First Impressions Make and Break Books #IWSG

[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]

This month’s awesome hosts are: Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

And thank you to founder Alex J. Cavaugh 🙂


What does our name mean?

As a kid, I remember the first time I actually picked out my own first pet, a dog. She was a two-year old mix between a cocker spaniel and a sheltie. Her hair was black, soft and wavy. Her eyes were giant, brown and watery. Her nose wasn’t fat or thin and everything about her sweet face, her expressions, melted my heart. I took her home and bathed her and then I found her ear had been damaged from what I guessed had been a fight with the other larger dog in her previous home. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t believe someone had left the skin so dirty and crusted over. I cleaned it, cut her hair and sat with her on the back steps in the backyard, drumming my fingers on my knee pondering the perfect name for her. Naming her was the first difficult act and I spent several hours searching for just the right one. My dearest nightmare chaser, my waiting friend at the door when I’d return from school or sports. I called my sweet little lady, Sadie.

THis month’s IWSG question asks: “What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?”

A name is identity, association, personality, even a secret if we don’t like what we get. I’m in the business of public relations and some days I stare at thousands of names as I’m preparing for specific events, publications and news stories. By staring at so many names, and watching so many student faces in school crowds, honors events, and social media feeds, I find it much easier to place a character with a name than titles.

Titles are like a brand. I have the worst time writing news headlines at work. I know they draw the eye in and if the headline doesn’t peek the curiously of the reader, and if you give away too much of the story in the headline, you lose the reader.

True, a brand is also identity. But a brand is far more than a name. It’s something you can remember. LIke an old 80’s jingle. A title is also a visual and it sets the tone for what a reader expects to find within a book. Titles further merge with image, photos and cover designs. I dread book titles. The first point of entry is so critical for any author or news writer. It’s the best victory in the world to finally settle on one. When I know it’s right, it feels really right, too.

Here’s my favorite commercial as a kid with the best motivating jingle song. Not sure how a tiger ever got associated with Frosted Flakes, but I loved the tiger more then the cereal and ate it every chance I could just to stare at the fun face on the box.

Do you have a favorite 80’s commercial? Does a jingle from your past occasionally float into your head and get stuck? Are names or headlines tougher to write?

Happy IWSG Day, all. Make it a “Great” day.

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on June 6, 2018, in Cloud Nine Girl, Erika Beebe, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Hello Erika,

    I love dogs too, and I can not understand people when they’re rough on dogs, or animals generally . Yes, names are important but with name we connect some name and then it seems to us that this name is the best name 🙂

  2. Jennifer Hawes

    I’ve been playing around writing headlines for my new MG mystery. It revolves around a three-generation newspaper that’s about to go under. Boy, have I had a blast making up some fun headlines!!

  3. I do think titles and book covers make the first impression for any book. I’m excited about my upcoming murder mystery, At the River’s Edge. It’s my best title and cover yet.

    Sadie sounds like a sweet dog. I donate all profits from my two short story collections to NC animal shelters. Love dogs! Wish they all could have good homes like Sadie.

  4. I agree that names are easier than titles. (At leafy for me) and as for 80’s jingles, for some reason I’ve been singing about Cookie Crisp for the last three days?!?

  5. I suppose that’s why names are easier for me too–they’re an identity based on the individual’s history or core. Titles are about appealing to the audience, often in a single world. Talk about daunting!

  6. I think that’s why I have such a hard time coming up with titles–because it’s so much pressure to make it “good” so it catches people’s attention. It’s hard when you already can’t figure out what to call it to come up with something catchy.

  7. It is like a jingle and will stay longer than a name. Which is why titles are so important. And probably why I suck at them.

  8. A thoughtful post. Thanks. I like the name Sadie for your dog, the name actually brings me a sense of who your dog is. Sweet. I find names a lot more work than titles. I usually expect my titles to come to me at some point while I’m working on the story but the character names have to appear right at the time the character does so I feel more pressured to come up with something.

