SHOW DON’T TELL: A PERSONAL DEMONSTRATION by Miko Johnston

One of the first rules of writing I learned was the mantra “Show, don’t Tell”. I’ve lost count of how many times I heard this advice “told”, but ironically, I’ve never been “shown” how to do it. If you agree, read on, for I will “show” you my version of Show, don’t Tell with a demonstration of what I call forensic editing – a way to improve writing line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. And I’m going to use a sample of my own work to illustrate how it’s done.

I’ve never shown a rough draft of my writing to anyone before, but I want to give you real “before and after” examples. Below you’ll find the original version of Page one from my novel, A Petal in the Wind III: The Great War. I’ll guide you through an analysis of its many flaws and correct them using forensic editing. Let’s begin:

Lala Hafstein stepped out of the taxi in front of her house. Still a charming two story stone cottage, she observed, surrounded by blooming rose bushes and bathed in mid-afternoon sunshine. The cherry tree was bare of fruit, but the walnut tree was laden, the plums needed harvesting, and apples and pears would soon ripen on their respective trees. A typical early August day in Bohemia, she thought, even if absolutely nothing else was remotely so.

A sense of déjà vu enveloped her as she clutched her travel satchel to her chest and stepped aside. Her parents entered the house, followed by the driver who assisted in bringing in their travel trunks. Lala went inside as well and looked around. The gilt-framed mirror still hung in the entryway above the walnut cabinet her father had constructed decades ago in his carpentry shop in Prague. The parlor, filled with a mix of old and recent pieces acquired through inheritance and her father’s masterful woodworking skills, was as they’d left it save for a trace of dust. She wondered if Hilde, their maid, had been in for over a week. Her life, like everyone else’s, was interrupted nine days earlier, when Emperor Franz Josef directed the bombing of Belgrade in retaliation for the assassination of his nephew by Serbian nationalists.  #

Yikes!

Consider an ideal page one. The opening sentence functions as the “hello” to the story, grabbing the reader’s attention. The first page must coax you into the first chapter and hold your interest. It should give readers a sense of the who, what, wherewhen, why and how of the story. Usually the who – your protagonist – is foremost. Page one lays the path to the when and where (is this taking place) and the what (is going on), which eventually leads to the how (the story will play out) and why (it’s important).  This version fails on most accounts.

 

Let’s review the first sentence:

Lala Hafstein stepped out of the taxi in front of her house.

 

The who is clear, the where not so much. We know she’s home, but where is home? What is significant about her coming home? How does that intrigue the reader?

 

This opening line is neither dramatic nor engaging.

 

The rest of the first paragraph provides some setting details with imagery. We learn where, in Bohemia, and when this takes place, August. But with summer fruit at its peak and fall fruit soon to harvest, readers might figure out this must be late summer anyway. Not until the end of the paragraph’s final line, …even if absolutely nothing else was remotely so, do we get a hint that all is not what it appears to be. This may be too subtle or cryptic to hook readers.  

 

A dissection of the paragraph shows it’s moving in the right direction, but fails to engage readers. It conveys very little for the valuable real estate it occupies.  

 

The next paragraph shows Lala’s been traveling with her parents. The déjà vu reference harkens back to something that occurred in the first Petal novel. As this is Book III, many readers might not recall this and make the connection. The rest frontloads the page with backstory. The implication, that on the surface things look the same but really aren’t, repeats what was in the first paragraph. And we still don’t know why that is until the end of the page. I knew the bombing of Belgrade marked the actual launch of the first World War, but to readers that reference might be vague; not everyone spent months researching the subject like I did. Worse, I reveal WWI’s onset in an undramatic way, telling rather than showing. Not much of a pay-off for the “things are different now” scenario I imply, nor an irresistible way to end page one.

The opening also falls into a classic trap by limiting Showing to visuals – no scents, no sounds.

 

Now let’s examine how to fix these weaknesses:

 

1- Write an opening line that entices the reader and alludes to what will transpire.

 

Lala Hafstein stepped out of the taxi in front of her house does not accomplish this. My first revision:

 

Lala Hafstein stepped out of the taxi laden with trunks and valises in front of her house.

 

A little better. We surmise she’s been traveling, but we don’t know how she feels upon returning or what her return means, so back to work. My final version of the opening sentence:

 

Relief washed over Lala Hafstein as the taxi laden with trunks and valises came to a stop in front of her family’s house.

