Hello there, writerly friend~ ♥︎
I get what you mean, because (really) my advice on titles is pretty much what you just said…
Though, that doesn’t mean I can’t give you a few pointers c; Before we begin, though, we need to zoom out and think about what a title is.
"WHAT IS A TITLE?" Max said, in his best Dracula voice.
The purpose of a title is to (a) spark the interest of your reader and (b) to give a glimpse as to what the book will be about. I don’t know about you, but I have a keen eye for titles that focus on doing nothing but the first one, to the point that when you read the book you end up realizing that the title was merely just a lure to get you to take the first step.
I am looking at you, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo— or more like, The Girl With A Physical Characteristic That Has Nothing To Do With The Story. I understand why (maaaybe) they didn’t want the original title (“Men Who Hate Women” / “Män Som Hatar Kvinnor”) but I can come up with a dozen other titles that actually, you know, resonate with the plot of the story :/
Of course, the opposite of this also happens. You only need to look as far as the upcoming “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”. That is such a cumbersome title that (yes) tells everyone what the movie will be about (and follows the Tolkien lore) but it does very little to lure you in. It’s not a bad title, don’t get me wrong, but it is very straight forward about it. There is no mystery. No questions to ask. The title tells me that the movie is going to involve a hobbit and exactly between four-and-six armies that will supposedly do battle. Nothing else, and nothing more.
Again, the purpose of a title is to:
- Spark the interest of the reader.
- Give a glimpse as to what the story will be about.
Now, I have to be honest and admit that perfect balance is not something you can achieve here— but you don’t need perfection. All you need is to do a little bit of both. Simple as that. Give the reader a question they need to keep in mind, but also give them the grounds to ask this question. This is, of course, easier said than done— but now that we have all of the theory out of the way, it’s time to look at some ways to decide on a title.
Also, I want to remind you all that everything here is merely my opinion. There are countless examples of books that do not follow my theory— it is not a hard rule, but instead a guideline. Break it. Bend it. Do what you need to do. As long as you can make a compelling and interesting title, nothing else matters c;
So, you want to come up with a title for your story? I think the most effective way to do so (in my opinion) is to zoom out. Really. Look at your story idea and zoom out as far away as possible. Now, ask yourself: "What is this story about?" Then, try to brainstorm a few ideas. Look at your story as a galaxy— what star does everything revolve around? Even if you’re still writing the story, you should be able to zoom out and consider where you think the story is headed. Usually, I find that working with the story first manages to create something that will resonate (first and foremost) with the story c;
For example… Let’s say your story is about two mermaids falling in love. You know this to be the central point of the story, so you decide to use it. Of course, you probably shouldn’t name your story “Two Mermaids Fall In Love,” so now what we need to do is to find a way to make this cool.
Yup. You read that right. Once you have the main element you want your title to revolve around, brainstorm a few ways to phrase it so that it sounds cool, interesting, or mysterious. The last one is, in my experience, the best of the bunch. Being mysterious is a very effective way to lure your reader in, as it engages with them long before they read the book.
Now, in the example above. Since I don’t have much to work with (two mermaids + love) I find myself branching out. I want a title that will resonate with the general ideas of the book. Immediately I come up with something mildly familiar, with a spin, "Deep Blue Kiss." Of course, I could’ve also brought in something like, character names, "Marina + Coral" (because these are mermaids and thus all names are ocean related c;) seems kind of fitting, as it also follows up on the idea of lovers writing their names together. Personally, I would go with “Deep Blue Kiss” because it’s kind of my type of silly,
that and it sounds like the name of an Anime and really that is a requirement for everything I write apparently :p
Ultimately, you will know you’ve come to the right title when you start liking it. I mean it. If you come up with a title that you are comfortable with, that you feel works for the story, and that you feel does a little bit of both a & b, then you’re pretty much set c;
I hope this helps! If you, or any other writerly friends out there have any more questions, please feel free to send them my way :D
Keep Writing~ ♥︎