Fear in Writing: Making It Memorable

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making It Memorable

"This is my new song...you can sing along..."

"We can ooh with ooh...we can aah with aah..."

"Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog..."

You might not recognize these phrases, but any child under 6 and their parents definitely do.  These are the tunes one hears when watching Playhouse Disney--Mickey Mouse, monkey hosts, and Little Einsteins highlighted here.

They're the kind of ditties that stick in your head all day.  You find yourself humming them later and mentally smack yourself upside the head.  They are a parents worst nightmare because they prove to other parents that yes, you do let your children watch television (the whipping boy of childhood problems and the activity we have been taught to keep secret).

They are also great advertisements.

Every time your child sings one of these refrains in public and shouts "I love Little Einsteins!" the word is spread. Every time you share the frustrating tune repeating in your brain, the word is spread.

Selling a book can follow a similar path.  Many authors pick a catchy theme for their titles.  Sue Grafton has the alphabet series--U is for UndertowG is for Gumshoe.  Catchy, isn't it?  Others give their MC a catch-phrase.  Or a unique look (think Lisbeth Salander in the Dragon Tattoo series).  Or a memorable sidekick.

It's important to remember that these tricks can turn off as many people as they attract.  Personally, the cutesy naming of a book or series is a big turn-off for me.  I like my murder mysteries serious and dark.  (Though I'll admit: the exceptions I've made for books like Elizabeth Spann Craig's recent Memphis BBQ release have been worth it!)  Others might not see Salander as someone with whom they can even remotely identify or empathize.  So pick your tricks according to your audience.

What do you do, if anything, to brand yourself and your writing?  Do you think about this and research it, or shun the practice?  What do you think of authors/books who use these techniques?


  1. Oh, the branding for children's TV is amazing! I was always in awe of those folks.

    Although I'm not wild about the term branding...yes, a lot of it is done (I'm writing that sentence passively because a lot of it is done for me on the publisher level.)

    If there's an avid cozy reader out there, they know that I write elderly sleuths. They know I write humorous mysteries. I have quirky supporting characters. They know I write Southern settings. I've a new series that I'm about ready to announce (got to dry the ink on the paperwork first) and it's the same--older sleuth, humorous, set in the South, with quirky supporting characters.

    For me, I do work to make these characters and books separate and individual from each other. But I know that my readers know what to expect from me, too...which can be a comfort in itself.

    I do keep an eye on the market and research, but it's not the only way to go. If I were writing lit fic, I might feel differently.

  2. I don't go for the cutesy names or titles with my work. And glad those are tunes I'll never hear!

  3. Michele - Really interesting question!! You know, when I write, I don't think about branding. However, I do some things that I guess you could say amounts to branding. My blog is focused in a certain way. I write whodunits (as opposed, say, to a thriller or straight-up noir). But I don't really use catchy titles.

  4. I think there is DEFINITELY a need to keep expectations in mind. I love punny titles, but expect a Cozy Mystery (or at least humor to it--pun=humor in my book)--I am thrown off when the title doesn't match. And I love a really outlandish character like Salander, but she needs the full complexity she deserves--the good and the bad and the BACKGROUND that make it all plausible.

  5. My hat has always been off to those savvy brains behind children's programming, although I'm glad my kids are now well beyond it. As for my writing...hmmmm...I write historical mysteries with titles that come from Shakespeare (not intentionally - it just happened) however there is very little in common between any of my mystery games - I simply try my best to write what will sell!

  6. The songs/shows have changed since my kids were little, but you're right - it's powerful stuff!!!

    I like Robb's In Death series for titles too.

  7. I used to watch Arthur on PBS with my son when we lived in Colorado. We both liked it.

    Lisbeth Salander looks great in the movies (where Noomi Rapace has brought her to life)

    Cold As Heaven

  8. Good post, and yes, 'Branding' is essential these days. That's one reason I made myself known as The Old Silly. Might sound silly, lol, but Google it - it's working, leading you to Marvin D Wilson and his books and blogs.

    And those kids jingles are excellent, brilliant examples of such marketing!

  9. Oh, I suppose like anything, I'll forgive 'cute' titling if I like the writing. I like Grafton's series and so I don't care about the alphabet thing. I adored John D. MacDonald's series of mysteries with the fabulous Travis McGee - all of those had colours in the title - of which I can't remember a one. The thing was, he wrote other books so the colours distinguished his McGee mysteries - a good thing! I think sometimes it happens by accident and a heavy handed promoter. "Oh, your book titled 'The Rock Walker' did so well - for branding we want your next one to be 'A Rock in the Stream' or 'Rocks in her Head'. Ha.