 

Relief. That exposes her state of mind. We know what that looks like and feels like. The word captures our interest, puts the rest of the paragraph in perspective, and also mirrors the ending. Woo-hoo, triple points.

 

2- Shore up the sensory details that lead to the teaser at the end of the opening paragraph.

 

I amended it so her parents now exit the taxi with Lala, but I got rid of the procession entering the house. Lala remains outside while the driver unloads the luggage, so I focused on better illustrating the where instead of the home’s interior. What began as a purely visual description:

 

Still a charming two story stone cottage, she observed, surrounded by blooming rose bushes and bathed in mid-afternoon sunshine….  became:    

 

As she inhaled the scent of roses warmed by the afternoon sun, Lala looked over the property. The two-story stone cottage perched on a hill, overlooking rolling plains sectioned by thickets of forest….

 

Adding relatable sensory details beyond visuals, and broadening the setting, vivifies the where.

 

3- Eliminate the repetition and make the reveal about the war’s onset more impactful.

 

Having Lala wonder what the maid experienced, which is third hand information, dulled the impact. The most visceral reveal would be through her first-hand perspective, but Lala wasn’t there. I went with the next best thing, a creative solution based on logic. Curious to know, she would ask, “What was it like here when it began? How did you know?” to someone who was there – the taxi driver. In the final version, Lala does that:

 

The driver understood, for he answered without hesitation. “Church bells, Miss. The church bells rang out.” He stood up and with head bent, took off his cap and held it against his heart as if facing a coffin. “Not just our church bells, but you could hear them ringing off in the distance, from every town and hamlet in the region, ringing for a long, long time. We knew then our empire was at war.”

As he described that moment, Lala could almost hear church bells clanging from near and far.

 

Now we not only understand what has happened, we feel it through the taxi driver’s firsthand account of the moment the war began. By establishing it with sensory detail – in this case, sound – readers, like Lala, can virtually hear the church bells clanging as we listen to the man’s response and see his physical reaction. I can also see readers turning the page to find out what happens next.  

 

 

If you would like to see the first page as published, click on  this link:

Click on “LOOK INSIDE” and scroll to Chapter One. The entire first chapter is available.

CLOSER by G.B. Pool

Launch Date is Here….

 

The old adage says to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but what if you don’t know who your friends are?

When the wife of an LAPD captain turns up dead on the pier in Santa Isabel, a relatively peaceful town along the coast in Central California, Police Lieutenant Shelby Ann Webb figures there’s a story there somewhere. She doesn’t realize the backstory will involve not only the captain, but also a big-time operator in illegal drug trafficking, a handful of characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, and some people very close to Shelby herself.

Shelby had her own troubles in L.A. before she was basically forced to leave the LAPD. Will her past hold her back in trying to solve this murder? Someone asked her what she would do if someone she cared about did something very wrong. Now she has to answer that question.

Don’t turn your back… It’s getting closer…

 

NOW on Amazon.com

Book is available on Amazon.Closer Cover with Title

Promoting Pointers

     by Jill Amadio

 

MegaphoneDo you spend time each week promoting your books? Many of us loathe having to leave our fascinating work-in-progress and slog through the various social and publicity sites. While there are tons of how-to books out there to provide guidelines, there’s nothing like hearing expertise straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

 

One of the hardest working U.S. publicists with a long list of international fiction and non-fiction clients is Penny Sansevieri. She’s a whiz on how to grab publicity, and writes a free tips blog on her web site, www.amarketingexpert.com.

 

She has written several books on marketing including her latest, “50 Ways to Sell a Sleigh-Load of Books,” and “How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book.”  I wish I had read the latter after my traditional publisher went belly-up and I re-released my mysteries with KDP on amazon. I missed several ways to promote them including asking for reviews from new readers and new Facebook friends. Here are some tips Penny recently revealed:

 

  1. Create an eBook. More and more readers buy kindles and iPads.

 

