When writing your own stories, one thing to be aware of is the fact that your work will eventually be displayed in a place where other people can see it. And that place will probably have a ton of other authors as well, all competing to get noticed as well. So the question here is… how do you get people to read your story over someone else’s? It’s not like selling a car, where you can drape a hot, half-naked boy over the hood and holler at the crowd through a megaphone. Hehehe! Actually… I wonder what that would look like… hmmm…

Ahem! Sorry!

TITLES!!! ‘Titles’ is the correct answer.

Choosing an appropriate title for your story can make all the difference between someone reading your story right away, saving it for a later time, or skipping over it altogether. It’s the one thing that people judge a book by before they even get to the cover. So it carries a certain amount of importance, believe me. This month, let’s talk about creating story titles that will intrigue readers and get them to give your story a try.

The first thing to think about, naturally, is what kind of story you want to write. What kind of tone will it have? Where and when will it take place? Maybe it’s a love story, maybe it’s an adventure, or coming of age. Maybe it’s a sad story, or one of great triumph, or something truly scary. Figure out the mood and feel of your story, and then think about how you would want to convey that message in your title. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

I, personally, can’t start a story unless I have the title ready. For some reason, it means a lot to me to have that label to write under. It sets the boundaries for what my story is about and keeps me focused on the major theme of the project. However, other people may do the opposite, and write the story (Or the first few chapters) first… and let the title emerge from the events of the story itself. Whatever your process is, follow whatever makes you comfortable. Take your time. Think it over. Sometimes, the story title can be the hardest part of the whole process. Again, it takes practice. And there are always methods of finding out how to improve your own titles and make them leap off of the screen. Even the simple ones.

One thing you might want to try is going to the Nifty Archives or another site full of erotic stories. (Or any type of story, actually) The BEST part about going there is that you can see a looooong list of story titles in a row. Scroll down the list in any given section and, going by the name of the story alone, find out which titles grab you the most. How do they make you feel? What ideas do they put in your head? What is it about certain titles that intrigues you and compels you to click on it to see what it’s about? Is it clever or witty? Does it sound ‘hot’? Does it remind you of something that you can easily relate to? What is it? The story itself might be awesome, and it might be terrible, but the title is all about the ‘draw’. That subliminal lure to your work. What was it about those few words in the title that made you curious as to what was going on in there? If you take some time to figure that out, you’ll be able to apply that to stories of your own. Find a way to tease your readers into thinking, “Hmmm… I wonder what this is…” And then practice finding ways to duplicate. Go through the Shack, if you want. Find your favorite stories, and think about what titles you would give them if you had to rename them yourself. What would “The Secret Life Of Billy Chase” or “Picture Me And You” be called if you had written it. Practice. Practice with other stories too. It’s all about developing an instinct for it. It’ll come to you. Promise. 🙂

Another great way to find out what makes great fiction titles? Music! Go through your CDs or your iPod list or whatever… and look at the song titles listed for some of your all-time faves. Most song titles are doing exactly what you’re trying to do. They’re trying to represent the whole theme of the song and the feel and mood of the lyrics in just a few words. So check out your music, and see what titles jump out at you. Take notice of how each one tells a story all its own, before you hear a single note.

Now that you’ve got some ideas spinning around in your head, there’s something else to remember… make sure that your story and your story title are compatible. There have been many times when I’ve seen stories where this wasn’t the case. You can write the most romantic, most incredibly dramatic and heartwarming story EVER… but it won’t matter if you call it “JoJo The Clown Gets Fisted”! LOL! That title… ummm… does NOT belong with that story! 🙂 So, like I said, take your time. If you’re writing something creepy… find a title that’s creepy. If you’re writing something that’s really sexual, then find a title that appeals to readers on a sexual level. It’s all a play on people’s associations with certain events in their lives. My very first story was called “New Kid In School”. Not very imaginative, really. Give me a break, it was my first! Hehehe! BUT… there were a lot of people that first week or two who saw that title, stopped for a moment, clicked on the link, and gave it a try. Why? Because even though it’s the simplest title in the world… it describes a story that many readers can recognize and relate to. There are tons of people who can remember being in high school or junior high… and that ‘new kid’ transfers in or switches classes… and they sit right next to you, and your whole world instantly turns to giggles and gumdrops. You’re writing about an experience, and you want people to share in that experience. On some level, that “New Kid” title connects to what may be a very powerful memory or fantasy for a lot of readers. And that’s what you want. Because at the Nifty Archive and places like it, a title is the only advertisement you have. So make it count.

