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Say My Name: Titles

Banes at 12:00AM, Nov. 19, 2015
tags: titles

Say My Name

There are titles that fit perfectly with their subject, titles that could fit multiple subjects/contexts, and titles that don't work at all.
Recently I've seen several titles referenced that made me say “I HAVE to see that/read that!”. I'll share those at the end of the article.
A title can be handy if it tells you exactly what a piece of work is: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Jay's Internet Fight Club. The 40 Year Old Virgin.

I like titles like that. An actual statement of what you're getting, usually with a suggestion of the tone you'll be getting.

The title can also be a NAME. Probably the main character's name (though not always). Dracula. Superman. Archie. Forrest Gump. Charby the Vampirate. Calvin & Hobbes. Pinky TA.

A common, and interesting title can be an ASPECT of the story, that suggests a tone: JAWS. TREMORS. SCREAM. It's kind of neat how JAWS and TREMORS are very similar types of titles for very similar movies. Halloween and Friday the 13th, too.

Similarly, an unusual word or phrase can be cool. It's the kind of thing that makes a reader or viewer want to know what it means. This is a riskier approach, but can help a work stand out and remain memorable/recommendable with its unusual moniker: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Transneptunian. The Godstrain. The Silence of the Lambs.

Riskiest of all could be the “play on words” or “joke” title. These can be eye-catching, but could potentially lose their charm with repeated or extended exposure: The Santa Clause, Monster-In-Law, Chopping Mall, A Million to Juan, or The Earth, A Small Man, his Dog and a Chicken (that was an REO Speedwagon album).

Then there are phrases that could mean anything, and are potentially too vague. Sometimes they work, sometimes not: For Love or Money, Oblivion, From the Earth to the Moon, Diamonds are Forever, Something's Gotta Give.

A good title should either give some information on what it's about, or the tone of a piece of work, or promise SOMETHING, or create some kind of question or intrigue…or all of the above, if possible.

The title that caught my eye recently is for an anime. I don't know anything about it, but the title made me laugh and I'm going to have to watch it:
I couldn't become a hero, so i reluctantly decided to get a job
This promises a certain type of hero I think, and a certain kind of tone. I want to see it! I wonder if it'll be any good…

What are your favorite/least favorite titles? How do you go about finding titles for your work?



AzuJOD at 1:14AM, Nov. 20, 2015

As a fan of indie video games, I believe the best titles are the ones that contain more than one word, like Shovel Knight or Freedom Planet. It makes them easier to search for on Google and the like. Maybe that's why not many people have watched Archer.

Banes at 10:21PM, Nov. 19, 2015

Good example, Archer. I heard good things so gave it a chance, but mostly I watched because I loved the previous series by the same guy, called "Frisky Dingo" (a bizarre title that suited that series well).

Ozoneocean at 8:20PM, Nov. 19, 2015

Kim has the right idea. It doesn't have to be complex, just as long as it has a reference to what it's about. "Agent Archer" sounds twee, but it works in a practical sense a lot better than "Archer". There are all sorts of variations like "Double Oh Archer", "Codename: Archer" (though it's not a code name), "OO Archer", "Secret Archer", Licensed to kill: Archer" and so on...

KimLuster at 7:52PM, Nov. 19, 2015

I like Archer, but mainly because I saw previews and it looked awesome. A better name...? Perhaps 'Agent Archer'...? I dunno...

Gunwallace at 12:15PM, Nov. 19, 2015

I've noticed a lot of people I know who would love the show 'Archer' have not watched it. I asked a few of them lately and they all assumed it was like Green Arrow or something about a guy with a bow. There's a danger in the one word title/name when it doesn't refer to anything the show is about. What would be a better title for that show?

darkace at 8:36AM, Nov. 19, 2015

The title of my comic here on the Duck (ViXXXen Force) is pretty much a "play on words." The XXX on ViXXXen, of course represents the obvious, since it is an Adults Only comic, but the XXX also symbolizes the 3 heroines that make up the team.

fallopiancrusader at 8:18AM, Nov. 19, 2015

Then there are titles that are far better than the work itself, like "Surf Nazis must die" (1987, dir. Peter George)

KimLuster at 6:34AM, Nov. 19, 2015

Sorta related - beware of Names that are too long... I love Meatloaf (the singer, not the food), but Good Lord the names of some of his songs...! "I would do anything for love (but I won't do that)...", "Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are..." When it comes to song titles those guys need an editor more than Ann Rice does...!!

KimLuster at 6:32AM, Nov. 19, 2015

Another fantastic subject Banes! I tend to like the 'unusual' risky titles that hopefully hint at the subject and are mysteriously cryptic enough to spark interest. I'm tickled that you included 'The Godstrain' as such an example (twas my intention). A song example I like is Bohemian Rhapsody! Would it be the megahit it became if it was called 'Mama I just killed a man...'?

bravo1102 at 5:06AM, Nov. 19, 2015

You're absolutely right. Some writers say "why didn't I think of that" when some non-clever but obvious title is put on the work. Though I must say that Last Man on Earth was the marketing title because it was being marketed to the 1960 horror movie market where hokey obvious grab by the throat titles were the rule. Omega Man was the early 1970 enigmatic titling.

Ozoneocean at 4:28AM, Nov. 19, 2015

Most marketing titles are better than what the creator came up with originally, despite a few exceptions. Creators can often be so wanky and pretentious, or just don't have a clue how to sell their stuff. There ARE creator titles that are great though: when they add extra meaning to the work like "I am Legend" by Richard Matherson. The title has ALL the meaning... Then there's all the AWFUL movie adaptions that miss the point of the clever title mess up everything else too: The Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price, Omega Man with Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend with Will Smith.

bravo1102 at 3:50AM, Nov. 19, 2015

I think that some titles are just trying too hard. Like single words as in Jaws and nearly everything else Peter Benchley wrote. But then we have to realize a lot of commercial property the title is created by marketing types to pinpoint a specific audience. I know some authors and some editors and titles are usually chosen or assigned by anybody but the creator.

Ozoneocean at 12:24AM, Nov. 19, 2015

For comics it's different of course... you can do what you like. My preference is for something eye-catching that relates in some way to the story content, that slightly, every so slightly suggests what's happening.

Ozoneocean at 12:22AM, Nov. 19, 2015

I thought about this the other day in regards to song titles: obscure stuff just doesn't work well for a pop-song. They're commercial properties and now more than ever you need something that is identifiable and relatable to the thing it's naming or it won't sell- i.e. you name a pop-song after the chorus because that way people can more easily search it out or maybe, just maybe ask someone at a record shop about it... or a friend or family member. For classical music, jazz and all that... jazz... it didn't mater so much because those weren't meant to be played fast back to back on the radio, and when they WERE played on the radio they'd always be introduced reverently.

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