Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Supplement (no astrology): TITLES

Books, blogs, articles and short stories all benefit from titles with the power to attract and draw in readers. Choosing a title is not easy. Authors over many decades, and bloggers for a lesser time, have pitted their wits against the ordinary and predictable to come up with something sparklingly original, yet pertinent to content.

Some authors lean on the work of their predecessors from which to extract a nugget of wisdom applicable to their own piece of work. Somerset Maugham favored this method when he chose titles for "The Painted Veil" and "Of Human Bondage". Both are lifted from old texts - the former from a sonnet by Percy Byshe Shelley, written in 1818:
Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread, --- behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear. ......

The latter is borrowed from one of the books of the 'Ethica' by 17th century Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. Translated = "Of Human Bondage, or The Strength of the Emotions".

Those are both apt titles, once one is familiar with the storylines, but they presuppose a certain amount of literary knowledge on the part of the reader....unless like me, in the 21st century, they are able to "do the Google".

Similarly puzzling for anyone unfamiliar with it's source, is Harper Lee's famous title "To Kill a Mocking Bird". The author took that from an old proverb telling that "it's a sin to kill a mocking bird", and used it as a metaphor for the storyline of his novel. It's clever, but without prior knowledge of the old proverb, or subject matter of the book, a potential reader might feel puzzled when confronted with the title on a library shelf. Still, it's intriguing enough to be a draw.

The above titles fall into the category of "deep & meaningful". There's another category worth sampling: "the jaw-droppingly bizarre" - a few of which are discussed by James Bradshaw at the Globe And Mail Arts section. These are mainly non-fiction....I assume!

Nuclear War: What's In It for You?
Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them
How to Avoid Huge Ships or I Never Met a Ship I Liked
Knitting With Dog Hair
Bombproof Your Horse
How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment and Nation in the Third Reich.

And how's this for a page-turner:

Some more at HERE

BLOGS: I don't remember how I chose the name of this blog. I was wet behind the ears, blog-wise, it was quite likely the first thing I thought of. In retrospect I wish it could've been shorter and simpler. I can think of some much better ones now, but hesitate to make a change - horses, mid-streams and all that!

Blog names at their creative best can be brilliant reflections of their master blogger. A good name always draws me in, even if only for a single visit.

The most successful blogs such as:Gawker, Boing Boing, Crooks & Liars, Freakonomics, have easy names to remember. I enjoy finding catchy blog names among the more "cottage industry" type blogs. From my own sidebar links for instance: Out the Comet's Ass is a favourite from the astrology list. I like the simplicity of my husband's blog name: Thinks Happen. Google doesn't get it though; when I input Thinks Happen, it politely asks me "do you mean things happen?"

A few more nice blog names: The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy; I Probably Don't Like You; Ungirdled Passion; Converstations; nanopolitan; The Invisible Edge; Where Am I Going and Why Am I In This Handbasket? And, simple but effective, Bloggity Blog.


Wisewebwoman said...

Titles are everything, I agree. I've come up with some good titles for my unpublished novels but am terribly stuck on the short story collection.
As to my blog title, I never intended it to be running for years like it has, I thought I'd exhaust the posts and then move on to a more writerly one. Ha!!!

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Hmmmm - in the case of a blog name we have to invent it before we start writing content - but in the case of a book/novel/story the title will almost always come last - not always I suppose. So blog names are a lot more hit-and-miss.

R J Adams said...

Huh! So what's wrong with 'Sparrow Chat' then?


anthonynorth said...

This reminds me of that brief time when I had a couple of published books, both low circulation on the paranormal. The first I called 'Minds Possessed' as it seemed to explain what it was about. The publisher changed it to 'The Paranormal'. The second was 'Roots of Mysticism'. That one came out as 'The Supernatural'.
Sometimes publishers don't get titles.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ Awww - I forgot! Yes, Sparrow Chat is an excellent blog name, and it titles an excellent blog. :-)

Twilight said...

anthonynorth ~~ Shucks! That was a bad deal. I the publishers were underestimating the intelligence of potential readers.

Twilight said...

Should say "I suppose the publishers....."