Grandma's Been Dead 50,000 Miles
By: Wayne Brown
So the title caught your eye and you could not help yourself. The curiosity pulled you into the mix. That’s okay…I designed it that way. After all, a catchy title is extremely important if you are going to gain readership. On the other hand, the title will get them in but it’s only sizzle…where is the steak you might ask? Let’s see if we can find it.
I came across this title one time when I was attempting to remember the date that my grandmother had passed away. I could not come up with it but I did remember that, at the time, I had bought a new Volvo. Checking the odometer and knowing approximately how many miles I logged per year, I was able to then get a close approximation of when my grandmother had passed away. That’s when it hit me…grandma’s been dead 50,000 miles. Some things, well, you just have to experience them to get it.
For many years, I have hung on to this title in the hope that I would use it for my first book. After some time and thought, it has become apparent to me that it is far easier to write a book and then assign a title to it based on the content than it is to create a title and then generate content that fits it. It is a fitting example of the term “ass-backwards” and I truly get the level of difficulty associated with it. That said, I could not give up on my title and let it languish in some back drawer of my mind while I write about every subject hither and yon. I knew that some day, I had to take it out of the drawer and use it to good benefit. I would never have thought that I might use it as my platform to promote the use of a good title in our literary exploits. I suppose you could conclude that this is truly fate in action taking me by the hand and showing me the way as I rattle along on this keyboard.
I do not want to disparage the death of my grandmother in this approach. We loved her dearly and we were so proud that she stayed with us so many years before passing. I also loved that Volvo. It was a great car for many years so it is only fitting that I would combine the two into related subject material. My grandmother was a sweet, high quality lady who gave me much love and enjoyment with her presence her on earth. My Volvo was a beautiful car in a strange, boxy sort of way that just spoke of quality and reliability every time I started the engine. She gave me miles and miles of pleasure and driving experience and I cherish the memory. I too cherish the memory of my grandmother who at the time that I had the Volvo had been dead 50,000 miles…did I mention that?
Might I go on to point out how often I look at books and articles only to peruse their title and quickly shuffle off to yet another book or article. Oh-My-Gosh, the author has elected to give away the story line in the title. There’s no flirting, no teasing, no nibbling at the bait. Just blam!! Hits right between the eyes with the whole shebang. If you scan the article it quickly dawns on you that your assumptions were totally correct. The writer has announced that he intends to cover three main points by titling his article “The Three Main Points of My Article”. As journalist, John Stossel, might say, “Give me a break!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. My intent here is not to go after the writer for the flimsy quality of the material. I speak not of the content here. My purpose is to draw attention to the title. We must assume the content is there. If the author wanted to write three main points and included that in his title, then for God’s sake, let’s cut him some slack and conclude that he or she did indeed have three main points of discussion within the content and that they points were of reasonable quality. I tremble to think that an individual could botch the title to such a great degree and then err so stupidly as to only have two major points of discussion when everyone knows that three brings a level of symmetry and harmony that two could never achieve. No! I refuse to go there.
When you finish your next piece of material and venture out to offer it up to the reader, just stop for a moment if you will. I want you to read back over the article carefully with the eye of the reader in mind. Look for those little moments in the piece that tease and flirt with the reader; the ones that peak his interest; get his juices flowing. In there, in that moment somewhere there is a title for your offering that is not to be ignored. You must find it and use or you will forever rob your writing of the essence of its true being with the reader. Search and find it…you must!
Once you have searched the far reaches beyond each sentence, behind each word, and still there is no moment that speaks to you of a title, you must stop and weigh the consequences. Should you go forth with this material that speaks not of a title and publish it for all eyes? Should you expose your fragile nature, your weak side to the prying eyes of the reader? The reader will know, yes, he will know. The transparency so often spoken of by our political leaders will be so there in your writing. The reader will know, Oh Dear God! he will know! He will know that I could not come up with the proper title!
For those of you who doubt my sincerity in this approach, I can only condemn you as “Nay-Sayers!” and bask in the satisfaction of knowing that you will never truly find the correct title for any of your materials. You will wonder aimlessly throughout the annals of journalistic searching bare-naked and devoid of that what you might aspire to be within the writing kingdom. You will suffer long yet you will never cease in hearing this title repeated in your head, “Grandma’s Been Dead 50,000 Miles”. And with that, I bid you farewell.
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