A guide to writing good titles for books

If you’ve ever taken thirty seconds to look for a particular genre on a bookshelf, you might have noticed that many of the titles in the genre, for some reason, feel similar to each other. And not just those from the same writer.

Some titles, or rather, title naming formulas, are so common that probably everyone has read a book with such a title. The [Whoever’s] Daughter. [Whoever’s] Game. Confessions of [Whoever wants to confess]. Really, some of these titles are so clichéd and so prevalent that it’s, well, both hilarious and sad. Aren’t writers, of all people, supposed to write creatively? Then why can’t we name books creatively?

So, me being me, I decided that it would be great fun to see whether I could come up with titles for each genre.

Well, below, you see the results. I’ve created a flowchart for naming books. Simply put, if you’re looking for a good title (or a laugh), just take your book and answer the flowchart questions for it, and eventually, you’ll arrive at what I think should be the name for your book. (Or any other books in the genre.)Continue reading “A guide to writing good titles for books”

Do actions really speak louder than words?

You’ve probably heard this phrase more than once, or twice, or even three times. Really, it’s probably the most popular cliché of the English language.

So, let’s get down to the question: do actions really speak louder than words?

Here’s the short answer: yes, they do. For the most part, seeing how a person acts will give a clue as to how they feel and think.

But of course, this would be a pretty dumb article if I ended there. Because now we get to the extended answer. It begins with a no.

No, actions don’t actually speak louder than words. I mean, can you really understand a person’s motives just by looking at one action? Or two? Or five? Because people can do the exact same outward action for different inward reasons.

What I’m saying is that, like a picture, a single action, or in fact, a series of actions, can be viewed under different lenses; and people can draw different conclusions. Yes, there’s no doubt actions “speak” volumes more than words do; however, the speech coming from actions is garbled. Unless you’ve been with a person through their entire journey (and even then), you can’t really guess their motive. They only way to find out definitively is if they tell you.

Here’s an example. Suppose a person is a huge proponent of a controversial product (say McDonald’s), and while many others oppose it, they support it unconditionally.

Of course, there might be different reasons why that person supports McDonald’s they way they do. Maybe they

  • have shares in McDonald’s.
  • think that McDonald’s is a good place for kids to get jobs.
  • got their first job at McDonald’s.
  • really like the food.
  • really like the Happy Meal toys.

As you can see, there are many different reasons this person might like McDonald’s. But for the most part, they probably result in the same action: when given a choice between similar places to eat, they’d probably go for McDonald’s over other places. However, we, on the seeing end, only see the action. To know why they’re going to heart attack land, the person would have to tell us directly. With words.

Going on a slight tangent, you’ve probably noticed a handful of popular clichés involving words, such as the one we’re discussing. But there are others. Like, “a picture is worth 1,000 words”, and the like. Honestly, I think such clichés, idioms, or whatever we call them, are rather demeaning of words. We’re still using words, aren’t we? In fact, we’re using words to make those clichés. So obviously words must serve some purpose, or else, by now, we’d have completely switched to another form of communication.

Anyway, my main point is that while words without actions can be easy to understand, actions, without words, aren’t as easy. Or really, actions may speak louder, but louder doesn’t mean clearer. One can figure that out just look at the nearest kid screaming and yelling.

Anyway, if actions did, definitively, speak louder than words, I would’ve just uploaded a interpretive dance video instead of writing this thing.

Here’s ten major sports—described in one sentence

Recently I was reading this article on Sparknotes that detailed every one of Shakespeare’s plays in a single sentence—well, maybe two.

It looked like a great idea, and indeed, when I read through it, the comments on each play were rather hilarious—and of course, they each had some truth in them.

So, following this brilliant idea, I decided to do one on most of the major sports we have—yes, I basically went ahead and made a description of ten different sports—and yes, they’re not very serious. But, I hope they each have some truth in them—and I hope you find them entertaining.

So let’s begin.

Volleyball
86-6
Baseball
86-5

Continue reading “Here’s ten major sports—described in one sentence”

Why you shouldn’t use a thesaurus at every chance you get

There should be a new rule instituted in the literary world: don’t learn your vocabulary from a thesaurus. It almost always turns out badly.

