Classes & WorkshopsSavvyBlog

Making Titles Memorable by Sally Walker

Some people don’t bother with titles of a work-in-progress because they feel the project has to be completed to arrive at the appropriate title.  I can appreciate that. 
On the other hand, the “dangling project” is like a baby who is not legally named for several months because the parents want to be sure to get it right.  After all, that name has to last a lifetime and sometimes beyond.  In the meantime, the infant is “The Baby” or “Little Girl.”   Researchers have proven that even infants respond to a name repeatedly applied to them, so that kind of ambiguity is not necessarily a good thing.  I certainly do not respond to an untitled poem or story, whether mine or someone else’s. 

 Nothing about creative writing is carved in stone. 

Therefore, I believe titling a work even at the beginning gives it an identity in the writer’s mind.  Like human beings, the project can change and grow into another identity and that’s okay.

Titling has so many long-term implications for writers, such as branding, sequels, series.  Lew Hunter, Chair Emeritus of the UCLA Film School and my screenwriting mentor since 1997, pounded into me the importance of creating memorable titles.  Sure, the powers-who-control-marketing may change the title, but a majority of the time the astute title from the screenwriter will be retained if it meets specific criteria.


Lew’s criteria:

  1. short
  2. pertinent
  3. memorable. 


Long-winded titles frequently get abbreviated when listed or referenced, so the writer needs to save everyone’s time.  Vague, intellectual or obscure titles are forgettable from the start.  That final factor of memorable is the key, though.  The title needs to be easily thought-associated with that story and those characters.  It can even become an iconic representation of that type of story or characters.


I have an abbreviated on-line class for Savvy Authors coming up July 8-22 on the fundamentals of creating such titles by digging deep into both story and characters.  Come learn that there is more to a title than you might think. 

For more information about Sally Walker, visit her website.

Omaha resident Sally J. Walker’s published credits include literary, romance, and western novels, two essay collections, several creative writing te...
  • J
    Jennifer Lane
  • July 6, 2019
Interesting thought about giving the project an identity from the get-go, even if the title changes later. I typically struggle with titles but I had one before I started my WIP that I think will stick (and it fits Lew's criteria).
I find this fascinating. Sometimes I had struggle, sometimes I don't with titles.

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