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November 20, 2013

            This is sort of a sequel to last week’s article. I talked about how not to punish your reader with words. To be exact, make your prose succinct and to the point. Don’t drone on and on. In that same vein, how about making the title somehow correspond to the subject matter?

            After I did my Amazon review of the book that inspired that previous article, though the title played some part in it, that was hardly the focus of events. I had to stretch to tie it in. I guess the author had to slap some title onto his lecture, because that’s ultimately what this tome turned out to be, a lecture on British occupation of the Sudan with a quest for treasure thrown in.

To me, the title came off as a poor choice. It was an underlying theme, I guess, a common thread, but the majority of the story was about something else entirely. I could’ve thought of a hundred different titles, (some of them not so complimentary), but let’s not get off the track.

When I title my stories, I like to make damn sure the title has something to do with the actual story, something significant to do with the story, not just a minor thread to tie it all together. I suppose, using the authors logic, the title DID tie it all together, but maybe it was because I wasn’t really happy with so much of the book that the title didn’t ring true.

That still brings up my point about being careful to title your story. There have been plenty of cases of titles that didn’t fit.

What is the purpose of the title anyway? It’s a form of recognition, a way for people to identify with what you wrote, a marketing tool. At the same time, that title should have something to do with what’s between the pages. Not just a minor part, but a significant part. In the case of the book that inspired this article, I’d say the title barely had ten percent to do with the story. The beginning, an occasional mention here and there and the very end and the author’s notes, which mind you, were just as droning and endless as the narrative! I guess that’s better than some others I’ve run across, but still a poor choice, in my opiniont.

Some people love to get words for their money, but I’d prefer to have fun with my words. Some of you probably, as readers, have a lot of fun reading college-lecture style adventure. I don’t. When it comes to misleading titles, that just adds insult to injury. Then again, back in the seventies, I remember plenty of the goofy psychedelic-era tomes that had said titles that didn’t have a thing to do with the content. They’re out there, and some of them are probably considered classics.

The title is extremely important. It sets the whole premise for the book. If the title is called Horse and the book is about bank robbers who use VW Beatles and a horse is only mentioned once as a side comment somewhere in the middle, that’s a crummy title. If the book is called All The Boatmen yet the book is about a lumber mill, and the only reference to boats are two lovers in the story going on a canoe trip one weekend, that’s a misleading title.

Those two examples I completely made up, so don’t think I took them from real examples. If they happen to be real books, that’s pure coincidence. If so, that really makes my point!

I’ve seen more real examples but don’t want to disparage any authors directly so I won’t go there.

What I will say is I’ve read a few with nonsensical and misleading titles. The one that inspired this article barely qualified. It’s in the past now. Even though I’m a completeist, I probably won’t be filling the gaps with the books I’ve missed in the series unless I get really desperate for something to read.

Please do your readers justice and give them an accurate title!

Happy writing.

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