To write good titles channel a newspaperman


Part of the background of the novel I’m working so hard to get ready for publication is my fascination with celebrities, a tiny but life-long sideline of mine: in Mexico growing up, we read HOLA – which told you everything going on with anyone who was anyone, including the royal houses of Europe.

In the States, as an adult, I indulge this by reading People and similar magazines – at the dentist/doctor’s office. There is so much repetition, that once you have a good base, keeping up isn’t as hard as you think – you just tuck each new bit (which will probably recapitulate everything that ever happen in the celeb’s life) into your matrix of ‘data,’ and come back to it in a couple of months.

Life is a Soap Opera

I may have mentioned at some point that I have serialized Pride’s Children, Book 1, on several sites – to make connections in the online indie world, meet people, get new readers and their feedback.

One of these sites is VentureGalleries, and one of the two guys who runs it, Caleb Pritle, III, has been putting up chunks several times a week.

He chooses a 1000-1200 piece at a time, adds an episode title, and puts it up on the site.

He has the most outrageous episode titles, but the interesting thing to me has been that every one of them is lifted from somewhere in the episode.

When in the world did I write THAT?

The episodes aren’t quite scenes – his choice of divisions is to give serial readers a predictable size and approximate time-length piece, to be read on things like mobile phones.

So, for the fun of it, I’m going to go through the episodes he’s put up, and list them with their titles, and you’ll see what I mean.

One important bit: Caleb is an old newspaperman (I mean ‘experienced,’ not ‘agèd,’ when I say ‘old’) – and headlines have to grab. And he has a sensationalist turn of mind anyway – check out some of his books.

I honestly can’t remember writing some of these gems (the titles), but they are always IN the episode.

I’ve learned a lot about titles and grabbing attention from reading what he has been doing with my own words.

Thanks, Caleb!

Some ‘interesting’ episode titles:

3 – To hell with safe choices. She was going for…

6 – Did he have an affair with his co-star?

13 – Whatever the cost, her beauty was worth it.

14 – Love them, leave them, you never get to keep them.

24 – He liked living in the lap of luxury.

27 – It might be better posting an armed guard.

35 – For a writer, she was woefully inarticulate.

47 – She was jail bait, a child playing dress-up.

68 – Seeking sanctuary in the middle of the night.

74 – He sulked away like the coward he was.

86 – A woman who doesn’t gossip is a rare…

93 – Sincere flattery almost always worked.

99 – Sex changed everything and could never be undone.

109 – She had planned to expend her sexual tension.

116 – Why had she revealed her sordid secret?

128 – Would they fight a duel over a movie role?

136 – Hell’s deadline for tips was midnight.

144 – Was her mother sleeping around with movie stars?

152 – The most erotic thing a woman could do for a man.

158 – Why did she pray for the unborn baby to die.

163 – Was he on his way to hell?

He’s not done yet, so there will be more for me to shake my head at

They have ebooks and regular books and blog posts – always something going on.

This isn’t the full list – it’s not all posted there yet – but I can remember shaking my head at his ability to turn my simple words into lurid headlines when a particularly good one came across my desk.

How do you title your work, and what grabs your attention?

Thanks to for the ability to make quotes.

14 thoughts on “To write good titles channel a newspaperman

  1. Pingback: Do you rip your titles from the headlines? - Venture Galleries

  2. Janna G. Noelle

    Definitely retro, which is a cool stylistic choice. The more modern version would be more Upworthy/clickbait-y sounding:

    “You won’t believe what he said to his co-star the first time they met.”

    “The top five things women gossip about (#3 will blow your mind)!”


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I think Caleb’s headlines are from the time in which the shorter your message, the larger type you could use in the same space, so short and pithy – even if not nuanced – worked to get people to read.

      I don’t even suggest what to write – it’s all him.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Bows and blushes – for two reasons. Those ARE my words – but I’m not using them, since I don’t subtitle scenes.

      But it has been great fun, getting an email from Caleb with the current choice – several times a week, and then having to think back to which exact section he got them from, and nodding sagely.


  3. juliabarrett

    Your titles sound so retro! Love ’em. My titles just come to me. Even before I write the book. Other than that I’m pretty clueless.


    1. Lily White LeFevre

      These DO sound retro! I couldn’t say with certainty where more than half fit…hm. This could be a fun exercise to break up revisions sometime…”what would THIS scene’s headline be?” 😉


      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

        That’s the thing. When I go look, I wrote, if not the exact words, something very similar. But Caleb is the one selecting them – and his writing is very different from mine. His is darker, more ‘found’ – he likes to look at people and listen to them.

        But the relevant part is finding the most attention-getting headline you can get away with – and it has been informative to watch him do this.

        In the same way, I’m still working on the book description, and someone on Wattpad had a lot to do with my description there – where it competes for attention with the other books aimed mostly at a much younger audience. That description is definitely not the one I would use for a general audience – but it works there.



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