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October 2014, vol 10 no 3

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Bob Lucky

Random Praise: Titles

In every issue we hope to highlight something that the Featured Writer pointed out in the previous issue. And we will use the haibun from that issue as an example or examples. This is not a contest or an award granting exercise. It's in the spirit of fun with possible educative aspects. I suppose it's also a slap on the back.

In CHO 10.2, Roberta Beary succinctly summarized the elements of a strong haibun: title, risk-taking prose, and haiku to illuminate that prose. Her point about titles is that they should add texture to the haibun. I feel this is important, and especially so for shorter forms. I often remind myself of the Vestal Review (the longest running flash fiction magazine in the world) guidelines when I've finished a haibun with a stinker of a title: "Don't forget that the title is an important part of the story. Make it pertinent but don't tell too much either. We generally don't favor one-word titles." And I remind myself of high school students around the world who are often told that the title may hold a clue to the theme of a story. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But a bad title – flat, empty, a spoiler, redundant, etc. – is no good to a reader.

Approximately half the titles in CHO 10.2 were one-word titles. That doesn't make them automatically bad. The right word can be the best title if it, as Beary tells us, adds texture. Who among us doesn't like the spot-on one-word title. But for my Random Praise, I'm going to single out a title that's a bit longer, Jonathan Humphrey's "How to Disassemble Your Father's Ghost (Winter)" (CHO, 10.2, July 2014). No analysis from me. Go back and read the haibun.

For a detailed and informative essay on haibun titles, see Ray Rasmussen's "A Title Is A Title Is A Title, or Is It? – The Unexplored Role in Haibun" (Frogpond 3.3, 2010).