cute Linus sI mentioned last week about how important titles can be for your creative writing. After all, as a reader, how easily influenced are you by an intriguing title, before you’ve read the blurb,  or any reviews, or checked if the author is one you usually read?

Sometimes you want to dive in, whether it is a book, poem or story, just because the title (or a cute cat picture?) catches your attention.

If you’re a regular here, you may have noticed I’m a fan of puns in the headlines for my blog posts. As the author, I usually find them hard to resist, and I hope they pull in a few readers, too.

But catchy titles can be tricky. So today’s creative writing exercise is taking you there. And although this won’t produce a new piece of writing per se, it should help your overall style, approach and content.

Look back on some of your work – recent or ancient, it doesn’t matter – and re-evaluate the titles. If you are a new writer without much of a backlist,  try this exercise with other people’s work. Take some classic works of fiction and re-imagine their titles. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Bell Jar, Gone Girl – can you come up with alternative titles? (As a nod to International Women’s Day today, I’ve only selected books by female authors here!)

If you have received rejections for a piece of writing you are otherwise happy with (which of course, you have re-drafted countless times to improve it so it is the best it can possibly be), consider reinventing its title. That might just be the tipping point to attract a publisher or a competition judge.

I’ve mentioned before how you can use the title of a piece of competitive flash fiction to expand the word count – which isn’t considered cheating! Many competitions give you a strict word count for the story, but say the title isn’t included in the total. So use that to your advantage. I’ve just written a 27-word title for a 300 word story. No idea if anyone else will appreciate my flash of brilliance, but there we are!

And novels, memoirs and stories aren’t the only creative writing to benefit from striking titles – poetry needs them too. Back in 2018, my poem ‘Fur Coat and No Knickers’  had very little to do with underwear or coats, the title referring to a British phrase describing someone with ideas above their station, but it was quirky enough to catch  attention. Another of my poems around that time was ‘Dirty Little Dresses’, which has no real mention of dirt or frocks. This title was inspired by what I thought was a catchy title for an award winning short story by Jess Kidd , ‘Dirty Little Fishes’, although there’s no connection with my subject matter.

Of course, as with most things literary, titles are very subjective, and what I might be intrigued by, someone else might find uninteresting, although The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, or The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson must surely invite you in?

As ever, this is all for fun, no hidden agenda. Call in next week for another creative writing prompt/exercise, 5pm Dublin time (GMT) on Wednesday.