Media Monday: News Headlines and Titles

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Sometimes, the hardest part about writing for me isn’t actually the writing. While a title will occasionally come to me automatically, dropping out of the sky into my lap, more often than not, I sit staring at my finished piece with absolutely no idea what to call it. There have been times I’ve been tempted to take a stroke of artistry and leave it simply “Untitled.”

As a journalist, I face the same problem when I try to write headlines for stories. It needs to be concise and fit in the allotted headline space, catchy to grab the reader’s attention, and communicate the main idea. I’ve found the best headlines are the ones that communicate the most interesting part of the story – the thing that will draw readers in and make the want to know the finer details.

This is the same for titles of creative works. The titles of poems, novels, and short stories alike all serve the same purpose: to hook readers and guide them into the writing. The complexity or level of metaphor in any given title is completely dependent on the story, the author, and the message that the title is trying to communicate. For example, the titles of Tolkien’s iconic works are fairly straight forward. The Fellowship of the Ring, is after all about the forming of the fellowship. However George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones bears a little more food for thought behind the title.

Honestly, the right title for any piece of writing is the one that feels right. Ideally, the perfect title is one that jumps out at you. When you hear it, you think, “Aha! That’s the one! It’s perfect!” While this doesn’t happen all the time, you can get closer to achieving this goal by focusing on the heart of your writing. Think of it as a news headline, communicating to potential readers the essential information and pulling on their interest. The right title will communicate exactly what the story is about, but in an intriguing way that leaves holes to be filled and details to learn. Your story’s title is it’s spokesperson. Let it speak loud.

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