One of the “thinking activities” I used before my mother’s dementia worsened was to take her out for a ride in the sunshine and play the TITLE GAME. We’d choose objects or something we saw along the way—as an example here, I’m using pictures of chairs—and we’d take turns creating a title for a poem or story that might be written about it.
For instance, the picture above of FDR in a wheelchair might inspire a title for a children’s story, while the picture of Van Gogh’s chair might end up with a title about the person who had sat there posing for a painting. If Mom was reluctant, I would ask questions like “But what if–?” and soon she was laughing and creating all kinds of titles…to earn her the prize of an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen. (Bribery was an honorable technique if it inspired her to participate.)
I once read a journaling prompt about the importance of “thinking in titles” as an exercise in discovering what you really think or feel about something. Supposedly, if you keep a diary or a journal, when you write a TITLE about that day’s entry before you begin writing, it will direct the details and give the entry a focus and insight you might otherwise overlook.
Think about books that began with one title but after revisions and rethinking, the final copy ended up with a very different title. For instance, Jacqueline Susann’s book THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS began as THEY DON’T BUILD STATUES TO BUSINESSMEN. John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN was first titled SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED. 1984 by George Orwell was originally titled THE LAST MAN IN EUROPE, and William Faulkner’s THE SOUND AND THE FURY began as TWILIGHT (and it didn’t even have vampires and werewolves).
Imagine you have one minute to create a title for a book or story about your life, or a novel about the year something unusual or life-changing happened. One minute is all it takes, and you’ll win a Dairy Queen ice cream cone…or something you really want. What would your title be?