Titular Troubles

Names, names, names.

One thing I have heard over and over in the writing community is that naming your work is hard. It’s rough coming up with a catchy title, something that not only snags the attention of the fickle reader, but that also encompasses the entirety of the work in just a few words. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with naming my work.

Of course I’m married to the King of Nomenclature, so it’s easy for me.

Oh? You don’t know him? Then allow me to introduce you to Mr. Tony Brown, King of Naming Things. I don’t know how he does it, but he pulls clever names out of his hat faster than a jackrabbit hauling ass from a burning den. All I have to do is describe the tale, and voilà! I am living large with a title I can be proud of.

And no, you can’t borrow him. He works for me. So you just back off!

Yeah, sorry about that, but I gets possessive of my teddy bear.

What are the rest of you poor mortals going to do about your naming blues? While I did my best to interrogate … I mean interview, yeah, interview my big guy about his naming process, he wasn’t very forthcoming with results. He says, and I quote, “You just look at a thing and know its name. It just comes to me. Sorry.”

Instead, I’ll try to give a few points of advice on how I choose titles. After all, Tony doesn’t name all of my work. Just most of it. Okay, he names the overwhelming majority, true, but I have been known to come up with a wing dinger of a title on my own.

The reason I think people have so much trouble naming work is because they want their titles to mean something more than just what the story is about. You just spent two weeks cranking out a five thousand word short story with depth and breadth and life and meaning, and you want your title to reflect your hard work. So you bang your head against the wall trying to make the title as artsy and edgy and eye catching as you possibly can. This can easily be a mistake. Don’t put too much work into it. The title is a first impression for your reader, true, but once they start reading it the title will melt to the background and your work will come to light.

When stumped for a title, I find that a good method is lifting one of the phrases from the piece for a title. Some clever piece of dialogue always makes for a good title.

Another good trick is just calling it what it is. Just name it what the piece is about. One story I did was about shoes, so the title became simply Shoes. Granted each shoe contained a disarticulated, rotting foot, but the story is just Shoes, not Disarticulated Rotting Foot Filled Shoes. That would just be silly.

Character names always go a long way in helping folks figure out what a story is going to be like. Just give it the moniker of your main character. Slap on the name of your main man or woman and you have an instant title.

The best method is just let the work title itself. Read it aloud and the first thing that leaps to mind when you’re done can make for a great title. An emotion evoked by the work, an old cliché that stands out, even something that at first glance looks like it has nothing to do with the piece, until you start to really think about it.

I hope I have helped a little in your naming quests. If you want to borrow the King, just ask nicely and I'll see if he is available.

On a side note, I have logged all of my submissions and decided to share the list with you guys. Not meant to be a bragging thing, it's just a 'hey look what I done!' thing. Enjoy!


Burst Literary ezine (Fall 2008)- Predator

Macabre Cadaver (Issue #4)- Snake Oil

Steampunk Tales (Issue #5)- Cold Boiler Blues

Steampunk Tales (Issue #9)- Calliope

Zygote in My Coffee (Issue #121)- Forever Young

Morpheus Tales (Issue #6)- Killing Heaven

Morpheus Tales (Undead Special)- Sweet Bread

The Monster Next Door (Issue #7)- Sunshine

Eclectic Flash (April 2010)- Heart of The Matter

Tales of World War Z (October 2010)- Promises to Keep

Alien Skin Magazine (April/May 2010)- Routine

Flashes in the Dark (August 2010)- Cry Wolf


Undead in The Head Poetry (Coscom Entertainment)- Only Flesh

Letters From The Dead (Library of the Living Dead)- Rebecca

Eye Witness Zombie (May December Publishing)- Doomsday Rambling

Tooth Decay (Sonar 4)- Sweet Tooth

Tooth Decay (Sonar 4)- Stage Fright

Ladies of Horror (Sonar 4)- Yearning

Ladies of Horror (Sonar 4)- Good Food, Good Meat

Hungry for Your Love (Ravenous Romans, St Martin’s Press)- Undying Love

Zombidays (Library of the Living Dead)- Caveat Emptor

Best New Zombie Tales III (Books of the Dead)- Sweet Bread

Ladies of Horror (Library of the Living Dead)- Nearly Departed

Daily Flashes of Erotica (Pill Hill Press)- Five More Miles

Daily Flashes of Erotica (Pill Hill Press)- Hard Lesson

Gone With The Dirt (Pill Hill Press)- Civil Unrest

Risen Cadaver Collaboration (Library of the Living Dead)- Zombies are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other, with Bill Tucker

D.O.A. (Blood Bound Books)- Sickened

Twisted Fish (Living Dead Press)- Careful What You Fish For

Probing Uranus (Library of Science Fiction)- Head Games

Groanology I (Library of Horror)- House Rules

Groanology II (Library of Horror)- Survivors Anonymous

Malicious Deviance (Library of Horror)- Mr. Banjo

Rapid Decomposition (Library of the Living Dead)- Change of Heart

Rapid Decomposition (Library of the Living Dead)- Just Another Meal


Phaze- Flirting With Death

Lyrical Press- Clockworks and Corsets

Lyrical Press- Pistons and Pistols

Sugar and Spice- Burn

Sonar 4- The Blooming


Sugar and Spice- Epiphany

Sugar and Spice- White Elephant

Library of Erotic Horror- Lucky Stiff: Memoirs of an Undead Lover