Last week, the IWSG question of the month was about coming up with titles–and boy, does it hit close to home right now!
Titles are something I struggle with, except when I don’t. Sometimes, wonderfully, the title comes to me along with the story. I start getting an idea for the plot and my brain says “and by the way, this would be a perfect title.” That’s always an amazing thing and I bless whatever muses decided to bestow such a gift upon me. But, that only happens about half the time. The other half, it’s like the muses forgot I exist and lost my phone number.
I was struggling to come up with a title for the book I’m looking to submit soon, and I think I found one, but…it might change before I actually go through with the submission. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with it. Ugh! Why does it have to be so difficult? I wrote an entire book, surely I can come up with one measly little title!
The problem is, titles are a BIG DEAL, even if they’re the smallest thing about the book. They have to do a lot of things: be catchy, be interesting, encapsulate the book, and be appropriate to the story, genre, and the feeling you want to convey. No pressure! It’s only a huge marketing tool, after all. And we’re supposed to be creative, right? We should be able to do this. Well, as I said, sometimes we can, and sometimes it’s a struggle. Also, sometimes my own personal feelings about the story make it so I don’t think anything I come up with is worthy of the book. I need something grand and perfect, but I just can’t find it.
Here’s a few suggestions that might help you come up with titles. Feel free to also use the “pulling your hair out and screaming into the night” method, although I’ve used this somewhere between ten and five hundred times, and it doesn’t really seem to help.
- Brainstorm. Sometimes it helps to just throw anything out there that comes to mind, in the hope that while you’re dumping the trash you come across the diamond earring you lost. Let it all flow no matter how bad it is, putting random words and phrases together, testing ideas. Something might pop out that works. It doesn’t have to be practical, either–just throwing anything out there, including silly stuff, can really jog your brain. And who knows, ‘The Story About That One Thing That Happened That One Time’ might turn out to be a bestseller.
- List your themes. Make a list of major themes and plot points in your story–things that are important, including people, objects, ideas, places, and emotions. Something might be hidden there that will spawn a title. And dammit, we’re writers, we should be able to connect things and make metaphors work on multiple levels, right? So looking at what our story is ABOUT should help us tell readers what it’s about in one catchy, amazing phrase, CORRECT? Please let me know if this works for you or if it’s just me that has a brain that immediately goes on vacation the second I type the last word of the book…
- Look at other titles. Browse other titles in your genre with similar themes or plots, and see what they’ve come up with. Unfortunately, this may lead you to discover someone else already stole THE PERFECT TITLE and more tearing of your hair. The good thing is, multiple books can and do have the same titles, but if there’s a popular book already named that you’ll probably want to try something else.
- Title generators. There’s lots of book title generators on the internet, but I’ve never honestly come up with a title from one. I have, however, amused myself with the ridiculous titles they come up with sometimes, so if you need a break from the stress and a good laugh, these are a fitting place to look.
TITLES are HARD. May your muse be kind and give you plenty of good ideas. And while they’re at it, tell them to stop by and visit me, huh?