Thursday, November 14, 2013

Posting redux: Wait, does this need a title too?

This week's particular blogging laziness is brought to you by the cold that I've had all week. My creativity is dead, so here is a post from December 2011 about strengths and weaknesses.

As an update, I'm happy to report that I finally figured out how to get those stupid bags open (protip: get your fingers just a little bit wet, the bags open much easier). Still can't make fried potatoes though.

Anyway, enjoy!


In Sheena's post on Monday, she asked us for tag-lines, and my brain veered onto the superhero route (Prosers: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a 3000 word sprint!). And that made me think of my own strengths and weaknesses. Now, I know it's bold to declare my weaknesses as a superhero writer where the whole world could see, but I'm just crazy like that (I don't fear you, Malaysian spambots!)
It's not the general weaknesses that we're going to talk about tonight. No, we're going to talk about the really, really irritating ones. The things that it seems inexplicable that anyone could fail at. In my case:
-I can't make fried potatoes to save my life (no matter how many tips people give me).
-It takes me freaking forever to open those stupid plastic produce bags at the grocery store. (THIS SHOULD NOT BE HARD)
-I can't wear clothes for five minutes without getting something on them, no matter if I haven't drank, eaten, or left my house (I don't own a lot of white).
-I'm terrible at naming things

They taunt me with their delicious crispy goodness!

It's the last, of course, that causes me the most trouble as a writer. I do okay naming characters, but as a fantasy writer, I'm always trying to create new worlds and places, all of which seem to require names. The Steve* Forest might be funny at first, but you can't name everything in your world Steve without causing great confusion.
I've searched around for tips, but none of them seem to work for me. I fail utterly at making up random words, and though I can sometimes entertain myself by playing with Google Translate, coming up with names by searching random words in 20 plus different languages is not very time efficient.
hat whole situation is annoying, but what's really bad is my inability to come up with titles for a story. And titles matter. I myself am guilty of judging by titles. I certainly picked up A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman because of the title, and it was an awesome book. Now she's one of my favorite authors, but I wouldn't have made a random selection of the book if the title hadn't grabbed me. It works the other way around as well. For example, I haven't read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss yet in part because of the title. It's supposed to be really, really good, but every time I see the title I think, "The name of the wind is 'Steve'!" And then I snicker to myself for a few minutes before picking up a different book.
I'd always known this, but the message was really driven home for me recently. After years of sending around my story "Marbles" and not getting it accepted, I finally had the brilliant inspiration to call it "Music in Glass." And yes, it did take me years to come up with that alternate title.

The problem continues – one of my short stories in progress is currently called "Curse Story" because I have no other ideas for titles. And my novel is currently called Graveyard, which would be kind of boring even if a certain famous author hadn't just won every award imaginable for The Graveyard Book.
I prefer to wrap up posts with a positive note and solutions, but I really have no clue on this one. Any magic suggestions for how to find great titles for stories would be much welcome. I've tried all the standard things here too (looking at other titles I like and adjusting them to my story, for example), but none quite work for me.
And to not make myself seem like a complete incompetent, here are a few pointless things that I'm really awesome at:
-Identifying gulls in winter plumage to species level**
-Baking chocolate chip cookies
-Drawing stick figure zombies
What are your random strengths and weaknesses?

*Sincere apologies to anyone named Steve. I actually do this with a multitude of names, but this is the one that went in the post tonight.
**It is impressive! I swear! At least other ornithologists think so...


  1. I have abandoned entire plots & worlds just because I couldn't come up with a freaking name for something. I hear you. I will put off a title as long as possible, and I've never been happy with a title I've put on anything. Ever. *Long, suffering sigh*

    Random weakness: spatial relationships. The last time I tried to parallel park was in a space about 2/3 the length of my car. It ended badly. At that point, at the age of about 33, I decided it was time to give up and wait for cars that park themselves. (They might exist now but I can't afford one so I just drive and drive until I find a big open space.) Random strength: Hmmm. I'm pretty good at making respectably tasty baked goods while substituting half the ingredients on the fly because I haven't been to the store. And I'm good at making up explanations for things. My husband used to say I'd be a great consultant if I could just learn to drop the final "of course I actually have no idea" at the end of my plausible scenario.

  2. Also: Plastic grocery store bags are impossible. If you are in a crowded store and can't safely employ the true solution (below), then you can try grabbing two parts of the top of the bag and kind of pulling them away from each other at an angle, and sometimes the bag will separate. (Only sometimes.)

    If you can get away with it, the TRUE solution is to touch a finger to your tongue and get it wet. You need a tiny bit of moisture. If you cannot safely lick your finger in the produce section (because let's face it, that's frowned upon, even if you use your non-dominant hand and never touch any of the produce with it), you can try to casually touch some lettuce or other frequently misted produce that still has beads of moisture. The lettuce trick does not work in farmer's markets, but if you act frustrated enough there, usually the salesperson will eventually open a bag for you just to make you go away.


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