Wulf Moon was fifteen years old when his story won the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the same contest that first discovered Stephen King, Peter S. Beagle, Joyce Carol Oates, and a host of iconic names in the arts. He sold the story to Science World that same year, making it his first professional sale. His stories have received recognition numerous times in best-of-the-year lists and awards, and have appeared in professional magazines and bestselling anthologies that include Writers of the Future Vol. 35, Best of Deep Magic Anthology Two, Galaxy's Edge, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2.

Wulf Moon has won over forty awards in writing, and thirty in public speaking. Moon's award-winning Super Secrets of Writing online resource has had 850,000 views, and he writes a featured series on writing in DreamForge Magazine. Moon is a freelance editor and voice-over actor. He is the leader of the Wulf Pack Writers group, teaches the Super Secrets of Writing Workshops, and is the author of the award-winning The Illustrated Super Secrets of Writing, and How To Write a Howling Good Story.

How to Write a Howling Good Story by Wulf Moon


Wulf Moon has been called the guru of aspiring writers, and his Super Secrets of Writing has been hailed by professional editors, bestselling writers, and a respected Hollywood screenwriter as a new breakthrough in understanding fundamental story elements and how to make them work for you.


Wulf Moon's Super Secrets have helped countless writers launch their careers, become #1 bestsellers in top fiction categories, and win coveted international awards. Moon's award-winning masterclasses continually sell out. Many unpublished writers taking his workshops achieved first professional sales.

You can save years from your learning curve. Moon's method's cut the bull from writing instruction. Understanding story structure made easy! Guaranteed to entertain as you learn how to weave the elements of engaging stories into your work.



  • "Wulf Moon is a terrific writing teacher, and in How to Write a Howling Good Story, he shares the tips and tricks that have made him one of today's hottest authors. His advice is spot-on; follow it and you can launch a major career. This book is pure gold."

    –  Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of The Oppenheimer Alternative
  • "When Wulf does public speaking, he really puts a lot into his effort. When I was starting out, I did the same thing. I asked, 'What can I give this audience that maybe no one else knows about or has thought about?' and then I tried to give my everything for it. People noticed. Wulf Moon is showing you exactly how it's done."

    – David Farland/Wolverton, New York Times bestselling author, founder of Apex Writers.
  • "A must-have for writers seeking to craft leaner, meaner stories that sell. I know Wulf Moon. I've seen his Wulf Pack writers take the stage at prestigious award events. I've heard them praise his Super Secrets as the secret to their success. Wulf Moon's Super Secrets work!"

    – Dave Chesson, The Kindlepreneur



Chapter 16: Title is Your First Hook: A Rose by Any Other Name is NOT Just as Sweet

In Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet opines to Romeo: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." Her premise? That a name doesn't change the person it represents. What matters is who we are, not what we are called—especially when that name is attached to your family's deadly rivals, the Montagues. For her love, Juliet bids Romeo to cast off his title.

But wait! Some roses have cool titles! How about A Whiter Shade of Pale? Absent Friends? Absolutely Fabulous? Atomic Blonde? And that's just starting with the As! Their names make you want to stop and smell the roses (although, as a guy, I'm not sure I want to smell Paul's Himalayan Musk). And how about all those names for shades of color chips at the paint store? You remember a name like Illusive Fawn or Knubby Wool or Apple Crisp. I'm sure there's even an Ala Mode to go with the trim on your Apple Crisp. My point? Names matter. Titles matter. Don't discard them lightly. Unless you're Juliet and you're doing it for love.


A Story About a Title's Importance

Ready for a story? I've got one for you! Many moons ago, I spent some time studying the finalist lists for the Hugo and Nebula Awards—these are prestigious awards in the speculative fiction community. (Don't worry, I have something for you romance and historical fiction writers in a moment, promise!) I noticed something about the stories that took the gold. Most of the winners had crazy titles. Imaginative titles, quirky titles, sometimes long titles that read like mini stories in themselves. And when the winners were announced? The winning stories appeared to be the catchiest in the list.

It made me recognize a pattern about many winning stories. Unique titles grab your attention. They don't have to be wild and crazy, but they do have to have that special something. They have a ring to them. They sparkle. They are the shiny gift wrap on a present that makes you wonder, Oooh, what's inside the box?

