Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who Killed D&D?

Above is the bait. Here's the switch.

In a response to Johnathan Bingham's recent divisive and controversial post, “I Like Pie” , one of the more collegial members of our online community, the Happy Whisk, stated that effective blog headlines are what draws her to a post. A simple point perhaps to some, but one bloggers looking to get up on their game (no pun intended) should pay some mind to.

The power of great headlines was driven home to me at a job interview (of all things). Applying for a news editor position, I was put through the ringer by a hard-nosed interviewer.

After the usual round of questions, he read off three punchy, archly-crafted headers to me and asked me quickly, “what makes these three headlines great?” Just as quickly he rattled off three more awkward-sounding ones and said, “what makes these three lousy?”

Listening and probing, he concluded this little exercise by saying, “in 20 seconds or less, name three great headlines you have written.” I could only name one to which he said: “that's pretty good, but that means you have only written one good headline in your life. The best ones you will never forget.”

I didn't get the job, but boy did I get a crash course in headline writing. 

Let's try this out as an exercise.

Three headlines from my blog that I think are effective:

Three stinkers:

Your turn. Name three of your best in 20 seconds or less (and yes, I'm counting). Bonus points for sharing your clunkers.  


  1. Ones I remember:
    "Tabernacle Worlds and Schrodinger's Catverse"
    "Surprised (1in6) by Joy"
    "How Much is a Dovecote Anyway?"

    Honourable Mention:
    "Glass Cannons and Meat Walls"

    One I'd like to forget (headline ~and~ article):
    "Old School - Not For The Likes of YOU"

  2. My most successful article ever had a catchy headline - "Why's There a Dungeon Underneath My City?"

    But then most of the time I go for the descriptive, like "Choose Your Own Adventure/Intrinsic Rewards."

    I am convinced, though. I think I'll stay descriptive for my posts that actually offer a resource, and go catchy for all the rest.

  3. Have You Seen the Picture of the Wizard Fighting Metal Sharks in Space with his Monkey Apprentice?

    Racquel Welch as Red Sonja?

    and anything with Dejah Thoris in the title.

  4. I don't know that my most successful titles are my best, necessarily. Here are the ones I like the best:

    1."Wild, Fantastic Hazard Had Been Their Lot" ('cause it's a CAS quote)

    2. "The Gnoll Truth, or, Yeenoghu Looks Like a Lady" ('cause it's a Bullwinkle & Rocky Show-esque pun)

    3. "Gloom, Rising Up from the Underground: The Derro" ('cause it's the only time I've managed to work in a Kerouac quote)

  5. I think that, hands down, GIANT POOP MACHINE is my best effort at a title EVAR.

    All the rest are so lame they don't warrant mentioning.

    - Ark

  6. Expedition to the Lost Barrier Caverns of Fretsno-jcanth.

    Where’s Our ELP? An Outline for a Destined-to-be-Classic Campaign Setting... [based on Emerson Lake and Palmer]

    2D Barcodes as Mapping Inspiration

    I don't have a ton of titles to choose from, but part of my strategy for hooking folks is to have an appealing picture that shows up on some folks blog rolls. So for a post about "dungeon stocking" I led with a picture three leg models wearing skull-and-crossbones stockings. Now, I think I'm clever, but as Spinal Tap reminds us, "it's a fine line between clever and stupid."

  7. I know my best one:


    But that's because sleestak are so cool that they sell themselves. I actually don't think I am terrific at catchy titles -- I am too long-winded. But I agree that it is a key element in drawing lots of hits. I think I perversely get off on being inscrutable and esoteric.

  8. Giant Poop Machine got my attention. Thanks, Ckutalik. For two things. One for the shout out and two, for considering me part of your community. So nice and much appreciated.

    Tim and I were talking about blog titles just yesterday and he wanted me to write a blog about it. I might still do that but today was Wonder Woman's Quiz, so I had to go with that.

    Anyway, I'm really very happy to see that you included me. Thanks bunches and until next time - eat well.

  9. PS: Sleestaks do in fact rule. Tim started doing Sleestak Sundays, two weeks ago. So fun. And you're writer, Carter, they sell themselves.

  10. My favorites from my blog (I confess, it took me longer than 20 seconds to decide on this list):

    We don't need no Raid ...

    Because I don't have enough stuff to paint


  11. Ok ok..

    • S&W Session Journal: Shove Your Cure Disease “Donation” Up Yer @&$!
    • Peter Mullen is an Ogre?
    • Best troll I've seen in a while...

    Some of my personal favs but not necessarily popular posts.

  12. Return of the Green Orion Slave Girls

    Clone Run Over With Land Vehicle

    Out of the Drum My Henchmen!

  13. Awesome! Blog titles do indeed seem to have impact. Check out James over at the Underdark Gazette's latest devious plot in that vein: