Titles are Trumps!

Is it easier to write a story than to select the most appropriate title for it?

Let a title inspire you.

My fifth grade assignment was to write a poem on “the coconut tree”, and it just contained a few lines to satisfy the grammatical whims of the cantankerous language teacher we had, I went back home and belted out my anger on mommy, for having such a preposterous teacher and how the happiness in my life was sucked by the vicious coconut tree. How could someone write poetical verses on those big green coconuts, good enough to hit the school bully with? According to my ten year old fair sense of judgment, the title did not possess any mystical element attached to it which could have been glorified about.  Fascinating titles like aladdin’s magic carpet or pandora’s box, would have definitely done wonders to my grades in English that year.  However, a few years later I happened to read somewhere that the “coconut tree” indeed was a celebrity as it was an erudite poem by an eminent author. “Sweet is its shade of the coconut glade”, and a few more verses like those which I hardly bothered to commit to my memory. But it did make me realize one thing for certain- that an absolutely modest and simple title that reflects the plot is truly captivating.

The thoughts that titles evoke are always more curious, it speaks about a person’s way of thinking. I am extremely choosey and sometimes rather skeptical and even terrified of my titles, as I am scared that it might expose my ignorant imagination. I was never marvelous in titles or captions. But that did not stop me from giving these downright corny and ridiculous movie titles a battering:

Water for elephants- you hope that there might be some wisdom hiding behind a very abstract phrase like that. But then after you think about it for 10 seconds, you realize that you would be better off watering your flowerpots!

Ghost in the invisible bikini- really? The rather “creative” makers might have chosen the title in an aim to tickle your male fantasy, the adventures of the pretty ghoul who trades in her bedspread for a bikini. How bored can people get?

And sure enough, save the worst for the last- “Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?” Honestly I couldn’t care less if Hieronymus merkin is abducted by aliens.

But sometimes, a very honest plot might lose its sheen because of its title. Hence, titles in some cases are major turn offs, and on the contrary a very attractive title is cleverly deceptive in making you undergo a bout of nausea inducing gore and yucky-ness in exchange for absolutely no plot.

Sometimes, titles inspire stories. The title strikes the mind first, and then the subject follows like a dutiful dog.  The ones starting with a conjunction are far more glamorous, like “And then there were none.” Or “And the doves did sleep”. As for the latter, the subject might be an advertisement for a baby diaper brand or just a super-emotional sentimental story dealing with the conflicts of an old age couple in a crowded and polluted metropolitan city with nobody caring to follow the traffic rules.

I feel that enough thought must be given into the framing of a title such that it doesn’t give away the climax of the plot. The element of surprise, if maintained, makes it even more appealing, instead of stereotypical ones. For instance “The crushed lily”, definitely tells you as to what is going on: There is either a heart-broken male/female (metaphorically) and the other person does not care two hoots about it.

Some say it is easier to write a story than select a proper title. So, I think it is better to choose the title first. The story or article is too big to be changed whereas just the three or four words of the title, makes the reader skip or –yippie!- go through the article.

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Sanjana

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