Saturday, November 17, 2018

How to Brainstorm Titles

There are three kinds of writers in the world. The kind who can come up with jaw-dropping titles in seconds, the kind who struggle but consider their titles "okay", and the kind who cannot create a title to save their life.

I fall into the second category, but over my years of struggling to create titles, I've managed to compile a list of key elements necessary to consider when brainstorming a title, plus some helpful methods! So if you're not sure what to title a story or blog post, hopefully these tips will help you out!

Before you start jumbling and mixing words around, there are three key aspects you need to know first:

Your Audience

This one is fairly straight forward. If your book is YA, your audience is young adults (and a fairly big chunk of adults who read YA too). If you write for children, it will be children. Adult fiction for adults, and so on. Your audience will have a certain vocabulary, and so if you're writing for kindergartners, "The Luminescence of Twilight Lampyridae" is not an appropriate title. How will they be able to tell someone what their favourite book is? Something like "Fireflies' Journey to the Moon" might be better.

Your Genre

Readers of each genre have specific expectations of what a title in their genre will sound like. For example, in fantasy, most book titles have "queen" "king" "prince" "shadow" "crown" "empire" and so on in them. Or they have specific phrasing like "___ of ___" and "____ of ____ and ____". When I browse through Goodreads or a website, and skim book titles, these expectations help me to quickly determine whether or not I'll click on a book. Make sure you know the expectation of what titles will sound like in your genre, so you don't lose any readers!

Your Intention

Intention can span a variety of areas. There's the intention of the effect on the reader (such as creating a title that evokes mystery), the intention of your words (such as inspiring someone with your blog post), and your intention for the future of the your story (such as starting a series). All of these will impact what title you create. Let's run with the series example. Titles in a series need to be consistent, so that readers can easily pick up that they're linked, which is what Holly Black has done with "The Cruel Prince" and "The Wicked King". So if you plan to write a series, aim for titles which can relate to each other!

Now that we have that all figured out, here are some ideas of how to brainstorm your title if you're stuck:

A Couple Brainstorming Methods

- Make a Word Aesthetic List: Think of words that relate to your story or settling, and try playing around with them in different ways and orders. For example, there's Tammy Lash's "White Wolf and the Ash Princess".   
- Take Inspiration From a Key Line: Find a line you love in your story or article, and use all or a snippet of it as your title. Sarah J Maas has done this a lot, such as in "Queen of Shadows".
-State It For What It IsSometimes simple and sweet works, and leaves an impact. Take a key word or idea from the article, like a blog post titled "How to Use Scrivener". It also works for books, such as Nadine Brandes' "Fawkes".
- Pull From the Theme: Brainstorm a list of words or phrases that relate to the theme or message of the story, then think of some ways to express it more artistically or vaguely. This is what C. G. Drews did with "A Thousand Perfect Notes".
- Focus on Character: Think of ways to describe your character, their relationships, or what they do. This is common in a lot of historical novels which use some variation on "The ____'s Daughter/Son". As another example, Mary Weber used her character's name in "The Evaporation of Sofi Snow" to create intrigue.

And there you have it, some key considerations when brainstorming titles, and some ways to create them! I hope you might now have inspiration or an idea of how to form yours!

How do you brainstorm titles? Have you seen any patterns in titles in regards to audience/genre? What's your WIP's title and how did you come up with it?

~~Melissa Gravitis~~ 

Melissa Gravitis is a Christian teen writer with a Thai heart, Aussie heritage, and international blood. Growing up overseas, she developed a passion for following dreams, and crafting Young Adult stories with vibrant worlds and characters that pop off the page. Though she doesn’t own any pets (yet), she has imaginary friends called Characters that she spends most of her days with. When she’s not with them, she’s jamming to music, sketching, or burying herself in books. You can read her thoughts and follow her writing progress on her blog, Quill Pen Writer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Balanced Writing: Guest Post by Jessi Roberts

Note from Keturah Lamb: Hey, I'd like to introduce you all to my friend, Jessi Roberts, whom I met at the Realm Maker's conference a couple years ago. She writes sci-fi stories centered around aliens and is an overall fun person to talk to — Love how she thinks critically about interesting subjects! I hope you all will enjoy what she has to share today!

When it comes to writing, there’s a line authors sometimes debate about, and that is the line between writing clean fiction and writing realistic fiction.

I’ve thought about this myself. While I don’t believe it’s wrong to put swear words in stories, I don’t use them, other than references to “h***” as a place. It would make my audience smaller, and since it feels unnatural to me, I might use them in a way that doesn’t feel realistic.

Some authors try to show that what the characters are doing is wrong, but when I feel the author’s view coming through and telling me the POV character is doing something wrong, it takes me out of the story. I’m supposed to be in the POV character’s head, not the author’s. These stories often come across as preachy, a problem common in the Christian and general market.

I like to portray morally diverse characters since that’s how life is. 

I might show a good soldier on one side, but he could be in opposition to insurgents who are also portrayed positively. I leave it up to the readers to decide what that soldier should be doing. In some story lines, I might have him change sides, or I might only mention him/her in passing and not expand on what’s going to happen to him/her.

In these cases, I think it’s fine for the readers to think about it and come to their own conclusions. I don’t believe it’s likely they’d be harmed if they chose the “wrong” outlook. I got them to think about it, and if they’re thinking about it, I figure I accomplished my goal.

I also have characters who are “good guys” but may have some beliefs I disagree with, such as racism/ speciesism or slave trading. I figure that, because society opposes these beliefs strongly, there is little chance my readers would become like the characters being portrayed.

However, there are a few things I have decided I will never portray without showing it as a bad idea. Homosexual relationships, fornication, lying for selfish reasons, and disrespect of (good) parents.

Why won’t I portray these in passing like slave traders, racism, and other issues? Because unlike those issues, our society is confused about these. 

When society doesn’t know something is wrong, authors have to be much more careful about portraying them. 

We can mention some things in passing, or even portray the characters as allies to the good guys without harming the reader because the reader will know those things are wrong, but if the reader is unsure something is wrong, we must be more careful not to normalize sinful behavior.

 What about you, readers? What are some things you won’t show?

About Jessi Roberts:
I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens.

I’ve been published in the October 2015 and April 2016 issues of Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickety Publishing Group.

You can connect with Jessi on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.