  1. Write for popular blogs like The Writers in Residence (sorry, I added that myself!) Social media, said Penny, can be a black hole in effectiveness so choose wisely. Build a fan base by writing a newsletter and/or a blog for your web site. Knowing your core reader through your fan list is a must. You might divide the list into general mailings, fan reviewers, and a super-fan group. If your readers are on Twitter then there is no need to be on Facebook. Time is limited so spend the time and investment finding where your readers are. If social media is part of your overall campaign, don’t spend more than ten percent of your time there. For a quick and easy way to find out where your readers are, follow the big authors in your genre and watch where those authors are investing their social media efforts. This will tell you a lot, especially if they have much engagement on particular sites that you may not have considered using.
  • Add content to your amazon.com author page periodically.
  1. Assess the market. An important part of that is your book cover. If your publisher produces one you don’t like, complain.
  2. Give yourself time for your book to get some traction. Allow at least 90 days to get reviews and gain exposure.
  3. If your settings are real places, set up library and bookstore events there. Or find a similar setting and compare them, and target their local media.
  4. Call radio stations weeks ahead to set up phone interviews.
  5. Set up virtual events. For instance, if you have a book, say a YA that resonates with schools, you could do Skype events, which are very popular with schools, or Skype events for book clubs.
  6. For indie authors in general the best way to maximize exposure is to take a hard and realistic look at who your core readership is.
  7. Personal recommendations are 95 percent of books sold and are the best and most powerful marketing you can have. However, only three percent of readers will review your book without any prompting. Solution? Include back matter asking for a book review, or to contact you directly, plus a reader letter that asks for sign-ups.
  8. Send out ARCs. Amazon will be doing them soon so authors can order copies. Or send out review copies of your manuscript nicely set up like book pages when your book is 90 percent complete. Include high-profile bloggers and media.
  9. Following other authors is a terrific way to share your recommendations and network. Help big authors with launches by sharing their newest titles in your social feed. Share content, and, guess what, when it comes time for you to promote the book, they’ll be sharing your stuff too.

 

Penny told me that she loves giveaways whether you’re doing a Goodreads giveaway or an eBook promotion. As an indie author you have full control of your book’s success. How about discounts on your books? This is called ‘stacking’ and quite literally refers to the piling up of multiple promotional opportunities that are important to an indie author. Once your discount eBook price and dates are set, it doesn’t stop there. Research all the opportunities available to ensure the discount dates are seen by as many readers (and potential fans) as possible. Keep it varied and have a mix of both free and paid opportunities.

Climbing Books

‘Free’ is a bonus if you don’t have much of a marketing budget. Submit your promo to all of the free sites you can find since placement isn’t guaranteed. Remember, it’s easy on the bank account, so embrace the legwork. Paid opportunities vary in pricing but no matter what, if they charge you, you get what you pay for, so you can count on that exposure. Have a budget for every discount eBook promotion you can do, however small. For the amount of quality exposure to real readers, Penny suggests a budget of between $50-$100 if you’re doing book promotions once a quarter. As for a discount price for your book, aim for no more than $1.99 if you can’t offer it for free, Keep it at that price for five days.

sign

Marketing sites online include many to which you can submit discounted books. They include BookBub which is the Holy Grail. They are tough to get into so submit every month no matter what, because the time you do get up on that site is a different level of book marketing. Also, Free Kindle Books & Tips has a free author newsletter; other sites include Frugal Freebies; Indie Book of the Day, and StoryFinds. Paid sites include Awesome Gang that also has an interview option; Book Bassett that includes an indie author guest post; Bargain Booksy; BookGorilla; eBooksHabit for paid and free options; Digital Book Today, paid and free, and two other paid sites, Booklemur, and BookGoodies.

 

That’s an awful lot of advice from a real pro, so I shall end this blog, fellow authors, and get myself in gear to follow as much as I can. Still, I would much rather be writing my next mystery!

 

(Posted by G.B. Pool for Jill Amadio.)

Some Thoughts on Sex…

by M.M. Gornell

My post’s title[i] was intended to garner interest, and if it did get your interest—hope it’s not too much of a disappointment that I’m referring to having a protagonist with a different gender than one’s self.

I recently had a “writing surprise” on my winding writing-trail-adventure. Which in turn led to my gender thoughts… And here’s the path of how I got here:

  • I’ve been working over a year on a third Rhodes novel, finally finished it, but during rewriting/editing several weeks ago, decided I didn’t like it. This is a completely new writing-happening for me. Especially at this point in a work. Why didn’t I dump it a long time ago? What was this new perspective that turned me off? Most probably, I will revisit one day with these very questions, but for now, Rhodes – The Caretakers is now a lonely file on my backup drive—maybe never to be seen again.

It’s a strange feeling, having really enjoyed writing the story for so long—then dumping it out of the blue. Nonetheless, I’ve moved on to a new novel.

