Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"What's In A Title?"

Howdy Folks,

Titles have always been my nemesis. Photo captions, too. It seems I need to be allowed a whole pile of words to say what I'm thinking. As all Coffee Clutchers already know. That was supposed to be funny. But coming up with a few words labeled a title, that peek interest, and define the story is very hard for me. It remains a challenge for me her on this blog.

What does a title do? Hopefully it will not only catch a reader's eye, but give a clue to the story, too. It might be able to drop a hint about the tone, or mood of the story, too. In the magazines I write for not only do I have the help of extraordinary editors like Bobbie Jo Lieberman and Lisa Ross-Williams, and the being in equine magazines will prepare you for the fact it will have something to do with horses. Here in my blog, I have neither of those helpful assistants.

The other a day a friend emailed the latest title he was kicking around for his book. I knew what the book is about and the title worked, almost. Quickly I shared how I struggled with titles and explained some folks are really good at it. Just not me.
Kessy, Saturday and me writing
 But I did show how I usually handle it. Often when I’m writing stories I’ll start with a "Working Title," until something in the story shouts out the perfect title.

Happened with my novel. My working title had been Mar-Sa, the name of their ranch. Then I was writing, somewhere about page 200, Mary is just back from the doctors after her exam and telling Sam she’s not doing treatments again. He asks what’s ahead and through his tears she tells him, “We’ll have the summer.” … WOW, I thought, there is my title.

I was writing a story for Trail Blazer about the Premerian Mares and foals, and about a woman who rescues the mares who suffer horribly standing strapped up in “pee Lines” for months so their urine can be collected, and little foals that most often just get sent to auction and slaughter. The “Unnoticed” byproduct of a horrible industry. When I wrote that sentence I thought, “Noticing The Unnoticed!” what a title. The story named itself.

Another story I wrote for Trail Blazer "Carrots For The Horses" about Teresa Paradis' rescue, Live & Let Live in NH. There is sentence in the story relating a time in Teresa's youth when she would leave "carrots for the horses" in a mailbox of a farm she walked by on her way to school. There's my title, I thought.

"Tearing Down Walls" is another Trail Blazer story about the wonderful work Nancy and Rick do on their ranch in NM helping Veteran's tear down the walls of PTSD. That sentence named their story.
Other times I just struggle, but my advice to my friend was don't rush it. Let the story name itself.

By the way if you'd like to read all the stories I wrote for Trail Blazer in my Heartbeats column, just look at the banner at the top of my blog page, click on "Dutch's Articles In Trail Blazer Magazine" to find a little book they put together of just my Heartbeat stories. I hope you'll read them, all good stories of "People & horses Helping Horses & People."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry


  1. Hi Dutch,
    Titles can be tough. Like you, many of mine come to me during the course of a writing. It kind of seems like that's how it should be. A great title can really attract a reader's attention, too. One of my favorite titles is "Blue Like Jazz." Short, had some punch, left me curious. So I picked it up from my husband's reading pile and stole it from him :-)

    Great post.
    Sharon Struth

  2. Titles are very hard, Dutch. I agree with you on that one. I used a line I loved in my book...Moon Over Alcatraz... when the couple are looking out their window at the San Francisco bay and see Alcatraz with the moon hanging above it like a medallion. It just sang to me for some reason. You DO just have to let it come to you and not try too hard.