A few things to watch out for…

– Try not to get too wordy in your titles. If it reads like an entire sentence, try to trim it down a bit. Some of the most powerful titles out there are only one word long. My personal goal is to try to keep it to just three or four words, maximum. There are exceptions, of course, but don’t get crazy with it. If a title is too long, you may turn some people away. Which defeats the whole purpose.

– Remember that people are actually ‘speaking’ in their minds when they read. Almost as if they were saying the words aloud. So if you have a character or a location or something else in your story that is difficult to spell or pronounce… DON’T put it in your title! Bad idea. You can keep the names the same in the story, just avoid making the title a chore to read. So, if you have a fantasy story that takes place in an alien kingdom called Outworld, and your main character’s name is X’iantopomophicarius… hehehe, don’t call your story “The Adventures Of X’iantopomophicarius”. Because people can’t pronounce that in their heads, and they’ll skip over it. Instead, call it “Adventures In Outworld” or something. It’s much easier to read, and much more compelling a title. Make it simple, and straight to the point. Then… when they start reading, maybe they’ll forgive the name. 😛

– Try to avoid anything too generic if you can help it. If you’re writing a story about Joey and John… try not to just call it “Joey and John”. I mean, it works, but there will be a lot of those kinds of titles in any public forum or archive. Just with the names changed. So despite that title being totally functional, it doesn’t really ‘say’ anything about the story. Think about what you’ve written or what you want to write. What are Joey and John doing? Where are they? What special events happen in this story? Maybe they go camping. Try to think up a title that goes along with that subject. Even if you just call it “Camping With Joey”, it says more than just giving the character’s names. Readers have been camping before. They might have had a few sexy experiences with friends or in the Boy Scouts or something in the past while at camp. So when they read your title, “Camping With Joey”…there’s an instant pull there. They associate camping as a teen with a sexy experience, they may associate the name ‘Joey’ with a really cute guy they knew in high school… and voila! You hooked one! 🙂 So be brief, but be descriptive. Let folks know what they’re in for.

– Try not to give away TOO much with your title either. Like, if you’re writing “The Crying Game”, don’t call it “Sweet Jesus! She’s A Man!” Because… like, why would you do that? Hehehe! Just a vague covering of what the story is about and what kind of mood your story is going to have. Nothing too specific. Nothing surrounding an event that you want to keep secret. (Unless that’s your intention, of course) Play around with a few names and find one that gives you that feeling. You know… that little smirk appears on your face, and you nod, and say to yourself… “Yeah. That’s the one.” I LOVE that feeling! 🙂

So that’s it! Pick and choose your titles carefully, because they are all telling a story of their own. Those two or three words in a title should be broadcasting just as much heart and feeling as the rest of your story. Make people stop, and do a double take, and give your story the chance it deserves. You guys know which stories you read, and which ones you scroll past without giving them a second thought. And those stories might be amazing, but most folks will never know, because it was ‘advertised’ in a way that doesn’t appeal to you. Sometimes, a new title can make all the difference.

Whether it was “Gone From Daylight”, “My Only Escape”, “On The Outside”, or “Jesse-101: Online Celebrity”… chances are, a bunch of you saw one of my titles amongst a sea of other stories… and you chose me over 100 others that day. If for no other reason than it made you curious. And I thank the stars every day for it! It means I did something right! So you guys and gals be sure to get your own titles to sparkle and shine as brightly as possible! And before you know it, readers will be flocking in to see what you’ve got to say!

Now you just have to deliver the goods when they get there! Hehehe!

This has been ‘Comsie Talks’! And I wish you all the best of luck!

Published May 1, 2013

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