What Every Writer Needs To Know About Titles
No doubt every writer has been in a situation where after writing such a great piece, story or book, he/she spends hours, days and perhaps a couple of months trying to get a befitting title. I have been in such situations more time than I can count. Sometimes, I have had to ask my readers and writer friends to help me title my work.
As I look back now, I feel like I could liken myself to a mother who after having her baby turns to the other women in labor or the nurses around her and asks “What do I call this child?” “What do you think I should name this baby?” I guess you are trying to imagine what the nurses’ response will be. If they were anything like our rude and curt nurses in many a Nigerian public hospital, the reply would be very rash, accompanied by a face stained with a sort of disgust.
I know that I am surely not alone with having difficulty to name or christen my brainchildren when after many days of holding them in our minds to mature, get delivered. I feel like we need to take a moment to look at what a title represents, regardless of the genre we are writing. What is the place of a title in your poetry, short story, novella or a book of poems? If we are able to answer this question, then it will be a lot easier for us to make great titles.
First, I now consider titles as the bait which would attract more than fifty percent of my readers. So I keep that in mind. No serious fisherman goes fishing without juicy worm baits. As writers, we are fishers of listening ears, we want to be heard. We want the world to give us an audience. A title is a great bait if it is written in such a way that it promises to give useful information to those it has been targeted at.
Bloggers know this so well and they always use it to their advantage. Sometimes you have clicked to their page before you see that the information contained in their piece is not as relevant to you or at least does not contain anything that is substantially new to you. I am not saying you should be deceptive or take a cue from those unprofessional bloggers who often do that. I am saying that you can have some really great content but if the title is not magnetic, people will scroll past it.
Great titles are the reception unit of any piece. And as it with great businesses, none hires a grumpy, rude and impolite fellow to stand in as the receptionist. Receptionists are welcoming and full of warm smiles, something that makes one-time patronizers to become customers and regulars.
When I wrote the poem which won third place in the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize, it took me a while to choose the title “An Artefact of a Groin War” and many of friends had asked me to privately share the poem with them when it was on the shortlist for that prestigious prize. Some of them told me frankly, that the title aroused their curiosity and they really wanted to know what the poem could be about.
How do your titles come to you? Before you begin the piece or after you have written it all out? It would be interesting to hear from other writers. Please share!
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