Cover Story by L. Stewart Hearl

It’s been said that you can’t tell a book by its cover. While this may be true, if the cover doesn’t grab the reader, he may not open the book. I will not discuss cover art here, but there is something else to be found on the cover—the title. It is the first print the reader sees. Does it capture your reader’s attention? Does it make him want to open the book and read your story? The title should suggest the main subject of your story, usually with a twist.

Examples of titles that suggest the story:

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Star Wars”, “The Expendables”, “Forbidden Planet”, “Song of Fire and Ice”  (Movies are usually based on books.)

Titles cannot be copyrighted and can be re-used. However, I would not suggest that you grab someone else’s title. Your title should be a short-hand introduction to your story, not someone else’s.

Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a good idea for your story.  In such circumstances, some suggest “Read a newspaper” or “Get a magazine on your favorite subject”.  Those suggestions are good, but here’s something that might help kick start you into your story.  I call it the Superlative Starter for both your story and your story title.

Generally speaking, a superlative is a word ending in “est” although there are some superlatives that don’t follow that rule.   Here are a handful of examples: Best, worst, tallest, shortest, first, last, smartest, dumbest, fastest, etc..  When you use a superlative in a title it immediately tells the reader what to expect from your story for it asks a question that, hopefully, your story will answer.  After reading your title, the reader is forced to ask the question “Why?”

The title format is very simple.  It’s just “The <superlative> <noun>”.

The Last Ship
The Smallest Monster
The Richest Woman in Town
The Smallest Hero
The Last Drop of Water
The First Man on Mars
The Shortest Cop
The Fastest Car in Bogota
The Sharpest Pencil in the Box
The Hottest Day on Earth

From “Creative Writing Essentials” by L. Stewart Hearl
Available for $2.99 on Amazon Kindle


1 Comment

Filed under Writing Craft

One response to “Cover Story by L. Stewart Hearl

  1. I’m reminded of “The Last Starfighter”, “The Longest Yard,” and, of course, “The Last Unicorn”.

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