Help with a Title, please.

About Forums Den of Writers The Writers’ Lifeboat Help with a Title, please.

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  • #5452
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Hi folks, I’m afraid I’ve only been able to pop in here intermittently of late, as I’ve been very busy finishing the biography I’ve been writing of my great-grandfather – the son of a cobbler who became a newspaper proprietor, writer and renowned stage entertainer reading his witty short stories, in 19th century Ulster; I’m at the editing stage now. But I need your collective help, please.

    I’ve been using a working title which I thought was rather fun – “A Lyttle goes a long way,” but to open it up to a larger readership (not just those who are familiar with my great-grandfather’s writings) I’m thinking of changing the title to “Limelight” (he spent most of his life either physically or metaphorically in the limelight) – with the subtitle “the Amazing Life of an Ulster Storyteller”
    or “the Astonishing Life of an Ulster Storyteller”
    or “the Astounding Life of an Ulster Storyteller”
    or “the Incredible Life of an Ulster Storyteller”

    The strap line reads:
    A survivor of Famine, Tragedy and Bankruptcy
    WG Lyttle
    brought Hope to Adicts
    Consternation to Town Commissioners
    and Fun and Laughter to Thousands

    Any of the adjectives describing his life, I believe, could be justified from the text of his story but which one would make you want to read it for yourself? I’m not sure I’ve found the right word yet, so if you can suggest a better one, please do. Basically I have one word – an adjective – to grab your attention and get you to pick up the book to check it out. What should it be?

    #5459
    Squidge
    Participant

    First off, I prefer your original working title – Limelight doesn’t say much to me, but the play on words makes me wonder who Lyttle was, and what sort of ‘long way’ was it? Journey? Promotion? Makes it sound quite comedic, too. It would certainly attract interest, regardless of whether anyone knows of your ancestor or not.

    With your subtitle, I’d go for incredible. Unless you’re deliberately trying to do the old Victorian music hall thing of ‘Amazing, Astounding…’?

    Strapline – it’s a bit long for a strapline. Is there a particular reason for capitalising so many words? It looked a bit odd… It feels more like a blurb, but if it was a blurb it’d need padding out a little more. Would it be simpler to use something like ‘W.G Lyttle: cobbler, newspaper magnate(?), author, and entertainer’ to be more punchy strapline? The survival/tragedy and who some of the people were that he made a difference to can come into your blurb then.

    Hope that helps? Only my opinion of course – others may think differently…

    #5460
    Bella
    Participant

    Brainstorming here. Like Squidge, I love your working title. Limelight does nothing for me. Sorry.

    Maybe turn things around:

    The Improbable Life of an Ulster Storyteller – a Lyttle blarney goes a long way.

    Or

    Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me tell you a Lyttle story.

    Or

    Hold The Front Page – the improbable life of an Ulster storyteller

    #5467
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Thanks, Squidge, for your insightful comments. Interesting that the working title would catch your eye without even knowing about WG Lyttle. I agree the other bit wasn’t really a strapline – more part of the blurb, as you say.

    Bella, I love the idea of ‘Hold the Front Page.’ Unfortunately it would be anachronistic; back then the front page was always nothing but adverts 🙁
    The Improbably Life… would fit well – but maybe not strong enough?

    Thanks to you both for giving me food for thought.

    #5501
    GippsGirl
    Participant

    Hi Tony,

    Like Squidge and Bella, I prefer ‘A Lyttle Goes a Long Way’ because it’s a clever play on words and makes one wonder on the nature of ‘a long way.’

    One phrase that sprang to mind was ‘jaw-dropping tales.’ Adjectives such as amazing / astonishing / astounding / incredible tend to be done to death and wouldn’t capture my attention.

    Hope that’s more food for thought.

    #5502
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Thanks Gipps. THe working title is better, eh? Perhaps you three are right. But jaw-dropping is a strong word; thanks for that.

    #5505
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    OK, so I could still go with “A Lyttle goes a long way”. I agree it’s a nice pun, although any pun could put some people off, I suppose. I was hoping to avoid using his name in the title as though it is his name, alone, that makes it worth buying the book – and if it doesn’t happen to ring a bell with you, why would you buy it?

    Would this revised version of the alternative title resonate with anyone?

    UNRELENTING LIMELIGHT
    The Extraordinary Journey of an Ulster Storyteller

    #5506
    GippsGirl
    Participant

    Hi Tony,

    For me, Unrelenting Limelight doesn’t appeal. The word ‘unrelenting’ suggests something burdensome and turgid, and it’s not a pleasant counter to ‘limelight.’

    ‘A Lyttle goes a long way’ is much more upbeat and inviting.

    GG

    #5507
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    OK, thanks for the feedback GG

    #5508
    Squidge
    Participant

    Tony – sorry, but Unrelenting Limelight doesn’t work for me either. Sounds like a tragedy set on a stage, and it sounds like your relative’s life was far from a tragedy.

