Archive for the 'Titles' Category

Aug 16 2011

Words Which Should Not Be Capitalized in a Title

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Everything but articles, coordinating conjunctions and prepositions should be capitalized in titles.

 

Which words should not be capitalized in a title?

  • Articles: a, an, & the.
  • Coordinate conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet & so (FANBOYS).
  • Prepositions, such as at, around, by, after, along, for, from, of, on, to, with & without. (According to the Chicago Manual of Style, all prepositions should be uncapitalized in a title.  NIVA and I recommend capitalizing prepositions 5+ letters long).

 

Continue Reading »

38 responses so far

Jul 22 2010

Is Your Title Too Generic?

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

Does your title help readers answer at least three of the following questions about your novel? If not, it probably doesn’t say enough about the work.

  • What’s the genre? (Action, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, horror, etc).
  • What’s the subgenre? (Are we talking about an action with… Superheroes? Military/espionage? A natural disaster?  Adventurers? Vampires/supernatural creatures? Mythological figures? etc).
  • What’s the inciting event?  (What event throws the main character out of his status quo/comfort zone?)
  • What’s the main character like?  (Anything that makes him more interesting to prospective readers or suggests his role–please note that using the character’s name in the title does not necessarily accomplish either)
  • What’s the main antagonist like? (Same as for the protagonist)
  • What’s the setting like? (Time and/or place)
  • What’s the central goal of the main character and/or what’s at stake if he loses?
  • What’s the author’s style like?
  • Is there an interesting contrast between elements of the title?

 

If the title doesn’t nail at least three of these, I’d recommend rewriting it and/or starting over.  Here are some examples that I enjoyed.

 

Captain Freedom: A Superhero’s Quest for Truth, Justice, and the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves

  • Main character: a highly self-entitled, egomaniacal superhero, maybe a parody of Superman
  • Goal: celebrity and recognition
  • Contrast: The idealistic, lofty name “Captain Freedom” vs. his preposterously petty goal.
  • Author style: I’d totally pick this up, assuming I could survive the cover.

 

Saddam Hussein and the Hippies from Space

  • Main character and antagonist: Either Saddam Hussein and the space hippies or vice versa
  • Genre: science fiction/comedy
  • Author’s style: Wow.  I love the contrast, too.

Continue Reading »

62 responses so far

Jul 12 2010

Even More Ways to Blow a Title

Published by under Titles

1. Be careful about needlessly long titles, particularly ones loaded with separate phrases. They’re typically less inviting to prospective readers and harder for people to remember. Unusually bizarre titles, like Saddam Hussein and the Hippies from Space, have more latitude here. (Regardless of length, they will be memorable).

2. If your title does not appeal to prospective readers, start over! Some words that rarely mean much to prospective readers include fictional character and place names.  Alternately, some authors use puns.  If the reader immediately makes prospective readers smile, fine. If readers will only understand the pun after reading the work, they won’t ever find out how witty the pun is… because they won’t open the book.

Continue Reading »

54 responses so far

Feb 05 2010

An Embarrassing Blunder!

Published by under Titles

I named both my products (the writing advice website and the comic book series) Superhero Nation.  I’d like readers to be able to Google one and not get confused with the other, so I’ll rename one.  Probably the comic, because changing this website’s URL would break of all of our incoming links.  Ick.

So now I’m just trying to come up with a placeholder title for a wacky office comedy about an accountant-turned-secret agent and his mutant alligator partner.  At this late hour, these seemed remotely acceptable. What do you think?

  • THE TAXMAN MUST DIE
  • [alternate word: accountant]

  • GARY MUST DIE
  • (Normally, I think “Gary” is far too bland a name to be used in a title, but I like the contrast between the normal name and the extraordinary phrase).

  • CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK
  • SANITY A PLUS, MARKSMANSHIP ESSENTIAL
  • DEATH COMES FOR THE TAXMAN
  • DEATH AND TAXES
  • DEATH AND TAXES (BUT NOT IN THAT ORDER)

If you’d like to suggest something else, I’d love to hear it.

9 responses so far

May 02 2009

I’ve got it!

Published by under Titles

I finally came up with a title that I like enough to use in my proposal.  Don’t Forget the Death-Ray!  Everything You Need to Write Superhero Novels and Comic Books. What do you think?

17 responses so far

Jan 24 2009

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 10)

Published by 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.

Continue Reading »

46 responses so far

Dec 26 2008

Titles that Sold

Published by under Titles

This is a list of the top 35 bestselling paperback mass-market novels.  Afterwards, I have some observations about the titles as a whole.

