Coming up with a Great Title
I’ve heard that some people come up with the title of their story or novel before they even write the first page. Other folks tell me that they agonize for days about what to name a story. No matter where you fall on this timeline, the important thing is this: Your story or book’s title needs to be unique.
Notice that I didn’t say it had to sum up your book in one word or that it had to have some deeper existential meaning – it just needs to be unique. Special to you.
Over the past twenty-three years, I’ve written over eight-hundred stories, four novels, and about one-hundred poems. I can honestly say that I’m proud of the titles of all these writings.
Now, I won’t say that I spent hours on any one of these titles. My process of coming up with the story idea also includes the title. I don’t think I’ve ever changed the title of something. Even when the story takes me in a different direction than I initially thought.
I’d like to think that my titles make sense, but then, I’m probably not the best judge – being a bit prejudiced.
But what about titles that don’t make sense?
Have you ever picked up a book in the bookstore because the title caught your eye?
And then, as you read the introduction or forward, you were confused. Where did the title come from? Would you have to read the book to find that one tiny reference?
Conversely, isn’t it lovely to read a novel and suddenly come across the passage that must have inspired the writer to give a name that referenced this one scene? Obviously, this scene is central to the story’s theme, and once you find it, the entire storyline falls into place.
So, today’s writing tip: THINK about the title you give to a story. As the first thing a reader will see can either make them grab it up or leave it on the shelf.
IF your title is tied to an obscure scene in the book – make sure it is essential and not just a passing line. Don’t insult your readers – they won’t easily forgive you.