that is wholly bland and forgettable. I’d recommend that the author scrap it.
  2. The Mound. Why should we care about the mound? What’s its significance? This is a one-word title that definitely doesn’t work.
  3. The Traveler. Who’s the traveler? Why should we care about him? Why’s he so important that you’ve written a book about him? Again, this is a one-word title that needs more details.
  4. Anamnesis. Using made-up words in a title is rarely a good idea. What the hell is anamnesis? Why should I want to read about it? What’s at stake in this story? This one-word title also needs more details.
  5. Storm Dancer. This feels too cheesy. Also, what’s a storm dancer and why should we care?
  6. The Pravus. What’s a pravus? Why should we care about it? Like “Anamesis,” this one errs by using a single imaginary word.
  7. Voices in the Night. This suggests a eerie mood, but not enough about the story. It also lacks style. Whose voices are we listening to? Why should we care?
  8. Telephone Ted. Although this has style, it doesn’t suggest anything about the substance of the story. What kind of story is this? Why should we care?
  9. Primordial. One word titles rarely work and this is no exception. It comes off as cheesy and formulaic. I’d recommend adding a few more details.
  10. Bright Lady’s Chosen. Who’s the Bright Lady and why should we care about her? What’s she chosen someone for? Why should we care about that person? This feels like a generically bad fantasy story.
  11. Personal Space. This prepackaged phrase is too bland. The word “space” is too ambiguous here; it could just be about someone that wants more space, or it could be about outer space. If it’s not about outer space, that’s a red herring that should be removed. Anyway, who needs more personal space and why should we care about him?
  12. The Eternal Link. I have no idea what’s going on here, or why I should care.
  13. It’s Always Darkest. Another prepackaged phrase that’s not too interesting. Why should I care about it getting darker? What’s at stake?
  14. The Enchanter’s Heir. Who’s the enchanter and why should I care about him and his choice of successor? What’s at stake?
  15. Empire of Blood. The word “empire” is not too interesting. Also, the phrase “of blood” is cheesy. I’d suggest replacing “of blood” with a modifying clause that makes this an empire we would want to read about.
  16. Golgoath Part One, ‘Renaissance En Vie’. I don’t recommend using foreign-words in a title. I have no what “golgoath” or “renaissance en vie” mean. Don’t know, don’t care.

This article was the fourth part of a series. If you’d like to read our reviews of other batches of titles, please see the list just below.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 4)”

  1. Last Equinoxxon 25 Oct 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Well, I’m french and even I am not sure of what “renaissance en vie” is supposed to mean (revival/born again alive ?… Isn’t it a pleonasm ?).

  2. YonTroperon 08 Apr 2010 at 5:53 am

    According to Wikipedia: “Anamnesis (Ancient Greek: ἀνάμνησις “recollection, reminiscence”, literally “loss of forgetfulness”) is a term used in medicine, philosophy, psychoanalysis and religion first used by the Greek philosopher Plato to equate learning with remembering.” Also, “pravus” is Latin for depraved, evil or wicked.

    Both of these still suck, though. Why would you want to read a story called “The Evil”? Also, anamnesis is something of an obscure term, so if it’s being pitched towards the philosophical fiction market, it might not identify itself.

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