For many of the stories I’ve written, coming up with titles was no struggle at all. They simply just came to me—popped up in my mind like it was meant to be. For 2 of my stories, the titles arrived before I even started writing the stories.
However, with the story I recently completed, I am still without a title that I feel would represent the story. And to make things a little bit challenging is I have very few ideas. Before and probably due to titles coming so easily for me, I thought titles were one of the easiest things to decide when putting a book, or story, together. Now I am beginning to find them to be just as challenging as creating physical character descriptions.
A title is essentially like the book cover, a gateway or introduction to the story. Just like a book cover, a title is one of the first things that will capture the reader’s interest and draw them to reading the book. There could be a great story that lies within the book, but if the title is not capturing, many readers will bypass it.
Here are 2 major challenges I currently face in developing a great story title:
• Common Titles
Common titles consist of words or phrases that have been heard many times in many places, such as “My [brother’s] Keeper”. I remember for my 2nd story, I was going to title it, “My Daughter’s Keeper”, but at the time I was hearing movies and books with that title and felt it was not unique and may get lost in the shuffle. And that is the concern with common titles. If there are many items (books, movies, etc.) with the same title out there it may be difficult for one’s book to stand out. However, if one strongly believes that the title represents their story well and it is the only one that will do, stay true to that title.
• Vague Titles
Vague titles consist of words that do not necessarily tell what the story is about, such as “Christy” or “It”. In a way, a vague story title, such as these, might draw readers’ interest because it presents itself as a mystery, but this all goes back to the challenge of whether the title is representing the story correctly. To me, if I give a vague title, then I feel my story must be one of mystery or that it is solely based on the subject or character of the title. And in the end, with a vague title, will it fade into the background, never to stand out?
Here are 6 suggestions on how to develop a great story title. These suggestions developed while I was doing internet research and these are things I will utilize as I develop a title for my story.
• Avoid Dull Titles
This is related to what I mentioned in the challenges earlier. Readers will be drawn more to titles such as “Gone With The Wind” and “Watership Down”, then “The House” or another title that has been heard many times before.
• Create A Rememberable Title–Literally
Titles that are simple but bold are likely to stay in readers’ mind for a long while or forever. And a rememberable title is likely to be marketed easier through readers and anyone in the literary business. So one should stay away from titles, such as “Murder on the Wzcyiubjekistan Express”. Instead, it may be easier to abbreviate Wzcyiubjekistan to “W” and include the actual name in the blurb.
• Create An Appropriate Title
This is similar to what I was explaining in the challenge of vague titles. One should choose a title that will not give the reader a different idea or sense of what the story is about. If I choose a title “Christy”, the reader might interpret the story as a mystery. Of course the book cover may change that a little, but in either case, the reader may think the story is about the character, Christy. If that is not the case, choosing such a title may not be ideal. Another example of this mentioned in a website was a book called, “Secret Lovers”. The book is about spies who love secrets, but because of the title, many readers thought it was a romance book.
• Look For Key Words Hidden In The Story
One way to begin developing a title is to look at key words hidden in the story that illustrate important parts or messages. Maybe the key word could be a place, location, object, thought, feeling, person—something that stands out and plays a big role in the story.
• Enhance Key Words
Once one discovers what that key word or words are, one should think about how they can describe them to make them stand out more. For example, if the key word is “music box”, what is it about that music box in the story that makes it unique or intriguing? Is it the way it looks, behaves, or even how it came to be?
And even with key words, one should think about not using the exact word in the title. So instead of, “The Lonely Music Box”, maybe one could use, “The Lonely Tune” or “The Barren Tune”.
• Combine Title With Cover Design
As mentioned earlier, depending on one’s story and the message or “feeling” one wants the reader to get by reading their story, sometimes the title in combination with the cover design can make a big difference in drawing the reader’s interest. Sometimes a vague or common title that were challenges can become powerful and stand out with a strong cover design. In the end, the writer will know best, but as I sort out how to come up with a great title, I hope my suggestions and what I discovered are helpful. Below I will include the link to a website that has great advice and examples on how to develop a strong book title. It is from this website, where I pulled some examples as well.