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Oct 25 2008

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 9)

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

Continue Reading »

77 responses so far

Sep 21 2008

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

Published by 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.

Continue Reading »

40 responses so far

Sep 20 2008

How specific should a novel’s title be?

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

An e-mailer asks:

When you guys review titles, you frequently suggest that the title go farther to distinguish itself from other books with a similar setting.  For example, you said that the manuscript Questor failed to distinguish itself from other Roman stories, but how many Roman stories are there?  Why would you need to distinguish yourself within such a small subset of books?

Thanks for your e-mail, Giuseppe.  Questor’s title failed to distinguish its premise.  The setting is uncommon, but what happens in the book?  What is the hero trying to accomplish in ancient Rome?  Generally, the best titles identify the book’s premise.

  • His Majesty’s Dragon (“what if the war against Napoleon was fought with dragons?”)
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible: (“what if we told a superhero story mostly from the supervillain’s perspective?”)

Some other titles neglect the premise and focus on the subgenre and setting.  That may be sufficient, but it’s generally not as impressive.

  • Superhero Nation.  The title suggests it’s a superhero story set in the real world, but you’d have to look at the book cover to know that the book is mainly about an unlikely police officer and his non-human partner.
  • Questor.  It’s a story set in ancient Rome, but that’s just the setting.  What is the premise?  What happens?  What is the hero attempting to accomplish? My guess is that the setting isn’t interesting enough to sell the book on its own.

No responses yet

Aug 27 2008

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 7)

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

Continue Reading »

23 responses so far

Aug 14 2008

Your Title is Bad But You Can Fix It (Part 6)

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

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

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Aug 09 2008

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 5)

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

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

Continue Reading »

21 responses so far

Aug 03 2008

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

Published by 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.

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Jul 30 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Avoid Symbolic Animals in Titles

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

I wouldn’t recommend putting an animal in your title unless the animal actually features prominently in your book. No matter how obvious you think it is that Corporate Wolf is not actually about a Canis lupis, the red herring will throw off at least a few (and possibly many) of your readers.  It would probably be worth your time to take out the animal name, particularly if your book will be on a shelf with fantasy or science fiction offerings.

One response so far

Jul 19 2008

Your Title is Bad, but You Can Save It (Part 3)

Published by 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. Houndsditch and the Age of Meat. Even though we don’t know who Houndsditch is, “the Age of Meat” slaps readers in the face. And it foreshadows how frighteningly funny the story is. Also, there’s meat involved.
  2. Self Love. Definitely a head-scratcher, but an intriguing head-scratcher. However, it’s vague. Adding more details would probably benefit this story.

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jul 17 2008

Your Title is Bad, but You Can Fix It (Part 2)

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. The Merchant of Venison. This title does a remarkably good job of identifying the story as a Shakespeare parody. Also, it was the only title this week to get me to chuckle.
  2. Dogs in Clogs. This was a real head-scratcher and failed to foreshadow the plot in any meaningful way, but was invitingly weird.
  3. Creeping Death. It foreshadows the story and tone well. If I were rewriting it, I’d make it more subtle and less cliché.

Continue Reading »

21 responses so far

Jul 16 2008

How to Write Titles

Published by under Art,Titles,Writing Articles

This article gives nine tips to writing a title that grips readers and sells your book.

1. Tell us enough about the book to make us want to read it.This is what separates bland, forgettable titles like The Dragon from classics like His Majesty’s Dragon. The more we can surmise about the plot, the better.

2. Do not use imaginary place names.Readers haven’t heard of Asgardia, Lukawanda, or whatever your fictional kingdom or city is called.Your invented words won’t interest us because they don’t mean anything to us.I think the place names most appealing to prospective readers are those that use English words, like the Temple of Doom. We can guess what a temple of doom is.
Continue Reading »

494 responses so far

Jul 16 2008

Your Title is Bad But You Can Fix It (Part 1)

Published by 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. One Brown-Haired Girl With A Stick. This title slaps readers across the face and dares them to start reading.
  2. A Labyrinth of Entrails. This story easily bests its horror competitors with comically gruesome imagery.
  3. 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.”

Continue Reading »

26 responses so far

Aug 24 2007

Writing Titles that Sell (Novels and Chapters)

Published by under Titles,Writing Articles

This article will cover how to write novel titles that sell and when/how to name your chapters.

Continue Reading »

243 responses so far