You see, title is your first hook.

Since I had been desperately trying to win the Writers of the Future Contest for many years (many of my friends had launched their careers through the contest), I thought a crazy title might just be the trick to achieving my winner. Crazy meaning out of the ordinary—wild in nature, attention grabbing, but not without grounding. I figured what's good for the goose is good for the gander. So I developed the Crazy Title Exercise (I now teach it in my workshops as the Catchy Title Exercise), to see if a wild but relevant title could be my golden ticket to a contest win.

Okay, so who would this story be about? I had recently watched a video on Facebook about a photographer that donated his time to take pictures of disabled children to empower them. How so? Working with their parents, he'd put them in superhero costumes and then photograph them in power settings with fists on their hips or an arm thrust up as if they were about to leap from tall buildings in a single bound. And then, he'd make a big poster for them and do a reveal of it on their living room wall.

Their moms would wheel their disabled child into the room, the photographer would unveil the poster, and there, larger than life, would be that child in costume and cape like any superhero, ready to save the world.

What got me was the moment when the child's mom would crouch next to her child's wheelchair and say, "You see that? That's you!" And that little kid would say, "That's me? That's really me?" And their mom would say, "That's really you."

That still gets me in the feels. Maybe because until I had an operation when I was seven years old and had my legs put in casts, I couldn't walk without falling. I spent a long time in a wheelchair and had some idea of what those kids were going through. To see themselves on glossy posters as superheroes, capes flowing in the wind? I bet a lot of those kids could believe anything was possible, that their disability had no power to limit their dreams. As those moms shed tears while their kids grinned from ear to ear, I cried along with them. That photographer was doing a beautiful thing for those children and their moms and dads.

That video report became the genesis of the idea. So who would I base my catchy title on? A disabled girl in a cape, because that was fresh on my mind. Why would she wear a cape? Because it gave her psychological power over her disability. Super-Duper Moongirl was born. I gave her a friendly name you could easily warm up to. Dixie.

Great, I had my main character. I put her on the moon at a moon base because moon bases are cool. I decided she couldn't breathe on her own, so that would be her disability. But unlike the days of the Iron Lung, this would be near future, and she'd be connected to a life support unit that trotted beside her like a dog. Let's make it a robodog! How about a Doberman, because they're tough looking, and she needed someone tough in her life to give her confidence. And then I put a rapper AI personality inside of the talking robodog to make it even tougher, which provided a more interesting companion when contrasted against a twelve-year-old girl.

Now, what to name him? I went into my past. When my parents divorced, my mom placed me and my brother with our grandmother in Spooner, Wisconsin. You might think being taken from your father and then abandoned by your mother would be tough on a boy, but those were the best years of my young life. My grandmother was from the Chippewa/Ojibwe Nation, and she was not only a great oral storyteller that seeded my mind with how stories work, but she was also highly creative in many art mediums, including textiles and music.

One day she rolled out a strange toy she had made for me on a chain, the size of a mid-sized dog. But it was no dog. It was circular with a plywood base, with wooden wheels underneath. She had upholstered the top with foam covered by black innertube rubber. It had a long spring tail, two long eyestalks made from door springs, with star eyes at the top that would waggle in every direction as I pulled the creature by its leash.

"What is it, Grandma?"

"It's a Moon Dawdler. They are shy creatures that live on the moon. This one traveled all the way here to be with you."

I wheeled that Moon Dawdler everywhere, imagining his life on the moon. He talked, too, at least to me, in his own moon language. You see, those wooden wheels made an alien squeaking sound as I pulled him behind me. That was how he spoke, and he only talked about his moon life to me.

Farming memories provided a great name for my robodog, and it came with my special feelings attached to that name. I transferred those feelings over to Dixie for her companion. I put the two characters together and the result of my title exercise became "Super-Duper Moongirl and the Moon Dawdler." No, not snappy enough, and the meter fell flat on the second subject in the line. This robodog was the coolest, especially to Dixie, and the title needed to reflect that. More sprinkles! I put the finishing touch on my title, and it became "Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler."

