How Do You Come Up With A Book Title?

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For many of the stories I’ve written, coming up with titles was no struggle at all. They simply just came to me—popped up in my mind like it was meant to be. For 2 of my stories, the titles arrived before I even started writing the stories.

However, with the story I recently completed, I am still without a title that I feel would represent the story. And to make things a little bit challenging is I have very few ideas. Before and probably due to titles coming so easily for me, I thought titles were one of the easiest things to decide when putting a book, or story, together. Now I am beginning to find them to be just as challenging as creating physical character descriptions.

A title is essentially like the book cover, a gateway or introduction to the story. Just like a book cover, a title is one of the first things that will capture the reader’s interest and draw them to reading the book. There could be a great story that lies within the book, but if the title is not capturing, many readers will bypass it.

Here are 2 major challenges I currently face in developing a great story title:

Challenges:

• Common Titles

Common titles consist of words or phrases that have been heard many times in many places, such as “My [brother’s] Keeper”. I remember for my 2nd story, I was going to title it, “My Daughter’s Keeper”, but at the time I was hearing movies and books with that title and felt it was not unique and may get lost in the shuffle. And that is the concern with common titles. If there are many items (books, movies, etc.) with the same title out there it may be difficult for one’s book to stand out. However, if one strongly believes that the title represents their story well and it is the only one that will do, stay true to that title.

• Vague Titles

Vague titles consist of words that do not necessarily tell what the story is about, such as “Christy” or “It”. In a way, a vague story title, such as these, might draw readers’ interest because it presents itself as a mystery, but this all goes back to the challenge of whether the title is representing the story correctly. To me, if I give a vague title, then I feel my story must be one of mystery or that it is solely based on the subject or character of the title. And in the end, with a vague title, will it fade into the background, never to stand out?

Here are 6 suggestions on how to develop a great story title. These suggestions developed while I was doing internet research and these are things I will utilize as I develop a title for my story.

Suggestions:

• Avoid Dull Titles

This is related to what I mentioned in the challenges earlier. Readers will be drawn more to titles such as “Gone With The Wind” and “Watership Down”, then “The House” or another title that has been heard many times before.

• Create A Rememberable Title–Literally

Titles that are simple but bold are likely to stay in readers’ mind for a long while or forever. And a rememberable title is likely to be marketed easier through readers and anyone in the literary business. So one should stay away from titles, such as “Murder on the Wzcyiubjekistan Express”. Instead, it may be easier to abbreviate Wzcyiubjekistan to “W” and include the actual name in the blurb.

• Create An Appropriate Title

This is similar to what I was explaining in the challenge of vague titles. One should choose a title that will not give the reader a different idea or sense of what the story is about. If I choose a title “Christy”, the reader might interpret the story as a mystery. Of course the book cover may change that a little, but in either case, the reader may think the story is about the character, Christy. If that is not the case, choosing such a title may not be ideal. Another example of this mentioned in a website was a book called, “Secret Lovers”. The book is about spies who love secrets, but because of the title, many readers thought it was a romance book.

Look For Key Words Hidden In The Story

One way to begin developing a title is to look at key words hidden in the story that illustrate important parts or messages. Maybe the key word could be a place, location, object, thought, feeling, person—something that stands out and plays a big role in the story.

• Enhance Key Words

Once one discovers what that key word or words are, one should think about how they can describe them to make them stand out more. For example, if the key word is “music box”, what is it about that music box in the story that makes it unique or intriguing? Is it the way it looks, behaves, or even how it came to be?

And even with key words, one should think about not using the exact word in the title. So instead of, “The Lonely Music Box”, maybe one could use, “The Lonely Tune” or “The Barren Tune”.

• Combine Title With Cover Design

As mentioned earlier, depending on one’s story and the message or “feeling” one wants the reader to get by reading their story, sometimes the title in combination with the cover design can make a big difference in drawing the reader’s interest. Sometimes a vague or common title that were challenges can become powerful and stand out with a strong cover design. In the end, the writer will know best, but as I sort out how to come up with a great title, I hope my suggestions and what I discovered are helpful. Below I will include the link to a website that has great advice and examples on how to develop a strong book title. It is from this website, where I pulled some examples as well.