    You said that if you’re not familiar with the name, why buy the book?

    Book buyers are a strange crowd, drawn in by all sorts of things. Surely it’s that ‘drawing in’ of punters that is the first step in gaining their interest?

    I know we’re not a massive straw poll, but 2/3 of folk responding here have said they would be drawn in by your original title. Granted, to make a sale, they’d then have to look at the blurb…perhaps they’d recognise the subject, perhaps not – but at least you’ve tickled their curiosity. They’ve been drawn to find out more! They might even be interested enough to take a peek inside…and buy it.

    You have to go with what you feel is the right title for you as the author and the book, and my feeling from this thread is that you really don’t like your original title, even though it has received a mainly positive response?

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by Squidge.
    #5510
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Thanks, Squidge. No, I do like the original title (You should see the length of the list of “Lyttle” puns I rejected before choosing this one! There’s already a completely unrelated book out there called “Lyttle by Lyttle”, my first thought.) I just wondered if I could grasp readers attention without using his name. Maybe I’m worrying needlessly. This is why I ran it past you guys.
    Thank you all for your advice.

    #5515
    Kate
    Participant

    Hi Tony. I find unrelenting has negative connotations, as if his time in the limelight were a terrible burden that he didn’t wish for. Whereas A Lyttle goes a Long Way piques my interest, and the follow on line that mentions the ‘Ulster Storyteller’ wraps it up for me and would make me take a look inside to see if I fancied a read.
    Hope that’s useful.
    Kate

    #5518
    KazG
    Participant

    Boosting your straw poll stats, Tony, I too prefer your working title – hands down. It’s interesting, unusual and specific – far better than a generic title in my opinion. I would pick it up to see what it meant, if nothing else, whereas I wouldn’t even glance at Limelight, I don’t think.

    I also like ‘improbable’ as an adjective – again it’s specific and would make me want to know how it was improbable. Whereas the other ones are generic and much-used – also subjective, as someone’s else’s ‘amazing’ etc might not be mine, whereas ‘improbable’ is just that, wherever you’re coming from.

    and no to ‘unrelenting’ from me – negative connotations!

    #5519
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Has to be “A Lyttle goes a long way.” Excellent title.

    #5526
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Further thanks to Kate, Kaz and John. It seems I really ought to stick with my working title. So how about:

    A LYTTLE GOES A LONG WAY
    The extraordinary life of an Ulster Storyteller

    Or is it better without a subtitle?

    #5527
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    I like the sub title. It complements the title – which I also think is the right one!

    #5530
    Squidge
    Participant

    Works for me! And with the subtitle, too…

    #5535
    Kate
    Participant

    Definitely keep the subtitle in, IMO.

    #5536
    GippsGirl
    Participant

    I, too, think a subtitle (strapline?) works, though I’m rather partial to Kaz’s suggestion of ‘improbable’ which suggests an especially rollicking good story from an Ulster Storyteller.

    #5538
    Libby
    Participant

    I agree, keep the subtitle in. I especially like GippsGirl’s suggestion of ‘improbable’. More interesting than ‘extraordinary’ IMO, and for the reasons she states.

    #5551
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Thanks again for all the advice, guys.
    It’s clear I should stick with “A Lyttle Goes a Long Way”.

    But the subtitle:
    The Improbable Tale of an Ulster Storyteller
    The Improbable Life of an Ulster Storyteller

    The Remarkable Tale… or Life…
    The Extraordinary Tale… or Life…

    or some other type of Tale… or Life…?

    #5552
    KazG
    Participant

    My vote goes to:

    “A Lyttle Goes a Long Way”
    The Improbable Life of an Ulster Storyteller

    I’m intrigued by the idea of an improbable life! Improbable tales abound, but an improbable life really piques my interest.

    That’s my tuppence worth, anyway 🙂

    #5553
    GippsGirl
    Participant

    “A Lyttle Goes a Long Way”
    The Improbable Life of an Ulster Storyteller
    gets my vote.

    Improbable tale feeds into the stereotype of Irish blarney. That title tells the reader before they’ve turned the cover that what follows is not to be believed, so why bother buying the book?

    Improbable life suggests a life fully lived, a life of intrigue and fascination that promises to surprise and delight the reader, and therefore one that is worth investing time and money on.

    Words such as ‘remarkable’ and ‘extraordinary’ are cliche and undermine the very quality you’re trying to promote.

    PS. And credit to Bella for suggesting the word ‘improbable’ in the first instance.

    #5558
    Kate
    Participant

    ‘Improbable life’ gets a thumbs up from me too.

    #5560
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Thanks, again, for all the good advice and reasoning, too.

    #5561
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    ZAnd it’s a vote for ‘improbable’ from me too.

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