Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Enter Post Title Here (This is Not a Typo)




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I LOVE WALKING. When you've got a lot of weighty things that require some thinking, a good, long walk's probably the perfect thing to clear away the cobwebs in your head. Matter of fact, I love walking so much that I've taken to walking the twenty minutes from my house to the stop where I take the bus that shuttles me to work every morning. Conversely, when I take the bus (or the occasional jeep) back home, I walk the twenty minutes from the bus stop to my house. This way, I make sure to take the requisite 4000 steps / day cardiovascular requirement of the average human body (not that my body's average in any way). I also get enough alone time to think.

This evening, I got to thinking about titles. Back in Journ 101, Ian Esguerra helped us establish that the lead paragraph of a news article was what drew your readers, so an effective lead was your bait, so to speak. When it comes to fiction (or, according to one of my dearest friends, blog posts) titles hardly seem to matter - or at least, that was how I saw it. I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely very little skill in coming up with a captivating title. It's like all my mental faculties fail me when it comes to properly labeling my work. I can never make something as innocuous-sounding as Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, and while I admit to the importance of having awesome headers for your written piece, I just really don't care when it's my work, sometimes.

Funny how the other night, two of my friends talked to me about titles. One was a fellow writer, the other's a doctor-to-be, and both of them, by the gods, wanted to hear of my opinion on the importance of titles. One was concerned about the blow-by-blow wording of a prospective title he had in mind, while the other was gushing about how sometimes, the titles were more exciting than the blog entries themselves.

Frankly speaking, my ego's been taking a beating lately, which means that I didn't have much of an opinion to give. It made me think about just how lacking in creative ideas I've been recently. Maybe it's the writing day in and day out. Am I burning out? I hope not. I could be, but so far, my writing - or blogging, at least - is still fairly decent. But it's been my fiction, my creative writing, that's been suffering. I can't remember when I really sat down with a story or a chapter of my big project to hack it out with the furies. When people ask me to edit some of their works, I feel somewhat helpless and panicky. When people start talking to me about theory, I tend to back out unless I was inebriated, but then, there's the fear of sounding stupid. When people ask me about titles, I'm either nonchalant or unsure. It gets to a point where even an acute discussion of titles gets me sweaty and nervous, because I almost always never know if I was talking coherently about something or not.

Gandhi once said that people often become what they believe themselves to be. Let's assume that upon coming up with a title, you put all of your determination into it; if the creation reflects the spirit of the creator, then it won't be incorrect to assume that the title could possibly reflect your own willpower and self-confidence, thus achieve the ideal title bursting with an allure all its own. But then, that's always subjective; lots of factors affect what the reader thinks is an effective title.

Take education, for example. Your average educated person might go for cheesy, direct-to-the-point titles like Braveheart, say, or even Fast and the Furious, while the rest of the intellectually apt might find something quirky in titles like, say, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain (this title was, by the bye, shortened to Amelie by the American who brought it into pop culture, the shame). Some people like being teased by the titles, while others prefer them straight-up, like a shot of dry bourbon.

That's just one of the cultural factor that makes people gravitate to the titles that they normally go to. Gender, religion, nationality and race all help determine what a good and what a bad title is. So in true neutral fashion, I'd like to propose that there is no such thing as a 100% effective title. You can have a good title, and you can have an eye-catching title - but it won't be the best title there is for the entire population. And while a sad fact that may be, there's also something good about the subjectivity of social strata and their perceptions.

Because there will always be somebody out there who will appreciate your work. Even if it's only a title.

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