Friday, March 25, 2011

What's in a Title?

Here’s a question for you. How the hell do you come up with a title for your book? I’m talking about good ones. Awesome ones. The kind that draws attention, conveys what your novel is about. . .says it just right.
Quite frankly, I think I suck at it.
I’m always struggling to find a title that fits. One I’m satisfied with. . .one that says ‘YOUWHO, over here! Look at me.’. . .with a lot of hand waving and jumping up and down. Yes, it makes me feel like a first grader, but hey, I’m a closet perfectionist looking for perfection. I want something that shouts, you--yes, YOU. . .the reader--better pick this sucker because it's so damned good once you start reading you won’t be able to put the bastard down.
So, I put my thinking cap on.  Here’s what I came up with. . .
1. KISS: a.k.a kept it simple stupid. Direct and to the point.
2. Use action words. . .something with power and thrust.
3. Keep it short and snappy (put those action words to good use).
4. Dig deep to find the theme of your book and get that in there.
5. Flow is important - make sure all those actions words come together smooth. . .and sound good on the tongue.
But, hey, even with the above list I’m still not convinced.
So, all right, gang. . .I’m all ears. How the hell do you do it? Is there a secret? A system? A magic potion I can drink that works for you? Dish, people. Cuz, really, I need some major help.


  1. Heavens, I'm horrible at this. Your ideas sound good though. The one word titles always seem so perfect. Maybe you could try mind mapping words themes and other repeated words in your WIP.

  2. When I come up with an awesome title I'll let you know.

  3. Most of the time the titles just appear, and they're perfect. Once in a while, though. . .LOL I have a couple books that I've renamed so many times because it never quite fits, and I start to forget what the title really is! I prefer titles that are memorable, and connected to the story, rather than just "catchy".


  4. If I knew, I'd bottle it! Sometimes they just appear, others have to be dragged squeeling into the world. The Friday Book Blurb meme is good practise, I've found.

  5. Sometimes it takes several tries to get the right title. Especially for a series. Do you want the titles to have something common in them? That can make it equally hard to find the right word(s).
    You might also want the title to reflect a key point in the book.
    You (ed.) might go through several before settling on the perfect title. I know I did.
    Sometimes I think finding the perfect title can be harder than writing the book.

  6. Wish I had a magic formula for you, 'cos this is something I struggle with too.

    I think the mind mapping suggestion from the first commenter is a good way to go - I follow a process something like this, looking for words which relate to the symbolism behind, or themes which drive the story.

  7. Oh, if only we had a magic pill to take and the title would appear!

    I also think about the theme behind the story and start with a working title.

  8. I often go through several titles before I decide, unless one jumps out and bites me. Then it is usually something from dialogue. Theme is also good, especially for a series. Sally MacKensie's The Naked Duke ... etc. But what happens when she runs out of naked men?

    I like Janet Evanovich's titles with the number of the book in them. One for the Money, up to Smokin' Seventeen. Wish I'd thought of that!

  9. I've never had difficulty with it until now. My latest WIP is yet untitled. I'm overly frustrated with the fact that I haven't found something catchy yet.

    However, most books get retitled by the publisher really, it only matters that you come up with one...because it won't generally stay there anyway. Tawna Fenske blogged about this very same topic today.

    As always - enjoyed your post!

  10. LOL- I wish there was a magic potion- I have found that words that invoke the idea of "secret" seems to catch peoples attention so I find words that go to my short stories but invoke that sense of secret as well like "Vanished Words"

  11. Yours is the second buddy's post I've read today about titles. I wish I could tell you how to come up with good titles. (I'm usually more than comfortable with mine). Except I don't really know how I do it. Somehow they usually come together with the theme of the story in my head without me having to go searching for it.

    I guess it's a tradeoff for the fact that I can't come up with a one-line pitch to save my life!

  12. Kmullican is right that novels often get retitled along the way ... but short stories almost never do -- and I think I'm worse with coming up with short story titles than novel titles!

    Lately I've found that longer works better for me. I used to try to name my work one word titles. it made me sound like a 90s rock band coming up with stories titled RUN or CAKE or FALLING.

    It's impossible to convey the tone of a piece with only one word taken out of context, so I stopped doing that.

    I think the idea to convey either idea, theme, or tone is always a good place to start (using one, not all three!). it's the chance to tell the reader what to expect. Like I've never read the NAKED DUKE book but right away I expect regency romance based on the title. Which may be why Harlequin books have such formulaic titles.

    Great post! You've got me thinking!

  13. I wonder if it's easier not to put a title on your work until you've got it done. At least by then, you know where you started, where you ended and how you got there. Surely, in all that there's a title lurking in the shadows?

    And if that still doesn't work, how about a magic wand and a few incantations around the cauldron or some other such thing... you know... boil and bubble, toil and trouble... give me a title. And poop, there's a huge puff of smoke and suddenly, your title is there staring you in the face.

  14. That would only work if your a witch in Macbeth.