Writing-World.Com

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Character Descriptions: Personality and Behavior

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Personality and Behavior

Character descriptions are important in many stories. Especially if the story is not illustrated, where the reader can see how the characters look like–your vision, or the vision you want the reader to have of a character. To be honest, even after you describe a character, you and the reader’s vision may be different.

I find character descriptions to be the most challenging thing about writing a story. Often, I will put that off until after I’ve written the entire story. After writing the story, I will, during the editing process, go back and include descriptions. But even then, I feel the descriptions will be vague. The questions I have always asked myself when describing a character are:

  • Are they short, tall, or average height?
  • Are they over, under, or average weight?
  • Do they have grey, red, brown, black, yellow, green, or purple hair?

The list goes on. Although these descriptions are helpful for the reader to know since it will leave them with an idea of how the character looks like, to me, it doesn’t necessarily describe the character. It doesn’t really tell the reader anything unique about them.

Another favorite website of mine, Writing Helping Writers, has a library of character descriptions and list many ways to incorporate them into a story. The thing I like most about this website is though they discuss how to use physical attributes to describe a character, they also include how to use behavioral/emotional attributes to describe a character, which I believe is the most effective way of uniquely describing characters in a story. On this website, they list an attribute, for example sentimental, and give examples of stories that had characters who exhibit that behavior. They will also define what the attribute means, what causes one to have such an attribute, the positives and negatives of having the attribute, who likely has been portrayed as having the attribute (i.e. teenage girls, women, children), clichés to avoid when giving this attribute to a character, ways you can change the way you use this attribute, and conflicting characteristics you can also attach to a character who has this attribute to make them truly unique and interesting.

I discovered this website a year and a half ago, so in the struggle to bring my characters to life— give them more of a unique standing instead of just describing them physically, I believe this website made a difference in teaching me how to bring out my characters’ personalities, thus fully describing them. I think it is important to incorporate personality into physical descriptions. This is especially important if the character you are describing does not really have a unique physical attribute.

The Short Story Versus The Novel

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The Difference Between The Short Story and The Novel

Sometimes the lines can be blurred on what constitutes a short story and what constitutes a novel. Before, I used to think that the only difference between a short story and a novel was the number of words, or page lengths. Although a typical short story will be 10,000 words or less, there are far more obvious differences than page lengths. Some differences relate to the content and structure of the story. Three are listed below:

On The Move versus Rest

With many short stories, there is little time to stop and smell the roses. Often, there are many things going on, even if there is one plot that is of concern to address. Like a mystery, there is no slow times, or times to slow down and reflect. I like to compare short stories to mysteries since there is always something of interest capturing the reader’s attention. With novels, there can be periods of rest. When such times occur, they are not necessarily fill-ins or nonsense. Periods of rest can be times that are promoting understanding of a character or situation, or bringing the message to light. A short story is likely to accomplish that through action and be brief since it does not have a lot of room to spare.

Direct versus Building Up

In short stories, this pertains to character and plot. The main characters, and possibly all the major characters, will be introduced fairly quickly. It is unlikely to see another important character show up towards the mid to end part of the story. It will not take long to understand what the character is about and what the plot will be about, though a good story may not reveal or indicate how things will play out or end. With novels, time is taken to introduce the main character, or more specifically, understand the main character. The main character will likely be introduced in the beginning of the story, but it may take a longer time to fully understand the character, including their behavior, beliefs, and personality. Also in regards to novels, the plot development may be different. It will not be as straight forward as it would be in a short story. It is even possible that the plot may have other plots that come up during the story and summarize themselves in the end to convey an overall message. Plots in novels are more complex than they would be in short stories.

