I went to the Asimov’s site to complete my voting for the Readers Choice Awards (you can do the same here), and I had a horrible realization. Writers are terrible at titles that make you recall the story.
Because I was in a hurry, I didn’t make a list of the stories I liked. I just went from memory. I did fine in the novella and novelette categories, but when it came to the short stories, I was stumped. I knew there were stories that I liked, but I couldn’t recall them from the titles, and I didn’t have time to go look at the first paragraphs of the stories to bring the story back into my head.
So you short fiction folks of the generic one-word titles, I’m sorry. If I liked your story, I failed to vote for it.
I’m often guilty of bad titles. I know this because at times, I can’t remember my own story from the title. Usually I try to pick the story’s main image or main idea and use that. If I can’t find a good way to express the story’s main image in the title, then I try to come up with a clever few words or a pun or something. When I can’t come up with any of those, and the story must get to the editor to meet a deadline, that’s when the titles get…well, there’s no other word for it. Sucky.
Good titles do not a good story make. But they sure help the readers recall the story when they want to recommend it to someone.