Despite consisting of only a few words, the title you give your story is a big deal.
They've got to capture the tone of your writing, hint at the events or themes throughout the story, and stand out enough to pull prospective readers in.
Titles are a matter that many writers struggle with pinning down. After all, they're often one of the first impressions your writing will make on your audience.
For me, titling my WIPs happens in one of two ways. They either come to me instantly, or I'll spend what can feel like forever trying to come up with the right one. There's hardly an in-between.
In the case of the latter, there are a few methods I'll rely on. Since it's usually a combination of a few tricks that leads me to my story’s title, it seems best to lay them all out in one place.
As is true for so many elements of writing, your chosen genre can influence your story's title.
Titles help give readers a glimpse into the story, so using one indicative of its genre helps them identify which ones your story fits into.
Be on the lookout for patterns.
For example, many fantasy novels these days feature titles that A (Noun) of (Noun) and (Noun), so calling your fantasy book A Desert of Ash and Stardust wouldn't be that far off.
Romance novels often allude to the central characters. A Dance with the Outlaw or Seducing the Duchess would imply not only that they are romances, but their subgenre. Chances are the first example would be a Western, while the second could be a Regency or Victorian romance because characters of the genteel class are popular protagonists.
Being aware of trends in your genre can help with the formatting and rhythm of your title.
Locking Down Keywords
This is one title ingredient you'll see me using pretty often.
When titling my stories, I like to look at the things that make them unique or what is important.
Objects like the titular scarlet letter Hester Prynne wears on her chest, a character's name like Emma or their job like Guttenberg's Apprentice in Alix Christie's novel, or a conflict like The Hunger Games can all be made into suitable titles.
Points of significance within your story tend to stick with readers, so working them into your title can be a way to make it memorable.
Themes can also be woven into titles. If your story revolves around a widow learning to love again after the death of her wife, finding words that encapsulate feelings of a new start or figuring out love after loss could be a good starting point.
Since one of the jobs your title has is giving readers a taste of the story, the incorporation of its most important elements can make for an intriguing first impression.
No Place Like Homages
Another way of drawing inspiration for book titles is to honor works and authors that have influenced you.
Shakespeare's plays are incredibly popular for this purpose, with quotes of his making frequent appearances. John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, for example, borrows from Julius Caesar.
Speaking of plays, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is named after the Greek myth in which a sculptor falls in love with his sculpture and prays for Aphrodite to bring it to life, reminiscent of Eliza's change from flower girl to proper lady.
Authors of fairytale retelling are also likely to reference the original in their titles. A new take on Cinderella called From the Ashes could potentially clue readers in.
From legends of yore to modern-day pop culture, drawing on your favorite works can help you pin down the perfect title for your own.
Quote Me On That
If you've watched any videos from CinemaSins, chances are you've heard the ding for "Roll Credits."
This refers to anytime a character mentions the name of the film they are in.
This might be counted as a sin as far as the channel is concerned, but doing the inverse can help you name your book.
If there’s a quote from a character that perfectly describes their arc or the major themes, there's no reason you can't incorporate it into your title.
Remember, shorter titles are better, so keep it to snippets if dialogue is the origin of your title.
This is a common thread among my WIPs' titles, so I feel I would be remiss if I didn't include it here.
Puns are my love language, and you'll find them sprinkled throughout my writing—including my titles.
But it's about more than a smirk for me.
To me, punny titles can carry double meanings and help draw attention to what I feel are the most important aspects of the story.
Take Forged in the Salle for example. The word "forged" here has more than one purpose. It references the blacksmithing forge where Marcus works, Nancy's forging a false identity to sneak into a men's-only fencing club, and the definition of forging a bond and the romance emerging between these characters.
I've come to find that using words that represent each love interest in equal measure tends to guide me towards the perfect title.
While it doesn't always work and can sometimes feel forced, puns can be a quick way to cover a lot of bases and tell readers about your book without giving too much away.
Writers put themselves under significant pressure when they have a book to name. Titles are such a small thing, but they have a big job to do for your story.
As with so many other things in writing, the way you find your story's title can vary from one project to the next, and your methods may change as you continue to develop your craft.
But that sense of individualism in the way we come up with the titles for our stories is one of the things that makes our writing is truly unique.