Idea Factory: A-Z Titles

1 Oct

“A good title is the title of a successful book” – Robert C Gallagher

Writer’s block got your pen’s tongue? Unable to stir the creativity pot? So you need an idea…well, that’s no problem. It’s time for the “A-Z Title List.”

My “Sell What You Write: How to Get Published” professor, the wonderfully talented Ms. Kathryn Radeff, used this exercise in class ensuing bountiful bushels of imagination. The assignment was simple, generate a list of original titles with the first letter in each one corresponding to a letter in the English alphabet. The results were astounding and led several students on a focused path towards publication.

For this exercise, simply use a lined sheet of paper and write the alphabet (in order) from top to bottom. Then next to each letter, write an original idea for a title. You can do this exercise for any style or genre. For example, create a list of titles for picture books, articles, poems, or don’t set any boundaries. You can even scour through your drafts and use existing titles as a reminder of the pieces available in your archives. Feel free to also use the A-Z list format for character and setting names.

For those partaking in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo in November (and everyone should!), this activity is a great precursor and could help you generate some of those picture book ideas.

In addition, you will subconsciously hone your title writing skills. Since the title isn’t bound by word limits and grammar per say, the sky is the limit on what you can produce to lure an editor into buying your piece and convincing a reader to halt the page-flipping.

Complete this exercise as often as you desire or whenever you feel a drought in your idea archives.

Remember, there’s no finite goal here. Just enjoy the exercise and let it take it wherever you end up.

Tips:

  • Don’t think too hard. You can add as many titles per letter as you desire.
  • “A(n)” and “The” don’t count for A and T respectively
  • If doing article titles, add in subheadings. A sub heading acts as your clarifier, providing enough information about your piece to make readers decide if it’s worth their attention. This permits your title the utmost freedom to be as creative or catchy as you please.
  • There’s no time limit, though I recommend hashing an entire list out in one sitting.
  • Scan the magazine racks at your look bookstore, or search online through article/book databases for inspiration.
  • If one title inspires you to the point where you want to start writing it, immediately abandon the list as it’s already done it’s job at getting you to write.
* Special thanks to Ms. Kathryn Radeff for allowing me to share this exercise with you.

EXAMPLES: Below I’ve posted two A-Z lists I created to simulate how you can take the titles in any direction you desire.

PICTURE BOOKS:

  • Anywhere But There
  • Buster Bee
  • (The) Complaint Department
  • Dunce for Hire
  • Eeny
  • Fill A Delfia
  • Goodie Gumdrops and the Sinful Sugar
  • Hell’s Gym: Exercise Your Demons
  • Island for Two
  • Junk In the Trunk: The Story of the Garbage Collecting Elephant
  • Kite Swimming
  • Lavender Lou
  • (The) Melted Hearts of Princess Way
  • Nothing But Nuts
  • Only on a Wednesday
  • Parentnapping
  • Quotes of Our Lives
  • Red, White, and Boo!
  • Some Like It Cold
  • Tea Time For Boys
  • United Shapes of America
  • Venus for Sale
  • (The) Witch’s Waffle
  • X Marks Spot the Dog
  • Year of the Cockroach
  • Zoochini

ARTICLES:

  • Achilles Nostril: Hay Fever Wreaks Havoc on Residents
  • Bad News Deer: A Wild Buck Crashes A Little League Baseball Game
  • Captain Crunch Remembered: A Retrospective Look at an American Breakfast Icon
  • Dog’s Best Friend: Is Man Really a Fit Canine Companion?
  • Entitlement Era: Welcome to America’s Selfish Movement
  • For the Record: Local Music Shop Re-Opens Selling Only Vinyl
  • Green This: Exposing the Awful Truth of an Eco-Friendlier World
  • Hit or Miss Weekend Getaways
  • Impossible Meals: Top Chefs Unlock Their Treasure Chest of Recipes
  • Jokers Tame: City Officials Sanction A Local Comedy Club
  • King Wanted: America Desperate For Royalty
  • Lions, Tigers, and Beer Oh My: The Zoo Holds Its Annual Oktoberfest Fundraiser
  • Mary Had a Juiced Up Lamb: Enhancement Drugs and Livestock
  • Never Ever…: The Things Parents Warn Children Not to Do
  • Ohio is For Credit Card Lovers: State Must Face Credit Crisis
  • Please Don’t Tip Me: One Waitress Takes a Stand Against Greed
  • Quiz Me Not: Students Protest State Assessments
  • River Rage: A Jetski Driver Picks a Fight with Local Fishermen
  • Stare Roids: When Gawking Becomes Harassment in the Men’s Room
  • Throwing a Cold: The Top Ten Causes of the Common Cold
  • Union Strikes Out: Factory Workers Unable to Retain Insurance Benefits
  • Vader for Senator: James Earl Jones Throws His Name in the Hat in State Senate Election
  • Will You Marry Him?: Arranged Marriages a Rising Trend in America
  • X-Women: Female Firefighters Come to the Rescue
  • Yes You Can’t: The Truth Behind Obama’s Campaign
  • Zipper Killer: Buttons Outsell Their Nemesis at Clothing Convention
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