Writing for Children's Magazines
An Ezine


  Eye-Catching Titles  

  By Marion Tickner  




I brought in from the mailbox the Prairie Times Newspaper and glanced at the first page. In big red letters across the whole page, "The Sad Tale of the Murdered Tumbleweed." After I stopped laughing, I had to find out how a tumbleweed met its fate.

If the title had been "Two Woman Go Hunting," would I have been so anxious to read it? I might have skipped right over the story. After all, I have never been, nor do I have a desire to go hunting. What caught my attention? Not the big red letters, but the title itself.

Titles are what catch the eye and make the first impression. They can bring curiosity and fun to a child. A few things to keep in mind: titles aren't copyrighted, but be careful about including trademarks. Also, don't give away the punch line. After all, if the story is summed up in the title, why would I read the story?

When writing for the younger children, use words that are familiar to them such as If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Kids certainly know about cookies. Or words that would produce a few giggles, like Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus. How could that little bird they watch pecking in the yard drive a bus?

Play with words and sounds. You can even create your own silly words. Choose ones that are fun to say aloud. Even words like pickles have a funny sound.

Alliteration (repetition of a sound or first letter of a word) can be appealing. Sticky Stench and Beastly Brains are two examples.

Rhyming words are also ear-catchers, such as Spookie Wookie and Amelia Bedelia.

Mention of an underwear garment can grab attention. Remember how popular Captain Underpants was? Or a bodily function can set the young reader off giggling, as in Walter The Farting Dog.

While these titles appeal to the younger children, the older readers are attracted to suspense and mystery. Remember Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? The Mystery of The Case of . Ghost Cadet and Ghost Ship are examples.

I checked a few recent magazines for children and jotted down some interesting titles:
"The Treasure That Almost Got Away" (Highlights October 2016)
"The Girl Who Lived With Robots" (Cricket - September 2017)
"Launching Rockets" (non-fiction) (Cricket September 2017)
"Smartphone 101" (Boys' Life September 2017)
"Jackhammer of the Forest" (my story about the pileated woodpecker Wee Ones Magazine March 2007)

Sometimes it's really hard to come up with the right title, especially if it hasn't come to us during the writing process. First we have to have a working title in order to "save as" on the computer. But when it comes time to submit, it often needs something different. As you read your story aloud, a phrase or even a word might give you the title you need. Here's what I do. First I pray about it. Then I sit down away from the computer, and start doodling words and possible titles until it feels just right.

Even so, our titles could be changed upon publication. That happened to me only once. I had submitted an article about rejections entitled "Rejection 101." When it appeared in the March 18, 2005 ICL Newsletter, the title had been changed to "Ouchy Rejections." Much better.

It's interesting to learn that Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden was originally titled Mistress Mary. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland was originally titled simply Alice. What a difference the right title makes.

Even if you're only a magazine writer, take a walk through the library or bookstore and flip through books on the shelves as well as children's magazines and make a note of what catches your eye. Then dream up some eye-catching titles for your own work.

Writing for Children's Magazines, February 2018            Copyright Marion Tickner



Marion Tickner writes from her home in Syracuse, NY. She's been published in several children's magazines, both print and online, as well as anthologies. Marion has had the opportunity to read her stories to a 2nd grade class in an inner-city public school.



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