The Significance of Numbers in Literary Titles

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Numbers are never related solely to mathematics. They have the immense power to make literary works more alluring and certainly add a unique flavour to titles irreplaceable by any other non-mathematical word. Numbers are symbols… and we have always had a special liking to symbolism. Tip off 8 and you get eternity, Nine along with its mirror image make up a spiral heart…and so on.

Numbers also remove vagueness from stories and make them credible. Isn’t to say that there are 5,876,777,091 stars in our galaxy more credible than saying there are billions of stars in our galaxy, even if it’s not true.

The numbers in book titles, foreshadow events and attract readers subconsciously. Just look at the literary titles and my own explanations below and decide if any other number or word could replace these numbers in the title:

“20,000 Leagues under the Sea” : It couldn’t have had the effect if it were a different number. In the times of Jules Verne, 20,000 was a massive number and the reason why a round-up number was chosen is basically because it’s easier to say it out loud than “forty-five thousand” or any other inexact, massive number.

“Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” : Not all the thieves in the story are indeed relevant to the story but it’s a credible and a huge number to describe the enormity of the bandits. Any number from 30 to 50 would have worked, but 40 does have a special ring in this case.

“The Three Musketeers”: Why is it the three musketeers when there were four? (Yes, I am counting D’Artagnan as one…) It’s simply because three is an odd number and it shows the balance could change when taking decisions. One side will always win.

“Two minutes to Midnight” : The title which is also the name of a popular rock song suggests the severity of the time running out as midnight symbolizes the end of something (at least the night..)

“A tale of Two Cities” : You can foresee the conflict brewing in the story by just looking at the title…

“The Thirteenth Tale” : 13 is associated with “unluckiness” hinting the unfortunate events to be unfolded in the story…

Never forget! A good story always begins with a good title…and the right number in the title…

Getting the ultimate taste in literary works!

We all love reading…. At least the ones who have found their way to this humble blog, do! As avid readers; we have read plain text and (like this first paragraph) let our imaginations run wild to visualize what the author had been trying to convey. That was when writing was a true art, which depended heavily on the author’s magic of using the right words in the right sequence. The key to some popular writers’ success was also due to their inclusion of the five senses into their writing; sight, smell, sound, touch and taste in comparison to using a two dimensional method of describing only sight. Look at the crappily written sample statements below and decide which one you favor:

  1. John opened the microwave door and took out the overcooked pizza. (Sight only)
  2. John opened the microwave door upon hearing the feeble bing, and a gush of hot air greeted his face. The burnt smell of the dark wheel inside made him regret setting the timer to 30 minutes instead of just 10. (Sight, sound and smell included – We also sense that it’s either John’s first time with the microwave or that he’s an idiot).

Anyway, with the emergence of graphic novels, writers had less worries about descriptions and plots became more engaging. Using pictures made the reader’s job easier.

sbam-mister-no-2

The image above (from the fumetti “Mister No” by Bonelli Comics) clearly outlines how the character feels although there is no text involved.

Now, you see what a mere image does to the story. Imagine adding all the senses to it. How would your reading experience be? Perhaps, books can have a list of items and maybe a soundtrack CD for readers to gather up before starting reading. Let’s say; whenever a character in the book bites into a decaying apple, the reader does, too. Feeling the rotten taste and the horrid feel it leaves in the mouth and fully experiencing the character’s feelings! That would be priceless.

No?

Before I finish, try rereading this post as described below:

I would recommend….

  • Listening to the song “Not to touch the Earth” by the Doors.
  • Making your environment really hot by either over-wearing thick clothes or turning up the heat on the AC.
  • You may also want to pour yourself an icy drink.
  • Then, wipe the accumulated sweat off your forehead with a smelly handkerchief

….while you’re reading this post. The points above summarize how I felt while I was writing this piece. Come on! I’m inviting you to invade my mind!