Friday, November 8, 2019

Fighting Kittens and Other Titles

As I sit in my eighth grade daughter's room, watching our two newest rescue kittens race around and play, I'm struck by the many ways I can describe their behavior. But more importantly, for this post, I'm going to use it to illustrate a few points about titles.

Coupled with cover art, titles are a hook. Unless the shopper goes to the store specifically looking for your book, they'll probably be browsing titles. You want that shopper to read your title and pick up your book. Duh. Now, publishers will generally decide your title for you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about it at all. I think some authors don't give enough thought to their titles in their book's early manuscript form.

I like my manuscript (and chapter) titles to do several things for me.

1. Raise questions. Are the kittens fighting each other? Is the MC fighting kittens? How serious is the fight? What's at stake? Why are they fighting? You see, if I can engage the reader with my title, they'll keep reading. (I hope.)

2. I like immediate conflict. Fight is an action word which insinuates conflict. That seems to me to be a pretty good reason to open the book. Action = pacing in many regards. Keep it moving, especially for MG readers.

3. Word order is important. That's true no matter what you're writing. But if you're crafting a title, you need to pick these words very carefully. What if I'd titled this blog post, Kittens Fighting? That might evoke a different visual for the reader than the title Fighting Kittens. Right? Maybe that's not as interesting as Fighting Kittens.

4. Market with your title. No matter the word order in my title, I want my title to have a certain click-baity feel about it. Who doesn't love kittens, right? And what if they're fighting? OMG! I have to check that out! (Like it or not, that's the way marketing often works these days.)

5. Elements of truth are necessary. I prefer my titles of chapters and books to contain truth in order that the reader doesn't feel cheated. Though these kittens are mostly play-fighting, they are having their serious conflicts. At least six times already they've appeared ready to kill each other. They haven't though, so calm down. As soon as it gets really intense, one kitten runs away and hides under the bed, or in one of the cardboard boxes my daughter carefully set up. But so far, though they are really just play-fighting. No blood has been drawn.

(If I'd titled this blog post TITLES, you might not have clicked our link and visited our blog, because, let's face it, TITLES is so...ho-hum. You'd have passed right on by, and my co-bloggers and I would not have had the chance to connect with you. That would have been sad.)

Here's a list of some kidlit titles that have what I'm talking about.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
My Seventh Grade Life in Tights
The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

Whether I'm creating a title for a manuscript or chapter, writing the title first helps me to stay on track with the story. It helps me prioritize certain elements of the following section - which helps me as a writer. Further, the right title with the right cover art will surely elevate a book's chance of readership. And that helps me as an author! Good luck with your titles!


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