That title exercise became the genesis of my story. And yes, that story became my winner in the largest talent search for speculative fiction writers in the world. It was published in the bestselling anthology Writers of the Future, Volume 35. The title did exactly what I hoped it would do—get the judges intrigued enough to read the story within, to see its beauty, and to choose it out of thousands of other stories vying to become a winner.

It worked.

How well did it work? While at the award ceremony in Hollywood, the presenter of my award was Dr. Gregory Benford, a famous astrophysicist and science fiction author. He addressed the audience from the stage and read my title. The audience gave a delightful laugh. He smiled and said: "The title alone makes you want to read this story … at least, it does for me." More delightful laughter. But what no one knew? That was exactly what I had designed that title to do. To make you want to read my story. In fact, the story only existed because I created that title. I'm happy to say it also won a second contest: it went on to win Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story of the year in the Critters Reader's Choice Awards.

Mission accomplished.

Title is your first hook. It's the first thing an editor or contest judge will read, and if they like what's inside, they'll put your story in their stack for final selection. When they go back to choosing which stories are in, which stories are out, your title is the last thing they'll see, and trust me, it's going to help if it's a title they can remember your story by. They don't have time to give those finalists a second read.

The late New York Times bestselling author David Farland was an esteemed coordinating judge of the contest. He once said he could guess a contest winner by title alone, and after reading the entries he said it almost always proved true. A compelling title often indicates that what's inside is also compelling. An author that can create a smart title that hooks usually has the skills necessary to write a story that hooks too, all the way through.


The Importance of a Smart Title

I've mentioned I'm a freelance editor. I read a lot of manuscripts for writers. And I've noted many lesser-experienced writers pay little attention to their titles. It usually feels like they just slapped something on without thought, as if they're labeling boxes for a move: garage, master bedroom, kitchen, torture chamber. This is a mistake! Well, not the torture chamber label. That sounds unique! As long as I'm not their special guest.

How important is a smart title? Here's the part for you romance writers. See? I didn't leave you out. Ever heard of these novels?

Another Day

Not in Our Stars

Bugles Sang True

Tote the Weary Load

No? I'll bet you read the book those titles were originally attached to.

Gone With the Wind.

Yes, those original titles Margaret Mitchell thought up for what would become her literary masterpiece were lackluster, some even downright depressing. Fortunately, Mitchell kept seeking the perfect title for her novel. While reading "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae," a poem by Ernest Dowson, she came across a verse that had the far away, faintly sad sound that she had been searching for—gone with the wind. The title resonated with readers, and so did the story. It is hard to imagine her book would have done so well had it been named Tote the Weary Load.

Here's the one for you historical fiction writers. What would you think of a book titled A Romance? Would you get the shivers seeing that title in a bookstore and lunge to grab it from the shelf? Not likely. It intrigues like a bowl of mushy oatmeal.

Yet that is what Nathaniel Hawthorne originally called his work of historical fiction set in the puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 1600s. Fortunately, he changed his title from one that fizzles to one that sizzles. And, I might add, better represented his work about an adulteress and the community shaming inflicted upon her. With three words, The Scarlet Letter sets the hook. It compels you to ask, Why is this book about a letter that's scarlet, the color of passion, the color of blood? It makes you wonder what secrets lie within, and just like his title, Hawthorne's novel delivers.

For you emerging novelists focused on traditional publishing, will a smart title help you get representation? Madeleine Milburn is the CEO of Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency, a top literary agency in the UK. Note what she said about the importance of titles on her agency's website: "I look for a clear, concise covering letter with a professional yet conversational tone that gets to the heart of the story quickly. Imagine you are pitching your favourite book … how would you get a reader excited? Look at the blurbs on the backs of books and see how they entice someone to start reading. I also love a title that stands out, and resonates in some way, before even opening the manuscript or knowing anything about the story." (Italics mine.)

Titles are your first impression. We do judge a book by its cover because it offers the promise of what is to come. Titles are the complementary amuse-bouche a skilled chef sends out to diners to prime their palates, not only for the savory meal they're about to experience, but for the chef's distinctive style as well.

Don't be bland. Put some spice in that title! A sprinkle of intrigue. A dash of suspense. But even if it's quirky, if you ensure that it nails the mystery that lies within, you'll enjoy the sweet smell of success.

Bon appétit!