Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's In a Name or Title?

If you read any of my poetry on this site, you'll find the poems often lack titles. I rarely come up with words that seem appropriate. Naming my child was easier than the task of choosing titles for poems, articles, and blog posts. And my dissertation? That took months to title and it's nothing to write home about!

Over at The, Eric Puchner has written blurb #14 entitled The Land of Underwater Birds, in which he asks "What makes a good title? What makes a bad one? And how do you know when you’ve found the right one?" Here's an excerpt.
The honest truth is I struggle with titles myself. On the one hand, they seem like the least important part of the writing process: Shouldn’t the story or novel speak for itself? On the other, they’re the first words anyone reads, and in some respect the most important words of all—what we sniff before ordering the bottle.
In addition to his exposition on titles, he talks briefly about the book Deepening Fiction by Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren. It lessened the angst I feel about all the crap I write before getting to the good stuff. Here's an excerpt.
[They] talk about the idea of creative beginnings versus actual beginnings: Even if we end up cutting the original “creative beginning” of a novel or short story—the part of the novel or story, often, that we’re most attached to—this doesn’t mean it’s not an essential part of the writing process. In some ways, it’s the most essential.
It's a wonderful piece, so do head over and check out The Land of Underwater Birds.


  1. Thanks for pointing me to this article - titles are difficult, especially for poems.

    I realized earlier this week that one of the main problems with at least two of my poems was that the title was all wrong, because it didn't set the proper tone (or echo the tone of the poem it names).

  2. I frequently don't name my poems either. Either that, or I just use the first line. But once in a while, the title suggests the poem. So it was with my submission for this week's poetry stretch, which was suggested by my misreading of a title of something else.