writing titles writing headlines

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Writing titles and headlines.

101 Creative Writing Exercises takes writers on an adventure through the world of creative writing.

The book is packed with writing exercises that are fun and practical. Not only will these exercises inspire you, they’ll impart helpful writing techniques and offer valuable writing practice.

Try your hand at fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, including freewriting, journaling, memoir, and article writing.

Today, I’d like to share an exercise from 101 Creative Writing Exercises. From “Chapter 10: Article and Blog Writing,” this creative writing exercise is called “Titles and Headlines.”

Titles and Headlines

A title or headline is the first point of contact that a reader will have with your writing. It’s your introduction, a chance to entice and intrigue readers so they want to buy your book or read your article. An effective title piques a reader’s curiosity and provides some idea of what the piece is about.

Some authors use titles as part of their brand. Sue Grafton worked her way through the alphabet with her Kinsey Millhone series, which includes the titles A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, and so on (aff links). Many romance novelists use words like kiss, love, or dance in their titles. In the sci-fi realm, anything associated with space is fair game: galaxy, universe, Mars, and stars. And a well-placed mythological term, such as dragon or wizard clearly marks a fantasy novel.

In addition to book titles, many authors have a separate title for a series. This allows the author to use two different titles on a single piece of work. New readers will be drawn in by the book title while existing fans will gravitate toward the series title.

In poetry, titles can be more abstract. A poem’s title may seem irrelevant to the poem. Many poets take a word or phrase from the poem and use it as a title. Others will use a title that functions as part of the poem. The best poem titles evoke an image and give the reader an indication of what the poem will feel like.

Magazines use headlines prominently displayed on the front cover to entice customers. Newspapers use them to draw readers into a story, and bloggers, as many of you know, use headlines to generate buzz, links, and shares on social media.

The Exercise

Choose one of your writing projects or ideas and make a list of possible titles. Don’t run off a quick list. Take some time to contemplate each title and consider how it will resonate with readers and impact your project’s success. Make sure the titles and headlines you write represent the piece accurately. Avoid labels, words, and phrases that are misleading.

Tips: Look to some successful works by authors you admire to get ideas for titles. Peruse magazines, newspapers, and blogs for headline ideas.

Variations: If you don’t have any writing projects that need titles, then make a list of alternative titles for some of your favorite books, magazines, movies, TV shows, articles, and poems.

Applications: Every piece of writing has to be titled, and a title or headline is essential in selling the piece to its audience. Developing catchy, intriguing titles is an essential writing skill.

101 creative writing exercises

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