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Putting the Title in the Story

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Telcontar, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    I wonder if anyone has named this reflexive phenomenon of having the title of the story explicitly mentioned within the story itself. Sometimes it works and in fact is necessary, such as when the title of the book/story is a part of the plot. Terry Goodkind does this - each of his book titles are in fact parts of the story, and thus need direct mention. (Edit: No sooner did I post than I thought of a couple exceptions. "Faith of the Fallen" for instance)

    However, some authors use titles that never see direct mention within the story. I could be wrong, but I think that a couple of George R.R. Martin's titles have never actually been used as a part of the story - rather, they are allusions to the events within. A Feast for Crows, for instance. Obviously a 'Game of Thrones' is an exception. Everybody and their brother uses that phrase within the books... (I exaggerate, of course).

    The same goes for songs. In fact, I like it when the song title is not an actual lyric. Some of my favorites are "Tripping on a hole in a paper heart" by the Stone Temple Pilots, and "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven. It is a form a of meta-writing, I think. You're actually extending the meaning of the story/song itself by using the title to elaborate on its themes.

    I just finished a story in which I really had to struggle not to put the title in. I wanted to use that meta-discourse, but damn I love self-reference. It's a weakness, I suppose. I find it amusing even when it is cheap and gratuitous.

    What do the rest of you think of this sort of thing? Does anybody know of a name for it? What kind of effective uses of it have you seen and used?
  2. Ulutar

    Ulutar Dreamer

    I don't know what it is called but it really is quite interesting now you bring it up. I have to say, personally, when I'm reading a book that does this it always makes me stutter mentally. I know that sounds odd but what I mean is that it undoes any immersion that the writer so far has achieved, because when I see the title in the text I instantly remember I am reading a book. That being said, many books do what you've mentioned and it has no negative effect, I just think that sometimes it's unnecessary and can seem a little tacky. Of course it all depends on what the title is, I really have no issue if it's an object or a place/character name that is mentioned, anything like that is fine. But I can't help cringing when an author has a character saying the title in conversation, it just seems so... clichéd? That's just my opinion on it however. :)

    I actually plan to separate each of the books in my (planned yet unlikely to see daylight) series into four named sections and I know I will definitely mention the titles of each of the sections throughout the book, but this is most likely because they will be objects, places or people - as I said above, I don't mind that ;)
  3. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

    This is often the case in movies. I don't really have an example, but there is a gag in Family Guy that covers the exact same thing. There is always an actor that will dramatically say the title of the movie.
  4. Ulutar

    Ulutar Dreamer

    @Xanados Agreed, haha I love Family Guy!

    *Also, Paralyzer by Finger Eleven is a great song, I forgot to mention this in my previous post :p
  5. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    It does the same thing to me unless it's one word or a proper name. When the title is a phrase and that phrase appears in the book, I'm pulled out of the story a little. I think, "Oh, I see what you did there, author." It makes me aware in a weird way, like being awake enough to realize I'm dreaming. Suddenly, I'm not fully immersed in the story. Instead, I'm caught halfway between being in the author's world and the real world. It's not comfy at all.
  6. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    I also am a huge fan of Family Guy:

    Peter Griffin: That's a great idea, let's do it! Let's shave the cat! Oh boy I usually only get this excited when they say the title of a movie in the movie.
    [Cut to a movie theater where Peter is watching a film]
    Voice in the movie: [Off-screen] I'm telling you, these drug dealers represent a Clear and Present Danger to the United States!
    Peter Griffin: [Excitedly] Ah! Ah! He said it! He said it!
    [Cut to another instance of Peter watching a film]
    Voice in the movie: [Off-screen] All I'm saying is, what if this is As Good as it Gets?
    Peter Griffin: [Excitedly] Ah! Ah! There it is! There it is!
    [Cut to another instance of Peter watching a film]
    Voice in the movie: The only way for me to solve this crisis is to be Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
    Peter Griffin: Oh that's why they call it that.
    [Brian is busted by the police for having pot]
    Policeman: I don't appreciate drug addicts in my town! I'm a Family Guy!
    Peter: Ah-ah! Ah! He said it!
  7. I don't think there's any argument to be made that including or not including the title in the work is automatically good or bad. Trying to deliberately work in the title just for the sake of it is usually a waste of time.
  8. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

    I always assumed that when the title appeared in the text it was because the author wrote the story first and said, "Hey, that's a cool, relevant, and succinct piece of prose. I think that's what I'll call the whole book!"

    I hate coming up with titles. I'm awful at it.
  9. Shpob

    Shpob Dreamer

    I'm personally struggling with titles lately but I'm trying to keep in mind a few guidelines.

    A: Make it the last thing you do: it's not until you've finished the story to completion that you know what the "essence" of the story is and what titles might fit that essence. Also, making the title before you start might make you too attached to the title and subtly force the direction of the story one way or another.

    B: First impression is everything: When you've got a list of options for your title, think about what would sound the best to a reader who has no idea what he's about to read. What would make him interested right off the bat?

    C: Make it memorable: My main writing project focuses on a monster called the Adhahra. But if I called the story "Adhahra" or "The Adhahra" or something along those lines it would be hard for the reader to remember the title because it's a unique word. Or at least I think that would make it harder to remember. Now I just don't know : /
  10. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

    That is EXACTLY the gag I was thinking of!
    Awesome. I read the lines in the voices of the voice actors themselves, too ;)
  11. Dekzper

    Dekzper Acolyte

    I like this thread. Titles in manuscripts are something I hadn't even considered. But yeah, I agree now that the title should be something catchy that describes the book and not something repeated in the book.
    Now I need a new title for my book. :confused:

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