Just ask any English teacher; they probably have several examples of cringe-worthy phrases hurriedly pulled out of a thesaurus during a test. Sure, the definition was mostly there, but the connotations, nuance, and maybe even the type of word was wrong.

And, as a result, the sentence was ruined.

You’ve probably seen this condition before. You know, when a writer uses a word they learnt out of a thesaurus in an attempt to impress their readers, be they teachers, managers, Facebook friends, or the local writers’ club.

And here’s some advice: that’s probably not the best way to write. Because, honestly, the conclusion is abominable. (And that’s an example of why you shouldn’t learn words from a thesaurus. It’s also an exaggeration, but since you actually need the real sentence, I meant to say, the results are awful. Now doesn’t that sound better?)

I’m not going to belabour this point too far. You’ve probably already met someone who’s a little too fond of their thesaurus. Of course, now, we come to two questions: where should you actually learn new words, and where does a thesaurus actually come into play?Continue reading “Why you shouldn’t use a thesaurus at every chance you get”

Why adult colouring books are stupid (and why you shouldn’t use them)

For some people, their first childhood wasn’t enough.

Thus, those dear people are trying to relive it (just without the baby food and the diapers), and in recent years, colouring books have become the latest childhood hobby to be appropriated by adults.

Two words: I can’t believe how stupid this is. (Yes, that’s seven words, but hey, if I want to relive my childhood, the best way to start is by miscounting.)

Colouring books have been touted by the American Art Therapy Association as being able to aid the patient colourer to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.” So, of course, we can infer that colouring books are magical. Without them, we’d be lost in the outer darkness.

Because, you know, colouring relieves stress. And to be honest, it’s relieving mine right now. I can’t remember the last time I got to be this sardonic. And since I’m feeling combative, I’m going to knock down every one of those arguments.

Colouring books help you explore feelings

Let me get this straight. Could people not explore their own feelings before colouring books came along? Or are colouring books catalysts that speed up the process? If I understand “exploring feelings” to be a form of introspection, well, I’m quite sure that I read somewhere that silence aids that process too. Maybe someone would do a study to see which is better. Or maybe they’ll just stick with colouring, because colouring books are rather easier to sell, and far easier to Instagram.

Colouring books help you reconcile emotional conflicts

Oh-kay. So, according to Wikipedia, “emotional conflict is the presence of different and opposing emotions relating to a situation that has recently taken place or is in the process of being unfolded.” Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the two solutions to that one were (a) time and (b) talking to someone else about it. I don’t remember when “just take some time off” became “just take your kid’s colouring book”.Continue reading “Why adult colouring books are stupid (and why you shouldn’t use them)”

Game Designer’s Notes #9: Cooperative games

Sometimes trashing your friends repeatedly gets boring, and then you decide to play a cooperative game. You know, where everyone’s on the same team, and the game itself is the enemy.

The reasons for playing cooperative games is obvious, especially if you want to remain friends with everyone around the table at the end of the day. So today, I’m going to discuss the general mechanics of cooperative games.

Firstly, cooperation is key. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it actually isn’t. A good cooperative game makes everyone feel included in the solution. If one player feels left out, or even worse, if one player can carry the whole team to victory without the other players, then obviously, the game will need some changes. Remember, the point of a cooperative game is that everyone works together to win.Continue reading “Game Designer’s Notes #9: Cooperative games”

Your Name.: thoughts, opinions, and review (and why it’s Oscar material)

It might be a little early to predict, but I think that Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. might be headed for the Oscars. To say that it’s one of the best films of 2016 is probably a fact; however, to say that it is the best? That, in my opinion, isn’t too far of a stretch either.

What is the film about, exactly? To quote Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Well, in Your Name., that’s exactly the case.

So here’s where I issue my all purpose SPOILER ALERT.

Thoughts, opinion and review

Your Name., or Kimi no na wa, tells the story of Mitsuha and Taki, the former a country girl from the small town of Itomori, and the latter a Tokyo city boy. Due to unexplained phenomena, several times a week, without warning, the two switch bodies.

