Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Misleading Titles

By Darvell Hunt

A title that doesn’t match a story can kill its chances for success. Unfortunately, new authors have very little control of the title that goes on their first book—but I believe we should still try our best.

Yesterday, my wife and I took our nine-year-old daughter to a movie and dinner for her birthday—along with the rest of our family. My daughter loves dogs. She loves anything and everything dog-related.

So, of course, we went to see Hotel for Dogs. I was not looking forward to going at all, but that was her movie choice and that’s what good dads do.

Well, surprise: I liked it! I wasn’t a great movie, but it wasn’t nearly as stupid as I was expecting—which was a cutesy little doggie movie, akin to Teletubbies or maybe Dora the Explorer. I actually found it to be a decent movie for kids—and of course my daughter loved it.

I’m not sure what there was about the title of Hotel for Dogs that turned me off, but it did. It’s not that the movie wasn’t about a hotel for dogs, either. Somehow the title just seemed like something targeted toward three-year-olds.

In my own writing, I try to create appealing titles for my stories. I like my titles to be true to the content and genre of the story. If a publisher accepts one of my stories, they are likely going to change the title anyway, but I still think it’s important to start with a good working title. Sometimes a good name comes to me before I begin writing and sometimes it doesn’t show itself until I’ve gone through the story many times.

The first words anybody will ever read of your story are the words of the title—even before the first page is read. In a market where it’s so hard to catch anybody’s attention, your title better do a good job.

Well, I have to get back to writing my story, The Martian Horse Fell on My Purple Pig. It’s about a little boy in New York City who finds a toad in the street and takes it home for a pet. I’m hoping to have the rough draft finished soon.

No comments: