The Creative Spark! – Geeks in Gowns

Make your essay titles thrill like Super Bowl ads. Remember Go Daddy’s ad with the supermodel French-kissing the chubby geek? The ad repulsed, but left a mark?a drooled lipstick mark. You, too, can make a (4.0) mark by applying advertising concepts to your titles.

Now ask yourself, what if the geek wore the lipstick and gown? Ah, you are thinking like an ad expert now. So, let’s explore title-making fun with Pete Barry’s book The Advertising Concept Book. Barry’s comments appear in bold; mine touch on titles.

What is the benefit? Find just one product benefit to promote in your ad.
Similarly, find just one benefit the professor will receive from reading your essay. In other words, what one benefit ? or “so what?” question ? does your essay address? Put that single benefit in your title.

If your essay tells top academics’ secrets on how to focus, then your benefit might be “Focus with prof know-how.” If your essay talks about why good looks increase the odds of extramarital affairs, then your benefit might be “Safeguard yourself from affairs.”

Write lists of benefits. Pick the best one. This single benefit will form the starting point of your essay title. This benefit will focus your essay titles.

Come up with 10, 20, 30, or more ideas for an ad?brainstorm. That way, you won’t fret murdering your darlings.
Similarly, come up with tens of ideas for your essay title.

Why so many? I read in one book that we should murder our darlings. (The words “murder our darlings” represents cutting out our great ideas that don’t fit.) I read in another book that we should keep our darlings and find a better place to put them. But, I prefer Pete Barry’s advice to create so many darlings that you feel less attached to the ones you ditch.

(Disclaimer: the word “darlings” applies to ideas, not people.)

Choose quantity over quality when brainstorming your lists of ideas. I read studies of two groups of subjects, one tasked to output high quantity, the other high quality. The high quantity group came up with the best quality?by far. So, go for quantity.

Start brainstorming tens to hundreds of ideas for your titles. Write them all down, whether they seem stupid or spectacular. (I find it valuable to list 100 items of anything I wish to brainstorm.) You’ll end up with multiple darlings; so, choose the best.

Narrow a wordy ad to one-to-six words
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Make your essay titles six words or less, too. You can, however, add a wordy subtitle, but keep the main title short.

Today, I saw an article in the Calgary Sun titled “Sniff” about the retirement of a sniffing-oriented service dog. (I can’t recall what exactly the dog sniffed. You can imagine.) But the one word title “Sniff” contained a double meaning. Brilliant.

Act pithy and title your essays with six words or less.

Choose an ad that people either love or hate. Indifference suggests your ad needs work.
If an ad repulses you, it’s better than one that leaves you indifferent. Similarly, make your essay titles splashy or sickening?but not boring. But prefer splashy over sickening, sickening over dull.

The preference of sickening over dull explains why some media hounds embrace scandals. But, try to make the world love?not hate?your stuff.

Play with opposites in your ads
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Also, play with opposites in your essay titles. Take famous quotes or business names or anything else in popular culture, and twist them into their opposites. For an ad, for instance, put the Super Bowl GoDaddy geek in makeup and skirt and the supermodel in bare face, a short hair crop, and overalls.

As another idea, this time for an essay on body positivity, take a slogan like “We are what we eat” and say the opposite: “We are not what we eat: We are what we think, say, feel, believe, and do.” Opposites add intrigue.

Many ways exist for creating opposites in your titles and ads, according to Peter Barry. Here are a few from his book:
– Make serious ads funny and vice versa.
– Turn negatives into positives.
– Take a popular slogan and negate a part of it.
– Do the opposite within visuals.

Play with opposites in your titles for impact.

Don’t reveal too much in ad: leave out detail to make the viewer finish the puzzle. Start with the most obvious version of your ad; then cut enough detail to make viewers think.
For instance, you can make an essay title called “Cutting Corners” followed by a tire skid mark and then begin your essay on finding love during midlife crisis.

(This previous suggestion works well for ads, but if you plan to publish, you’ll need a more searchable title. In other words, consider choosing a title-subtitle combo such as “Cutting Corners: Finding Love During Midlife Crisis.”)

Now you’ve got the ad expert touch. So, title your next paper on the benefits of massage for highly sensitive people as follows: “Touched.” One word says seven. A paradox? I call it a creative spark.

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