Titles not so trivial


Once I went to a restaurant, which had one of its dishes named as ‘Dahi ke Shole’ (Curd’s Fire Shots). Now, the name itself seemed so tempting that I couldn’t wait to order it. Though the fear of such fancy named dish turning out to be a disastrous one was lurking within, but I gave in to my temptation. Fortunately, ‘Dahi ke Shole’ turned out to be utterly delicious. Really sumptuous!

Then there was an incident when I turned to visit a place whose unusual name attracted me, abandoning the one I had previously planned to go to. Experience, again fortunately, was as good as I could possibly look forward to.

Another time, I met a man, who had changed his name when he turned 18. I tried not to be one of those judgmental knuckleheads who have their prejudices for everything. So, I preferred not to assume anything and, on one fine occasion, asked him the story behind opting for such a huge change. He took this step for reasons of his own, but mostly because his new name, Elio, he felt, was in sync with the kind of person he is.
(Don’t get this wrong. I’m not at all asking you to change your name to suit your personality once you recognize yours. Personality isn’t permanent; it may change; you cannot keep on playing around with different names all your life.)

There is this writer, whose name I’d prefer to not to mention, who writes very frequently on public platforms. The content of her articles might not appeal much to me, but her titles always grab my attention; they are so catchy that some of them even make me read the whole thing.

Now, as smart as you are, I know you have deduced where I am heading to. As the title says, it’s about and for titles, their significance and their understated existence. Many writers argue over- If title is as important as it is said to be? Essays, and even books, have been shot out on the issue. With so much heat around it, one thing is sure that it has the element of heating up the situation around, it attracts attention and seeks to be talked about. So, let’s do it, let’s get it over with, shall we?

For me, titles hold a prominent and significant role in my writings. I won’t say that I decide my content according to the title, but there have been (rare) poems whose title was pre-decided, and I planned on to include it in my poem. Did I force it? My poetry wouldn’t have worked much then, you know that. I slid the word or phrase in such a way that nothing seemed forced or phony. Why did that happen? Why the title first, and then the content?

I wish I had a clear answer to it. It just happened. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to find fairy dust amid dust; I was lucky enough to find some of it. Those were the times when I was happier, more with my title than the content.

Title holds the same importance as does the content. Who said it? I. For why, let’s change the gear and drive bit faster. After all, we don’t need to stay on the same road for hours.

What do your eyes read the very first thing when it comes to reading anything? Is it the content? Then this piece is probably gibberish to you. But if it’s the title, then you may proceed further.

At times, title gives you a nudge to at least start reading a piece, which if not for the title, you might have not read at all. With so much writings floating around, I cannot even blame a reader (including myself) to unable to read everything. It is humanly impossible, especially for a human with day-job.

The very first bait that you can put out in the ocean of readers is a ‘catchy’ title. Now, what does catchy mean? Does the title have to be laced in colorful ribbons? or sparkle in gold? or embellished with pearls? That would be as stupid to think of as stupid it was of me to put such analogies out here.

So, what does a ‘catchy’ title really mean?

A title can be as simple as “Review of Kafka on the Shore” or it can be “Kafka abandoned me on the Shore“, or it can be “Review of Anna Karenina” or “Anna Karenina – Really a heroine“, or “Review of O Jerusalem” or “If I forget thee O Jerusalem!“? I’m not sure about you, but, if given both the articles at the same time to read, I’d have preferred the latter ones in all the cases. My choice for titles has always been bit subtle, bit deceptive, bit foggy; I go with the titles that would give the reader, a clue perhaps, about what he is heading to; but the gist, not right away. I like it to get unrolled piece by piece, not all at once.

Now, does this imply that for the sake of being ’catchy’, a title can play with its readers? I should not even be a writer if I nod here. Absolutely not. You can be cheerfully playful but not cruelly misleading. Mind you, both are different, and many confuse the latter for the former. I loved being the former one in few pieces of mine. “My one-sided love affair!” was one of them and I received a lot of feedbacks, consistent with one same line – You tricked me here. And yes, I did. But it was a playful one. Feedbacks would tell you if you mistook cruelty for cheerful.

A title can be allusive too, not necessarily giving-all-at-once. Who doesn’t like to hide while writing? I believe, many of us write to hide something behind a story or a poem. Having said that, title should certainly be in-sync with your poem or story or article. If, even by the end of the piece, reader can’t link the title with the content, there you probably chose a wrong story for your title.

As a writer, try to appreciate and think over the review by your readers. Sometimes, we tend to give lesser than deserving attention to the reviews, and end up being an arrogant and know-it-all writer. It doesn’t take much to be appreciative of somebody’s time, barring some cases. (Cases where some try to pull down the writer for no apparent reason. Writer, or anybody, is privileged to ignore such nastiness.)

Titles aren’t everything. But they are a substantial part. Ignoring them can cost you a reader, or who knows, maybe more. Don’t push them around. Play with them, play until you get to choose the apt one, something that makes you think I cannot think of anything better now.

As usual, would love to hear from you. What does a title mean to you? What significance does it hold? Have you ever read anything just because of a ‘catchy’ title? Share. Share. Share.

With these final words, I’d take adieu from you mates!


No credit for the image used.
Copyright © 2018 by Idle Muser. All rights reserved.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. lynnefisher says:

    I LOVE titles, Aditi. They hook me for novels for sure and I appreciate intriguing article titles, BUT if they seem to be self-consciously ‘clever’, ie something that comes across to me as nonsense, but intending to intrigue me, they turn me right off – and there do seem to be many of these titles around! You see them particulary with literary fiction stories, I think , trying to be clever, when simple and classically clear would be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      Oh yes, Lynne. Unnecessary cleverness does cost people some readers. Titles are wonderful- they can be intriguing even when simple, while some become repellent when tried to be overplayed with.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Prashantt says:

    Hey Aditi, Hws you..i missed your last some strories and i agreed in this context with you, title plays a significant role in catching attention of the eye however i used to decide titles after completion of stories or poems but few of my poems are completely title eccentric but if i ever think of changing my name, my mother will kick me out of home for sure😋😂
    Have a great week ahead!😇

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      I’m fine. How about you, Prashant?
      Yes, I did notice your absence, but, soon realized that your life has much more to do than reading my writings. chuckles
      I have this amazingly weird relationship with my titles. As much as I like playing around with them, they tend to play hard-to-get sometimes. But, mostly, we do get along fine.
      Oh please! You have a pleasant name. There’s not even any need to change it. And mothers will be mothers.
      Thanks again for stopping by!☺️


      1. Prashantt says:

        I am doing great and its all my pleasure going through to your wonderful work.
        Haha…life has many things to do but beautiful things never get ignored so is your writing.
        Have a great weekend ahead to you!😇💐

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree Aditi. A catchy title does grab the attention of the reader. I have always written the content first and then thought of a suitable title for it. Somehow not done it the other way!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      Thanks, Radhika, for sharing your thoughts.
      With time, I’ve realized that titles tend to play get-to-hard when are consciously thought about. In my experience, best titles have come to me when I was not even thinking about them.
      Usually, titles always come after content. But, for some poetries and book-reviews, titles do take the lead.


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