Simple versus Complex

Continuing from the 2nd difference, most short stories are simple in content. They usually center on one character with a mission they must make to solve a problem. It is likely the reader will not fully know a lot about the character, since the focus is on the mission and not necessarily the character. This can be the case for novels if the problem is a large extensive one, but it is a common characteristic of a short story. Novels are more complex in that they are centered on a character (or more), and their personal journey throughout a longer period of time. It is likely there is a problem or two, that the character must overcome or solve, but the focus is often on the character and how their journey affects and changes them.

In sum, there are always exceptions to the rule. There may be short stories that read more like a novel, or novels that read more like a short story. But given the restriction of word counts and page lengths, it is likely short stories will have the characteristics listed above, since limited lengths do not support room for extensive details and complexity. The same goes for novels, as having a longer length lends room for such things.

How To Write A Mystery

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Writing a mystery can sometimes be challenging but rewarding in the end. For instance, you want the mystery to play out like a mystery. You want to reader to be intrigued—interested from beginning to end. The whole goal of a mystery is to play a game with the reader—make them think one thing and surprise them in the end. I’ve wondered if my stories were mysteries. Looking back on my stories, I see where a mystery–or mysteries, developed. But in my attempts to purposefully write a mystery, I looked for advice on how to write a successful mystery and came up with 3 important points.

First, plot development.

You want to answer the big question—what is the problem and what is the cause? It may seem simple, but when I was developing mysteries for my current set of short stories, this was a challenging part. Not only do you have to define the problem yourself, but you also have to define and answer and the question or questions that will surround the problem.

  • Could there be more than one question?

In other words, could more than one thing be responsible for the problem?

An example:

A child says he dropped off a bag of money earned from a fundraiser to the school administrators’ office. A few days later, the money is missing and one of the administrators blames the child for it. Who really took the money?

This is a very simple example. A typical mystery may be more complex, but the point is, there is a problem and no one knows who is responsible for the problem or the cause of the problem. The reader may assume one or the other, or none at all.

A good mystery will have many questions to one major problem. Some questions may be secondary questions, such as in the case of the above example—what would be the child’s motive for taking the money? Did the child have reason to need money? Was there a particular thing the child wanted to spend the money on? What signs did the child show? Did the child exhibit any behavior that matches the possibility of theft? The list can be endless.

Second, continuous action.

A good mystery is never slow. There is always something strange going on or showing up every moment. Of course there will be an introduction or plot build up in the beginning of the story, but it helps to start the story with the problem—introduce the reader quickly to the problem and initial questions. In mysteries, there is little time for small talk, lavish descriptions, or historical background. The only time it would be appropriate for this is when these things are uncovering something crucial or related to the problem. In other words, revealing clues to the resolution of the problem.

  • Leave out the long extended details and descriptions.

Generally in a mystery, something is always showing up or going on. Natural descriptions will speak for themselves or be added when necessary. The reader will be more drawn to the case than how a living room looks like, unless, there is something descriptive about the living room that will reveal clues.

An example:

The story begins with the child in the principal’s office being interrogated and suspended until money is paid back. Child says he is innocent and there is little to no evidence that the child has used the money. Friend says, he will do an investigation and see where the money went. Story continues with friend questioning others, which leads to researching more places and people.

Momentum will never slow down. There is always something going on, more things—clues showing up. A good mystery will always trump what the reader is suspecting. As the story goes along, new things will appear that will challenge the reader’s thoughts of the cause of the problem. The goal is to lead the reader astray as best as possible.

Third, resolvability.

Like all stories, there has to be an end. The mystery has to have a resolution and all the questions have to be answered. It is best to map out a story before you begin writing it down. Decide who the main characters will be, the problem, and the questions that will come up. It even helps to have the resolution set—know how the problem will be solved and how that will play out. Of course as you write, things can change, alterations can be made, but at least you will be guaranteed that the mystery can and will be solved.

  • Make sure all questions to the problem can be answered or explained.

If there was a suspicious character but in the end they were not the culprit, make sure whatever suspicions that were placed on the character are defended. Maybe the suspicious character was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is also important to note that if the mystery involves a culprit being the source of the problem, introduce them early in the story. Don’t make it obvious that it’s them, but reveal their existence to the reader.

