Suspend Your Disbelief

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Titles to Avoid

Trimalchio in West Egg. A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis. Catch-18. Even the greats struggle with their titles sometimes, toying with titles like these before settling on The Great Gatsby, Portnoy’s Complaint, and Catch-22.

So what makes a good title–or a bad one? Author and teacher Eric Puchner has some thoughts in GlimmerTrain’s latest bulletin:

So, based on years of teaching, I’ve compiled the following list of types of TITLES TO AVOID. (Note: some of the examples below are real titles, from good stories.)

  • The Purely Descriptive: “One Early Morning in Topeka at Dawn”
  • The Lofty Abstraction, AKA the Bad Kundera: “The Lonely Shackles of Mortality”
  • The Hardy Boys Special: “The Hike from Hell”
  • The Grammatically Complete Sentence: “Gladys Pemberton Strikes It Rich”
  • The Inspirational Cliché: “Dreams of Rebirth”
  • The Uninspirational Cliché: “Losing My Marbles”
  • The Alliterative Tongue Twister: “Peripatetic Papa”
  • The Allusion to Another, Much More Famous Work of Literature: “The Story of Christ”
  • The It-Doesn’t-Get-Any-Cuter-Than-This: “Runaway Grandma”
  • The Melodramatic Image: “Blood Dries Brown”
  • The My-Life-Changed-Unexpectedly-and-I’m-Going-to-Tell-You-About-It: “Epiphany in a Tattoo Parlor”
  • The Bad McSweeney: “How We Lie to the Moon, and How the Moon Lies to Us”
  • The Scratch ‘n Sniff, AKA But-It-Will-Make-Such-a-Lovely-Cover-Someday: “In the Valley of the Gardenia Blossoms”

Or, if you’re desperate, there’s always this.

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