The problem with these swaps is obvious. First, it takes some getting used to, well, rather different anatomy. Not to mention getting used to another person’s life. And family. And environment.

But we have a phrase to describe all of those, at once: culture shock. (Okay, maybe not all of those, but you get the point.)

While the show wasn’t mainly about culture shock, I found its depiction of the experience beautiful. As it plays out, the duo have rather differing reactions to body swapping. Mitsuha, having always wanted to live in Tokyo, is elated, and quickly gets used to Taki’s life, immersing herself in the city’s delights (mostly cafe snacks, really). Taki, on the other hand, is required to learn about the ancient traditions of Itomori from Mitsuha’s grandmother, which sets him up for his heroics later in the film.

And, of course, as you’d expect from two teens in a movie switching bodies repeatedly, they begin to fall in love. Cue the sweet music and whatever else is required, because now we move on to the second and more important theme.Continue reading “Your Name.: thoughts, opinions, and review (and why it’s Oscar material)”

The evolution of the Disney Princess Movie—and why Disney should just give it up

Disney has done it again.

And by again, I mean several things: firstly, they’ve made a box office success. Secondly, they’ve made a merchandising trap. Thirdly, they’ve made another of those “princess” movies.

There’s one thing they missed out, however. They missed the chance to tell an original story.

If you didn’t already figure out which movie I was talking about, yes, it’s Moana. (Or maybe its The Force Awakens. Except that isn’t a princess movie. Oh, wait. There’s Princess Leia. Never mind.) Yes, Moana had some “new” elements, but, all in all, the movie is just another basic princess movie masquerading in a new HD skin.

Since the 1930s, Disney has been trying, working tirelessly, to create the perfect princess movie. And it’s gone through a lot of changes. But here we are still, eighty years and some fifteen or more films later, and it looks like Disney’s getting close. Or maybe they’ve already succeeded.

And before you say anything else, let’s be honest: Disney’s only markers for a good film are the profit margins, so a perfect movie for them is one that makes them rich beyond belief.

Don’t believe me when I say that the princess movies are essentially the same? Well, here’s a chart to prove it.Continue reading “The evolution of the Disney Princess Movie—and why Disney should just give it up”

Researchers think that they can predict criminals using facial features—here’s why it won’t work

At the Shanghai Jia Tong University, AI researchers have built a system able to identify criminals 9 out of 10 times just by their facial features.

In Wisconsin, the police have implemented a test that criminals are required to take that decides how dangerous they are to society, and from that result, how long they should be imprisoned.

Wave goodbye to the sunny future with flying cars and a colonised Mars and say hello to our future of pre-crime and Big Brother (More like big bother, but whatever). The fact is, AI is not only out to get your job, now, it’s also out to get you.

Why governments and researchers think an AI-run criminal justice system is a good idea after watching movie after movie where it fails beats me. Maybe they think that they, with all of their brightness and intelligence, will create the perfect system.

Well, you don’t need to wait and see to wonder whether it’ll fail. Because today, I’ll tell you why it’s bound to fail.Continue reading “Researchers think that they can predict criminals using facial features—here’s why it won’t work”

Game Designer’s Notes #8: Preventing never-ending games

Everyone knows that one game that takes twenty five hours to play, and every hour is another hour of pain. Two quintessential classics come to mind: Risk and Monopoly. Both games are both monotonous and never-ending.

At which point, most people just quit the game.

We know no one wants games like that, so how do you keep a game interesting, and within a reasonable time frame?

Well, by setting parameters for time.

This mechanic, or idea, is the single most implemented mechanic I’ve seen in abundance. The fun thing is, everyone implements it differently. I’ll talk about a few “basic” ones today.

Set rounds. Some games literally put a cap on the game’s time by setting a specific number of rounds. This is the case of the drafting game 7 Wonders: there are only (ever) 18 rounds. This basically forces the game to take, at most, 30 minutes to finish.Continue reading “Game Designer’s Notes #8: Preventing never-ending games”