  • Rosemary Lord’s post on de-cluttering a month ago really hit home when I tried to open a file cabinet drawer, and it got stuck on the hinges because the drawer was too full with to-be-filed “important stuff” jammed into it. Then an hour (exaggeration) down the road later of wrestling with it, accompanied with a few choice words, I finally got it open. As it turned out, the offending paper contained notes from a panel G.B. Pool invited me to participate on back in 2012[ii] (I think at the Burbank Library).

The notes I found sounded good, but I can’t remember what I actually rambled on about (get nervous and have a hard time trying to speak and think at the same time—and can’t rewrite and edit like with writing) I do remember having great panel compatriots who were very kind, gracious, and carried the panel through quite well.

  • Here’s the convergence back to sex on this particular winding road. The novel I’m working on—after abandoning The Caretakers—has a female protagonist. And, the novel is written by a fictitious male ghostwriter (who has promised his client to write from the female protagonist’s POV since she is supplying him with the novel’s material.) POV shifts are rather tricky, but it’s fun-so far…

The overall writing impact—some of my favorite male protagonists written by women(outside of my Writers in Residence female writing friend’s wonderful male protagonists), are Adam Dalgliesh, Hercule Poirot, Tom Barnaby, and Roderick Alleyn. So what is the key to P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, and Ngaio Marsh’s successful portrayal of the opposite sex?

Talent, artistic writing ability, or learned craft? [iii]. Right now, I’m thinking it’s the ability to get inside a character’s head, then convey how they’re seeing the world to a reader—no matter their sex. Seeing the world and experiencing your story from inside, looking out…rather than the perspective of looking from the outside at the events occurring around them.

Said in another and hands-on way, I wrote a sentence recently in this new novel, reread it, then said to myself—wow, that sounds like Leiv (former male protagonist), not like my new protagonist, LydiaRose. So what was wrong with it? I ended up deciding nothing. For in this particular scene it was a typical windblown desert day—and looking out—it would be the same, no matter the character’s gender. I’m thinking writing this book is going to push me as a writer, and getting it right isn’t something I can get from reading a writing book—rather, from writing experience.

I guess, my bottom line here is, trying something new is an excellent way to further hone your craft. And writing from opposite sex perspectives might be an excellent topic to think about…

As always, would love to hear your thoughts about writing, and heading out into new writing adventures.

Happy Writing trails!


[i] Last week, G.B. Pool wrote an excellent post on titles!

[ii]It was a mystery writer panel with Robert Fate, Mike Mallory, G.B. Pool, Kate Thornton, and moi. All panel member wrote a main character of the opposite sex.

[iii] Art vs craft is a topic I’ve also often heard discussed among potters.

Titles: Do They Work or Miss the Mark? by G.B. Pool

Target 1The Title of a novel or short story might seem like the first thing a writer thinks about before launching into the actual writing. Sometimes a title pops into the writer’s head before even a plot is considered. It’s happened to me many times. I have a file called Bits and Pieces with random titles and snatches of plots in it. Sometimes they’re written on a scrap of paper and stuffed in the folder because the idea caught my fancy with nothing more than a sentence stating what I thought that title might mean or the story behind it might be about. And once in a while it’s just the title.

Orville at the Castle cover (4)Here’s an example of what I mean: After Christmas several years ago I was looking through the half-priced ornaments on sale at a local hardware store and found one in the shape of a dragon no more than three inches tall. He was rubbery, not made of glass, but he was kind of cute, and so I bought him and took him home. Then on a walk one day around the same time, I found a small, sparkly thing on the ground. It was probably for a girl’s ponytail, but I picked it up and brought it home, too. I’m into miniatures and doll houses and to me the sparkly thing looked like a Christmas wreath. Not knowing what to do with it, I spotted the dragon and slipped it around his neck. Now the dragon looked very Christmassy.

Every castle coverI took him upstairs and set him on the roof of the Christmas castle I had built years ago and even wrote a story about called Bearnard’s Christmas. Looking at the little guy there on the roof, I said to myself: “every castle needs a dragon.” The phrase stayed in my head until I wrote it down and put it in that Bits and Pieces folder. A few years later I wrote the third of my Christmas stories with that as the title and the dragon as the main character.

But a title and a main character aren’t all there is to a story. I had to come up with a plot that incorporated those two pieces, but that’s what writers do. Or at least what we try to do. In my case I had to think about what a dragon might do up at the North Pole since this was to be a Christmas story. I decided to have someone leave a large egg in Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve and he has to figure out what to do with it when it hatches and turns into that little dragon. Wizards, magic powders, and a big Polar bear add to the mix. But there was a dilemma: I had to give the dragon some kind of special quality.

