Thursday, November 18, 2010

Title Trouble

Please help!

Okay, so coming up with a title seems to be -- for me, at least -- one of the most challenging parts of writing a novel!

I've come up with a few possible scenarios for landing the perfect title (though none of them seem to be helping me that much!):

  • The title may be the first thing you think of, and the story kinda just follows on after that.
  • There may be a line in your text that sounds super awesome, and that line becomes your title.
  • There may be a line that isn't part of your text (and that might not even have much to do with your story!), but you like the sound of it, so you go back to your text and cleverly reverse engineer it in somewhere (sneaky...).
  • The title could be the name of a character or place in your story.
  • It could be an abstract idea that your plot kinda revolves around.
  • It could be an object that plays an important part in the story.

I would really like to know from YOU how you came up with a title for your novel/short story/any other kind of WIP.

I am particularly interested in the naming of novels that are part of a series.

How do you come up with the overall series name? Are the names of the individual novels all related in some way? Maybe your methods can help me find my title/s!


Kittie Howard said...

I think one word in a title must have a sense of wonder, ie,the reader wants to know where this word leads. Other words have to corral that wonder. I don't buy books with one-word titles.

Jessica Bell said...

Ok, here's how I titled one of mine. My WIP is called Bitter Like Orange Peel. It's about a girl who is in search of her father. She's never met him. She has an orange tree in her back yard. She always looks at it. When she looks at it she always thinks of her father. She associates the bitterness of the squashed peel on the ground with the way her mother feels about him. So it's all symbolic. Ack. Complicated. Perhaps you have something symbolic in your WIP?

Melissa said...

My title just came to me... I mean the word has gone into my book now but it wasn't before so I guess that's the sneaky thing....

The Golden Eagle said...

I was writing it out, and I got an idea based on an object in my story--but I also went and tweaked what I'd already written, so I guess I did sneak a little.

Rachel Morgan said...

Kittie - wonder is definitely good...

Jessica - just LOVE how all your symbolism ties into your title :-)

Melissa and Golden Eagle - hey, if it works for you, sneakiness is great!!

gideon 86 said...

I am currently writing a series. The first book is written and I have started the second. My original title I choose from to use the Mc name flowed by
and the --- Like Harry Potter and the --- or Percy Jackson and the---

Although I really love my title, some agents don't so I just recently changed it. Jessica has an orange tree, I have a Willow tree grove. My original title was Amber and the Whispering Willows. I changed it to Whispers: A Willows Tale. It's an M/G fantasy book. It is so hard to come up with the perfect title. Amber does continue in the series, but she is joined by another MC focusing her talent to save the Willows.

Some titles write themselves. On my last short story the title came easily. Through Shades of Grey. It's about the blues one gets in the grey, cold winter.

So, you just never know.


Rachel Morgan said...

Thanks, Gideon.
For what it's worth, I think Whispers: A Willow's Tale is nicer than Amber and the Whispering Willows. Well done :-)

(Ooh, and I really the sound of the title Through Shades of Grey!)

Summer Ross said...

Have you ever read any of Kim Harrisons novels? they are a series about a witch and magic, but her titles are spoofs of old western movies...look her up.

It might help if you post some titles you thought of and let your commenters brainstorm with you.

My short stories, well my titles usually come from the plot, like my Story "Vanished Words" that will be published- the plot is about a journal with disappearing ink.

My story "Mind fairy" Is about the plot in which mind fairies have come from an alternate universe to take over the world...

I think you get the idea.

Rachel Morgan said...

Just looked up Kim Harrison. She has some cool titles!

A Fistful of Charms
The Outlaw Demon Wails
Early to Death, Early to Rise
Dead Witch Walking
Once Dead, Twice Shy
Where Demons Dare
The Good, The Bad, and The Undead

Ellie said...

I can only go on my experience of naming short stories so far, but generally they come from the story itself - a piece of the text or the theme. The titles just seem to tell me; they're a bit bossy like that.

Why don't you list some of the ideas you've had already and see what your blog readers think?

Christmas Tales Blogfest

Dan said...

I kept seeing the phrase "Kids Eat Free" here and there, and thought that would make a great title. Maybe a story about teenage zombies or something. And from that, came my current WiP, a revenant tale about delinquent teens seeking revenge for their death in a school bus accident.

I'm about halfway done, and it's really become a three-dimensional, fleshed-out world. All besed on a relatively common phrase I kept seeing.

And, of course, now I'm not sure I even like the title anymore.

Jodi Henry said...


I am sooo bad at titling anything. I really hate doing this.

Roland had a very helpful post a few days ago about titling and things to think about when doing it...

One of my crit partners has really great titles for her books. I'm sure she'd be happy to answer some questions for you.

I have heard, that with series names, you should think about the 'common element' or theme that holds them as a series (aside from the main character)

Kelley Armstrong writes adult fantasy about women of the otherworld and that's the series title. Her books all have differnet MC's but they are all female leads and supernatural (witches and were's)(she also has a spin off-men of the otherworld- which has the MEN as the MC's)

Also, once you come up with a snappy title google search it to see how recently the title has been used. I've heard you shouldn't use a title if it has been used within the past forty years. But have you seen how many books have the title of Twilight that were written before Stephenie Meyers book and less than forty years before...

Good luck.


Joanna St. James said...

I am equally bad at titling so I let my CP do it since she has read the book, dont sweat it though most titles get changed by editors or agents.

Summer Ross said...

Rachel- actually whats even funnier is Kim's main character has your name on this blog. LOL

Emy Shin said...

I tend to list elements of the novel I want to emphasize and morph them into phrases or words that sound catchy. Sometimes, like for my current WiP, the title came without much thought. But most of the time, I go back and forth a lot, and have to narrow down a list of dozen titles. :)

Rachael Harrie said...

Can I just say..."Gemyner"



Summer Ross said...

I hope the name thing doesn't bother you too much? I'm not sure if there are rules against having a character name as your own. You really shouldn't feel stupid- Its an awesome name- I just associate it with Harrison's books. :)

Rachel Morgan said...

I don't think it bothers me too much that my name is already out there. I just felt stupid for not connecting the dots! Cos the first time I looked up the series (ages ago) I only noticed the character's name. The second time (last night) I only noticed the titles. Silly me didn't pick up that they were one and the same till you pointed it out!

Besides, I like my name. And I like the fact that I like my real name enough to use it :-)

Adina West said...

Not sure if you'll find it useful but I bookmarked this from an agent blog earlier this year:

Personally I'm not beyond sneakily going back and tweaking the manuscript to fit in with a cool book/series name. In fact I did that both for my individual book and for the trilogy name.

I definitely research names on Amazon to see who has already used the same/similar book title though.