What’s in a name?

Or, a rose by any … etc … etc …

Like many writers I find it incredibly difficult coming up with great story titles. You know the kind: titles that invade the imagination and shout, hey, you really want to read this story. Such titles peak ones’ anticipation and often encapsulates the essence of what is to come – yet leaving that sense of wonder and mystery in the reader’s mind. Even if a story doesn’t quite live up to high expectations, those memorable titles are likely to remain in the memory banks for a long, long time. And may suck you back in to give that story another chance.

A tip for those searching for that captivating title: have a good look through your poetry collections. And of course, the Bard of Avon has come to the rescue on many occasions.

Here, then, are ten evocative short story titles that are, I believe, worth their weight in literary awards (in alphabetical order):

  • And Seven Times Never Kill a Man – George R R Martin
  • Because Our Skins Are Finer – Tanith Lee
  • If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister? – Theodore Sturgeon
  • Last Summer at Mars Hill – Elizabeth Hand
  • Nobody Thinks He’s a Bad Boy – Samantha Lee
  • Oh Whistle and I’ll come to You, My Lad – M R James
  • On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks – Joe R Lansdale
  • “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman – Harlan Ellison
  • Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption – Stephen King
  • The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth – Roger Zelazny

I have not included novel titles in the above list. The same thing applies to a lesser degree; book titles tend to be shorter and snappy – perhaps necessary for book promotion, or getting it past the companies’ accountants and sales staff. But sometimes a title pops up that really grabs your attention and makes you want to buy that novel right there and then. Here are three I particularly like:

  • Gun, With Occasional Music – Jonathan Lethem
  • The Doll Who Ate His Mother – Ramsey Campbell
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis

I wish I had come up with these titles. Why not add your own suggestions?



2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. James Tiptree Jr (or Alice Sheldon)’s ‘Star Songs Of An Old Primate’, ‘Please Don’t Play With The Time Machine’ and ‘Her Smoke Rose Up Forever’ are particular favourites of mine. And Mary Gentle’s ‘Rats and Gargoyles’ has a lovely gothic snap to it. 🙂

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