An example:

When money was dropped off to the administrators’ office, the busy administrator forgot to remove the money from the counter and lock it in a safe place. The friend walked in the office to pick up something and saw the money. The friend thought it was odd that money would be left unintended on the counter and took it, assuming it was left behind anyways. After extensive research and still no suspects, the friend realizes that the money he initially took was possibly the money the child was being suspected of keeping.

In summary, a successful and good mystery will have a developed plot with problems and questions established, continuous action without extended summaries and details that do not reveal important clues, and be solvable with the culprit being introduced in the beginning.

Though my example was not the greatest, I hope it illustrated the important components of a mystery. Although writing a mystery from scratch can seem challenging, I find that in the writing process, it can become rewarding and entertaining to see the mystery unfold as things are added that you may not have considered when initially developing the mystery.

Character Traits: Independent and Proper

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Favorite Character Traits

Independent and Proper

In many cases the success of a story—the story’s ability to provide meaning and interest to the reader, will lie heavily on how the reader relates to the character—how the character colors the story. This is especially true in novel length stories, but it can be true for short stories and picture books.

There are many traits a main character can possess, and I believe any trait can hold significance and add interest to the plot and overall purpose of the story. In this post the trait I want to focus on is the dual character trait of independent and proper.

Independent/independence:

Independent/independence means being self sufficient. It means being able to take your own initiative on tasks and journeys. It means having a mind of your own and knowing how to manage in your surroundings without the reliance of others. It does not necessarily mean avoiding the help or advice of others, but realizing your own ability to make decisions and actions.

Some negative things about this trait are a character who possesses it can find themselves in a lot of trouble or sticky situations. This is especially true for a character that is too independent and does not desire the counsel or help from others.

Proper:

Proper means behaving with a set of manners acceptable by society or by a group that is commonly admired. Most likely, the character will be well spoken and well dressed. Often these characters may be of some high financial status or possess a high title (i.e. royalty). Sometimes they may not have these elements but have the desire to be.

Some negative things about this trait are a character who possesses it can become or appear to be self centered and rude. Some may see this character as thinking they are higher than others. This is true especially when the character comes in contact with others they deem are below them.

 

The reason why I put these two traits together because I saw this in one character, Veronique, from the story, Remembered. Although she was not necessarily of affluence, while in France, she worked for an affluent family. When she came to Colorado, she barely had money, and the money she did have was what the affluent family left for her when she quit her job. She was very used to the high life of France, from behavior to dress. She was also independent, especially when she moved to Colorado, since all she had was herself. On her own, she managed to get a place to stay and acquired  funds to survive. She was also preparing for a mission to find out what happened to her father in a new environment she knew nothing about.

With these 2 traits that I saw Veronique possess, it made her appear stubborn and strong. Though these traits would appear to be negative when combined and make for an unlikeable character, I ended up liking her a lot because I understood why she was that way and I think possessing those traits made the plot more interesting to see how she responded to situations and people who challenged those traits.

10 Well Written Songs

10 Well Written Song Lyrics

As I end my series, I want to list examples of song lyrics that were well written and became classic favorites to many. This is by no means a top ten list. This is a list of at least 10 songs that I believe are well written lyrically. In reality, there are many—an endless array of songs, written well in every decade and genre. To capture them all, for me, would seem impossible. I am sure there are songs that you know of, that are written lyrically well.

The primary reasons why I believe these song lyrics were well written are:

    • They are still powerful without music or performance added to it. In other words, their message is clearly conveyed, just as effective without accompaniments.
    • Every written line, section, and arrangement makes sense and expresses the story and/or emotion it seeks to make.

This list is not in any particular order


If you want to view the full lyrics of most of these songs, check them out at www.lyricsfreak.com

How To Write Song Lyrics: Examples

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Part Four: Examples

There is no real technique or formula for writing song lyrics. When I say this I mean, writing a hit song—a song that will become a classic to the mass audience.  Sure, when writing song lyrics, there is the verses, chorus, and possibly bridge and pre chorus, but following those guidelines is not going to ensure that what you write will become a hit or will reach success. It is the content—the words, that is the ultimate deciding factor.

