The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,Thomas Grey – Elegy in a Country Churchyard
Does the title give it away? I’ve been having to think about titles recently as part of my general “upping the game” policy for haibun. With WP you can just throw a few words in the title box and you are done. If I can add some alliteration I consider it a good day and if I can work a pun into it I turn mental cartwheels. But with haibun they expect much more.
A haibun title should draw the reader in and enthuse them to read on, It should link to the prose and haiku, without giving it away, and it should, after the reader has finished, add a further dimension or other meaning.
That’s slightly different to the way I generally view a title, which is a way to identify the work when I want to find it again. I can see a major reassessment is needed.
I’ve actually looked at the titles of a few haibun by people who have criticised my titles. Guess what? I just read half a dozen haibun. One title drew me in. Several were dull. One linked to the haiku but neither the title nor the haiku linked to the prose. A couple seemed to have nothing to do with anything that followed. None of them changed meaning after I finished reading the haibun, though several puzzled me by, as mentioned above, seeming to have nothing to do with the haibun. I could go on.
My point? Some of these simple things are harder than they look and even the great and the good struggle to get it right.
It might be that they are getting it right and I am just too plodding to recognise the fact.
So – three things to learn from today.
One – work harder on titles, using these guidelines.
Two – develop critical reading skills.
Three – editors don’t always follow their own advice.
That, I think, is enough for now. I’m now going to apply these lessons to my latest haibuns “Crap haibun I threw together between games of Freecell” and “Number 82”. It’s likely that they can both be improved.
We had an interesting day in the shop today, but I expect you gathered that from the title. I really need to work on my titles. They should tantalise rather than tell all in the first few words.
Last week, which I don’t think I have told you, I switched on my computer in the shop and it wouldn’t go. We eventually narrowed this down to a power supply issue. Apparently the flashing amber lights that happen when a computer breaks down aren’t random, they are a coded breakdown message.
We rang the customer who attends to our computer needs and he was on his way to the airport for a holiday. He said that we should disconnect the computer from the mains, take the cover off, look for a silver box, take the serial number off it and see if we could buy another on eBay. Even an idiot can replace it, he said. No chance. I’ve done that sort of thing before and I know how the story ends. Tears, regrets and the smell of burning…
So this morning, being first in, I switched the other computer on. A few minutes later I noticed it didn’t seem to be working, so I did it again in case I had done it wrong.
Again, nothing. So I tried a third time and sat and watched the screen. According to the message that flashed briefly onto the screen before it went dead, it can’t find the hard drive. Seems simple enough to me, and if I can do it you’d think something with a brain like a computer would be able to do it.
I tried switching it on and off a few times. Disconnected all the plugs and stuff, then plugged them all back in. Tried again. Administered a good sharp tap to the top of the case. All the usual.
I am developing a bit of a reputation for breaking computers.
I decided to make a cup of coffee, but having developed a sixth sense about these things over the years, sniffed the milk first. We had black coffee. After years of inadequate refrigeration on farms and in shops you soon learn that the question “One lump or two?” doesn’t always refer to the sugar.
I’m doing some research for an article which I am writing, when I came across a reference to Zorro. In my mind this was translated to Borro, as Boris the blonde buffoon is always in my thoughts. As the government is now threatening to fine people for not wearing masks on public transport the title of the post took shape in my mind – The Mask of Borro!
To be honest, that is as far as it goes. I don’t have the enthusiasm to pursue the Prime Minister and lambast either his advisor, his lack of leadership or his disorderly life.
The government policy on face covering, like many features of their handling of the lockdown, has not reflected credit on them. I don’t mind them making decisions, even wrong ones. But I do mind them flapping and vacillating and wobbling about. That’s it. I now wash my hands of them.
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation – Lobby Card
I note, in passing, that it’s also possible to write lambaste and adviser and still be correct. Spelling is a remarkably flexible area, even in the twenty first century.
I have been storing a title in my drafts for several years now – Polishing, Pondering and Plagiarism – because I liked the alliteration. It would be hard to assemble all the necessary elements for a post. Over the years I have thought of adding and subtracting – Pontification and Procrastinating both being considered for inclusion at one time – but I’ve never managed to write a post that drew the elements together in a convincing matter.
Yesterday, as I was thinking in the car, I decided that I really ought to use it, even if I only used it to introduce a post on titles I would love to use. Unlike the Corvid 19 joke, where I knew that I would get a photo of a crow sooner or later, it is unlikely I will ever need this title.
It will now never be used as a title because, although I was going to use it for this post, I then thought of the Borro title.
I have several others stored away too.
Vandetta was going to be a post about the way white van drivers seem to have it in for me when I’m out driving. I’m not sure if they bear a grudge against all car drivers, the Highway Code or just me, but it does seem like it’s personal.
Cyclots was one I was storing up for a post about one-eyed cyclists doing stupid things. I don’t actually remember seeing any one-eyed cyclists, so I’m thinking it’s unlikely that I’ll be needing it in the near future either.
I’m currently working on a post merging the worlds of politics and astronomy. There are, unfortunately, too many politicians and only one planet with comedy potential (and even that comedy potential is limited for anyone over the age of 14). I will therefore keep my fingers crossed that Michael Gove is made Minister for Space Exploration, because only when that precise combination of unlikely circumstances coincide, will it be appropriate to write a post titled Michael Gove looks like Uranus.