Medium Orville with Books (1)But, hey, I am a writer. I write books. I know folks who write books. We really want people, children and adults, to READ. We really are worried that the country is forgetting the value of books, so what better thing for this little guy to do than to “light the fire of imagination” under kids to get them to read when Santa leaves books under the tree on Christmas Eve.

So now I had my story and it all came from a title that popped into my head after finding that very special little dragon.

Target MissedBut not every time do titles and the story click. You might have a great title in your head or in that folder of ideas and you start writing. As often happens, your story takes a detour to a new and exciting place. All of a sudden your story has a life of its own, but now your great title doesn’t fit. But you love the title. Do you keep it anyway?

Of course you do, but for another book or story. The title will wait until you find it a home somewhere else.

So what should a Title do? There are many possibilities.

  • StageThe Title can set the stage, in other words, suggest the Genre or Tone of the work. It can tell the prospective reader if the book is Hardboiled Noir or a Romance novel. A book with the title A Killer Among Us won’t be confused with a romance novel that would more likely have a title like Passion in the Gazebo. The book title American Caesar sitting in the History section will attract history buffs. If it were in the Children’s section, it would be totally out of place. If it landed in the Cooking section by mistake readers might think it’s a salad dressing. So a title needs to fit its genre (and its spot on the shelf at the bookstore.)
  • The Title can hint at the outcome. After all, the title Gone with the Wind certainly says something about what happened to the Old South after the Civil War. Fahrenheit 451 is an integral part of Ray Bradbury’s classic tale about a future where books are being confiscated and burned. The temperature in the title is the temperature at which books burn. Sometimes these types of titles pop into a writer’s head as he is writing. Or maybe a character says something in the heat of the moment and you realize that is what your story is about and it would make a terrific title. Your characters can sometimes have a mind of their own. So listen to what they say. (I’m quite serious here, in a literary sense, of course.)
  • Perhaps the Title will introduce the main character and the continued use of that name will help carry on the series. How many Nancy Drew books have been written that now feature her name above the title? The Chronicles of Narnia use that main title to introduce each subsequent edition. If you are planning to do a series of books utilizing the same main character, you might want to use the character’s name in each of your titles so the reader can locate them on the shelf at the bookstore or find them easily on Amazon. My Chance McCoy short stories use “Chance” in every title. For example: Second Chance (both the collection’s title and one of the stories), “Ghost of a Chance,” “Chance Encounter,” and “Chance of a Lifetime.” Those are just a few of the titles so far. I have a file full of “Chance” titles waiting for a story to go along with it.
  • Target goalThe Title can also be a Goal or Destination. When you start writing a story you should have just such an objective in mind. The main characters and/or the villain might want something. Take Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Everybody was looking for that black bird. Or maybe the goal is to Kill Bill which is the title of the popular movie by Quentin Tarantino. The title was definitely the objective. And remember, other than wanting to get back to Kansas, Dorothy, with the help of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, were all looking for The Wizard of Oz.
  • Of course there is always the title that tells you Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury used that exact title for one of his stories. You might want to have your title suggest something looming over the horizon. I utilize that strategy in the titles of a few of my darker short stories: “Shoot Me and Set Me Free,” “A Role to Die For,” “You Can Only Die Twice.”
  • Titles can also multitask. My short story “Bloodlust” obviously tells you something unpleasant is lurking within those pages. The title actually captures several points in that single word. First, the title definitely sets the Tone or Genre of the piece. This is obviously not a cozy. And a single word like that acts as a Grabber because it doesn’t need modifiers to get to the point. The title can also Hook the reader with a compelling reason to keep reading, if they are into the darker side of mysteries. But then I do follow up with a dead body at both the beginning and end of the story. That ties the entire thing up in a nice red ribbon.
  • Make sure your title pays off in the end. Somewhere in all those words that follow the title should have some relevance to the plot or the point to your story. To see if it does, write a blurb for your story. This can be no longer than the sentence or two like the write-up you see in the TV Guide that describes an upcoming movie. Check those out every time you watch a movie and see how you can boil down your story to a few well-written lines. For my Johnny Casino Series I use the general title and volume number first. Example: The Johnny Casino Casebook 1. But each of the books in the three-book series has its own defining name added. For instance, the first book is called: The Johnny Casino Casebook 1 – Past Imperfect. The short blurb for the book is: “Johnny Casino is a retired P.I. with a past. He just hopes it doesn’t catch up with him.” My Gin Caulfield mystery series doesn’t happen to use her name in the title of each book. I didn’t know it was going to be a three-book series when I started writing the first book. But take the title of the second book in the series: Hedge Bet. The blurb reads as follows: “Is it a bet on the ponies or a high stakes gamble in the stock market that leads to a death at the racetrack and the return of Ginger Caulfield to her former profession as private investigator?” Whether one is gambling in the stock market or at the racetrack, the title is about betting.
  • Other than “How To” books in the Self-Help section, loooong titles can be difficult. The movie A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum has a long title, but it also hints at being slightly funny or at least sarcastic. A long title can be ponderous, pretentious, and maybe even off-putting. Always consider what you are selling and who your audience is.
  • Dynamic and memorable titles are often short and pithy. A one word title can speak volumes if it’s the right word. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Bram Stoker’s Stephen King’s It. or Orwell’s 1984. I have one book called Caverns. It’s about caverns being carved out by large rats under Chicago. The skyline photo of Chicago on the cover also has a rat in the foreground. Here’s where one word and a cover to match go hand in hand.