When I first starting writing, I began with song lyrics. I wrote randomly, but most of my songs followed the verse, chorus, bridge pattern. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) which songs would be a hit, because many of them were never showcased. But of the few songs I shared, I received positive feedback. When I write song lyrics, they come from “the heart”. They are based on what I feel about a particular situation or what current state of mind I’m. I don’t think about formulas or compare them to hit songs already out there. I stay true to how the song forms in my mind.

There are many ways song lyrics can be written and it will depend on content, how you want the message delivered, and how you want the movement of the song to be.

Songs from an emotional standpoint:

These are song lyrics that are not illustrative in nature, but convey a feeling about a situation, object, or person.

One example is Reach by Gloria Estefan.

Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all your heart
And I’ll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
What I hoped for at last would be mine

In songs like this, the verse is just as important as the chorus. You want the verse to sink into the listener’s mind and leave a lasting impression on them. You want the listener to find personal meaning in these lyrics. It is like you are speaking to them or can relate to them.

The chorus should summarize the overall message of the song. The chorus should get to the point and let the listener know the purpose of the song.

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
From that one moment in my life
I’m gonna be stronger
Know that I’ve tried my very best
I’d put my spirit to the test
If I could reach

Songs from an illustrative standpoint:

These are story like song lyrics. They describe or talk about an environment, place, or situation. Their purpose can be purely for entertainment, but they can convey a meaningful message just like an emotional base song.

Two examples are Colors of the Wind by Vanessa Williams (Disney) and Gotham City by R Kelly.

Colors of the Wind:

You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Gotham City:

I’m lookin over the skyline of the city
How loud, quiet nights in the mist of crime
How next door to happiness lives sorrow
And signals of solution in the sky

In songs like these, the verse will primary include the descriptive story words. This is the area where the story will be told, where the listener will know what the song is about and will give the chorus meaning and make sense. In songs like these, the verse is generally what will determine whether the song is a hit. If the verse is strong, chances are the song will be successful.

The chorus should, just like an emotional based song, illustrate the point of the song or the plot of the song. In an illustrative song, the chorus will most likely be as descriptive as the lyrics, but sometimes it can contain emotional based lyrics.

Colors of the Wind:

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Gotham City:

A city of justice, a city of love
A city of peace, for everyone of us
We all need it, can’t live without it
A Gotham City, oh, yeah

In writing song lyrics, a bridge is not necessary, although a lot of songs contain them. In Reach, there is no bridge, and in Colors of the Wind and Gotham City, there is a bridge of a few lines. To me, adding a bridge may be necessary if you have more than one message to get across or if you want to get your message across in a different way. Maybe the chorus does not get to the point—the bridge would be a place to get that point across.

Colors of the Wind:

How high does the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know

Gotham City:

Yet in the middle of stormy weather
We won’t stumble and we won’t fall
I know a place that all of us shelter

Overall, in writing song lyrics, most will have a verse, chorus, and bridge. As you write more songs, you may find yourself not always needing a bridge, and maybe even wanting to stylized some songs with repeat verses, and choruses—even pre choruses, which are usually added when you want to reel in the listener to the chorus—when the chorus might be in contrast with the verse or when you want to introduce the chorus if the verse has not indicated what the chorus will be about.

It is impossible to truly determine how to write perfect song lyrics. Simply listening to popular songs out there can give insight, but just like any creative product, it is for the audience to decide. When I was serious about becoming a songwriter, I sought advice from people and books on how to write songs or even how to write authentic songs. In the end, I realized if you pay attention to how songs that are already out there are written, from the words, placement, and patterns, you will become familiar with the many ways songs are written. If you are writing songs as a beginner, it helps to look at popular songs out there and review the elements that make the songs likeable to you—what is it about the song’s structure that draw you to the song.

Songs taken from www.lyricsfreak.com.