  9. Loni Townsend

    Cute story about naming your dog. I have to admit I’ve had three dogs all named the same: Enew, Inu San, and Inu Ni. (Inu is dog is Japanese, then San is two, and Ni is three).

    This kind of reminded me of Hulu’s current “catchphrase” advertisement. It certainly works to get stuck in my head!

  10. spunkonastick

    A brand is a slogan and it sticks for life.

    I’ve always deliberated long over my pets’ names. Naming them after “cartoon” characters became my best bet. (Calvin & Hobbes, Rocko & Spunky, Star-Lord and Rocket.)

  11. Interesting post, Erika. And good question–how did a Tiger sell cereal? He appealed to me, too.

  12. It’s more of a declaration. Let’s get Mikey to try it: He hates everything. And it still makes me laugh today. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  13. I love your story about Sadie. I struggle to name pets, so usually other family members do, so we have Emily (a cat named by my neighbor) and Clyde (a dog my husband named). I had a cat I named Slinky, which was fitting for her, but that’s about the best of my creativity with pets’ names.
    I remember the same one as Anna. Mikey likes it! (Life Cereal)

  14. Spot on, Erika! I love Tony, too. When I was a kid, it was still called Sugar Frosted Flakes, before sugar was part of the evil axis. As far as 80s jingles, there was “Where’s the beef?”

  15. Sadie is a beautiful name for a beautiful pup. I am complete agreement with you regarding naming characters and books. A character’s name is a critical step in their creation for me. Once named they change from a concept to an individual. As for titles, well, let’s just say I hope that when I get there inspiration will find me.
    As for 80’s jingles, I was obsessed with them. I loved commercials more than the shows on back then, but I don’t recall a particular favorite.

    • Thank you Erika. She was the best dog and I still tear up thinking of her. I bet you will figure out the perfect title. And the 80’s was a fantastic time 🙂

  16. Sometimes when I look at my cat (Misha, name came with her from the shelter), I wonder about the notch in her ear. It’s a little cut-out triangle. I hope she didn’t go through any pain. I have such problems with book titles, or at least I am currently. My last book was easier. I’m hoping that I have it by the time I type, The End. 🙂 Happy IWSG day!

  17. And so true about titles being tied into branding.

  18. I’m so glad Sadie got a good home with you 🙂 I agree with you that titles are so important. I wonder if mine are catchy enough, especially considering how clever some of the cozy mystery ones are.

    BTW – not sure if you’ll see my response to your comment on my blog, but I sent you an email a while back (probably in April). If you didn’t get it, drop me a line at ellenjacobsonauthor (at) gmail (dot) com.

  19. Such a sweet story of your Sadie. Thanks for sharing. Those old Taco Bell jingles sometimes pop into my head sometimes.

  20. I think titles are much more important than character names from the marketing perspective. But for a writer who writes the story, the names are what shapes the characters. A wrong name could paralyze the writing muse.

  21. We’ve recently brainstormed about a title. The author said ‘Life After Sixty’ and we had a girl in her twentys who said she will not buy it. Yet if the title was ‘Experiences’ or something like that, she would buy it. So yes, titles do matter.

  22. Sadie sounds like the perfect name. 🙂

    Talking about character names, I read an IWSG blog post in which it was mentioned that fantasy writers should stop using character names with weird spellings like substituting a ‘y’ for an ‘i’ or an ‘e’ so the name looks exotic. Or making up a name that is impossible to pronounce.
    Made me laugh.
    Seems like the fantasy writers take ‘poetic licence’ or is it ‘writerly licence’ to another level.

    • I honestly don’t mind different spellings of common names because that’s what you see now in real life. What I do mind with writers and character names Michelle, is the made
      Up exotic names for a character. It may fit for the author but as a reader I can’t get over trying to figure out the name that I don’t ever get engrossed with the story and then I put the book down. Thank you for stopping in Michelle 🙂

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