 

Of course there are exceptions to rules, but it never hurts to really think about your title to make sure it fits what you are trying to say within those pages.

 

Now let’s think about what a Title should Not do? There are a few things in this category.

  • Don’t promise more than you can deliver. The title Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex better be one heck of a comprehensive book or Book One of a twelve volume series. You might be better off calling it Sex for Dummies.
  • supermanDon’t promise something and deliver something else. If your title is Roses and Pussycats and it turns out to be a slasher story, you will probably end up with a disgruntled reader. Or if the title is Killer Bees and there are no bees, again your readers will walk away dissatisfied. You will leave them wondering if you knew what you were talking about or worse; they might think they were too dense to understand your brilliant prose. You can bet they won’t be back for a second helping.
  • Don’t be “Too Clever by Half.” That old saying means don’t try to be ultra clever in your title because your reader might not understand your joke, point, or subtle pun. Take the title: “A Dyspeptic View of Murder.” I made it up. I have no idea what it means other than you might get an upset stomach somewhere along the line. But it could also mean the reader won’t buy your book because they have no idea what it would be about.

 

Target 2Something you might want to do, especially if you have beta readers. Those are folks who will read your final draft before publication. These can be friends, relations, or just a bunch of readers who will give you their two cents on your book. Take their advice with a grain of salt, but do listen. Sometimes they see something or misunderstand something that the majority of your readers might also misunderstand. But while they are giving you a few comments about your book, ask them if the title works. Since they just read the book, they might have some good thoughts on that very subject.

Here is something else to ponder or at least be aware of. Often one’s publisher has other ideas about your title. You might think it’s the best title ever. And it might be. But your publisher has the last word. Suck it up and let them have their way as painful as that may be. If you ever get dropped by your publisher or leave on your own, get back your publishing rights and re-publish it yourself under the title you had originally wanted.

There was a time during the last century when ladies’ magazines and other monthly publications printed short stories. Often these stories were turned into movies. Occasionally the title would be changed when it hit the big screen. “Madman’s Holiday” changed to Crack-Up. This was done to attract a certain kind of audience. It not only fit the era, the 1940s when Noir was hitting its stride, but it looked better on the marquee. Your title should first and foremost grab your audience.

Titles can change if others get a say in the publication; that’s the biz, but as a writer you want to be the first to crown your work with a fitting identity. It also reassures you that you know what your story is about in a few brief words. And it tells the reader what’s in store for them.

Something else that goes hand-in-hand with that all important Title is the Cover. It should also say something about what’s inside. When you are strolling down those bookstore aisles, glance at the covers. What do they tell you? Puppies and cartoon characters might work well in the children’s section; dark and ominous is what crime and murder is all about. A cute and cozy cover might also be about murder and mayhem, but most, if not all of the violence, is off the page. The title can be cute and cozy, too, with maybe an axe sticking out of the knitting basket.

But again, if you have a stubborn publisher who wants another cover than what you had visualized, hopefully your title will capture the reader’s interest.

Think about your audience and what they expect from the genre writing you are doing. Wander through a bookstore, if you can still find one, and look at book covers in the area in which you want to write. What do their titles tell you about what’s inside? Read the blurb on the back of the book and see if the title fits those few very important words.

Sing

Remember this: Often the book is not facing out on the bookshelf in the bookstore, so that title should say a lot. Make it sing.