Aug 27 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.
- Uncommon Law. The word “law” effectively identifies the niche. This title also shows enough of the premise to interest readers, I think, particularly if the reader would be impressed that the author knows what common law is.
- Even the Undead Taste Good Sometimes. This one had flavor and made interesting use of generic words (good, sometimes and undead). It also successfully identifies a desperate-feeling mood (which probably makes this a better title than something like The Delicious Undead). But this could be smoother. To start, I’d recommend revising it to Sometimes Even the Undead Taste Good.
- Potions and Snowballs. This is a headscratcher, but I’ll admit I’m interested. Snowballs is unexpected and creates a fun tone. Potions establishes a magical-fantasy setting. If I were revising this, I would probably add a third item to the list to suggest where the plot is headed. For example, if this were a wacky Indiana Jones-esque fantasy, I might recommend something like Potions, Snowballs and the Water Bottle of Destiny.
- Imperialism By Any Other Name. Like Uncommon Law, this title effectively identifies its niche and target audience. If you like politically-themed fantasy, you’d probably like this story. It lacks the flair of the previous three titles, though.
- Winging It. This is a pretty clever title for a book about a plane of vacationers and a journalist crashing onto a mythical island with winged people. The title also has a hint of desperation, which helps. However, I found this title acceptable rather than above average because I felt that it gave off an overly fantastical vibe. If I hadn’t read the synopsis, I would have assumed that this story was about nonhuman characters in a fantasy world, like a coming of age book where a dragon learns to fly or something.
- Catching Rays off Pretty Beach. This title is manifestly superior to last week’s Twenty-Six Perfect Days. To me, the phrase “Pretty Beach” suggests that the author is offering his commentary on a superficial beach-town.
- Alien Spawn. This is a thoroughly mediocre sci-fi horror title. It works because it identifies itself as sci-fi horror, but it really needs more style.
- The Swarm Queen. This is better than Alien Spawn, but still short on flavor.
- Forbidden Temple. This is a mediocre Indiana Jones-style title. Forbidden strikes the right tone, but you can do better than “temple.”
- Devil’s Den. The word “Devil” identifies the niche, but “den” is the weak point here. What’s at stake? Why should we care? [B. Mac disagrees... “This is an awful title because it’s too ambiguous. Is the Devil’s Den just a generically unpleasant place like “Hell’s Kitchen” or is it actually a location that belongs to the Devil?]
- Filthy Blood. This is an interesting visual, but I don’t think it says enough about the story to interest readers. It doesn’t place the story’s setting well enough. Are we looking at a story about blood magic, Nazis and the Holocaust, demonic pacts, etc?
- Cupid’s Arrow. I think this is a fairly effective name for a romance, but I’d like to know more about the characters involved. Why should we care about whether they fall in love?
- The Poison Gods. I think the word “poison” is a fresh adjective for gods.
Awful (but Fixable)
- The Gray. I have no idea what the gray is, or what sort of story this is.
- Ironspear. Unless Ironspear is a spear that’s made of iron, I have no idea what it is either. Invented words do not lend themselves well to titles and this is no exception.
- Lord of Aphilia. What sort of place is Aphilia? Why should I care about it, or who governs it? Fictional place-names don’t work well in titles, either.
- The Shambles of Love. I don’t think that shambles is the right word here. The title literally translates into something like The Ruins of Love, which doesn’t seem to make sense. The author may have meant to use The Shackles of Love, which would be interesting although a bit cliche.
- The Deep Blue Sea. This is a prepackaged phrase that doesn’t work. Why should we care about a sea that’s deep and/or blue? Those adjectives are horribly boring.
- Among the Shattered and Debris. This seems very awkward. “The Shattered” is a plural noun, but “Debris” is a singular noun.
- Twins 1-3. I have no idea what’s going on here. Next!
- The Construct Wars. I don’t know what a Construct War is, or why I should care about it. This is an example of a phrase that would probably only make sense to someone who has already read the book. That’s a poor way to entice prospective readers. They have not read your book.
- King Sulaman. Who’s King Sulaman? Don’t know, don’t care.
- Junkyard. What kind of junkyard? What’s going on there and why should I care?
- Send Back. What’s being sent back? To whom? Why should I care? What’s at stake?
- Winter Redemption. Who’s being redeemed? Why should I care?
- The Rememberers. This has the same problems as the previous four titles but has added awkwardness. Instead of “Rememberers,” I’d recommend something like “Memory-Bearers.” But even that would be awful. What’s being remembered? Who is remembering it? What’s at stake? Why should we care? This title doesn’t get close to giving us enough to care.
- Baba Yaga and the Story of Valentine and the Dark Night. This is far too long. First, I don’t know who Baba Yaga is or why I should care about him. Second, the word “story” is obnoxious and insults the audience’s intelligence. (“Dark” also made our list of words that should not be used in titles). Third, what the hell’s going on with “the Dark Night?” Aren’t nights dark by definition?
- The Square Triangle. This is a head-scratcher, but it didn’t take me anywhere interesting.
- Rain. It is extremely hard to make a one-word title compelling. The word “rain” doesn’t give us anything specific about this story.
- All the Myths are True. This needs far more style.
- The Rectifier. This is far more pretentious than “The Fixer” or “The Problem-Solver,” and even those titles would have been awful. What problems is he rectifying? Why should we care?
- P ill(ness) [sic]. I have no idea what the hell’s going on here, but it surely does not speak well of the author.
- Brotherhood of Baphomet. I think Baphomet is an invented name. Why should I care about his brotherhood?
- Turnover. This is too ambiguous. Are we talking about a basketball turnover, an employee leaving one job for another, or something else entirely? What does “turnover” mean and why should we care?
- Wailing the Night. I don’t know what this means, or what kind of story this is, or why I should care.
- Scratch. One word titles don’t work, sorry. This is no exception.
- The Endless Abyss. Too bland. Aren’t abysses typically endless?
This article was the seventh part of a series. If you’d like to read our reviews of other batches of titles, please see the list just below.