Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thoughts on... Titles

Titles have always given me trouble which is why I tend to just refer to the stuff I write by such vague terms as "my WIP", "my story", or "my other story". Part of me spends the whole time desperately hoping that by the time I'm done writing I'll be able to find a good title. Because titles are pretty important, you know?

The title is often the first impression one gets for a given book. And as much as we tell ourselves not to make judgements based on first impressions, we just can't help it. And gosh darnit, I want to have a good title!

Recently my husband pointed me in the direction of a couple of blog posts about titles written by sci fi author Mike Flynn. Entitlement Part I Entitlement Part II In these posts not only does he give his thoughts on titles, but also the thoughts and favorites of several of his author friends. He lists a few properties that he thinks a title should have:

1.  Arresting

A title should catch your eye, causing you to pause and wonder.

2. Suggestive

A title should give some idea of where the narrative is heading or at least indicate that something interesting will be happening. Playing on metaphor and symbolism or invoking atmosphere are a good way to hint at what is to come without revealing too much.

3. Challenging

You can also catch a reader's attention with a title that challenges him. Perhaps a title that works on multiple levels or one where the meaning only becomes apparent after reading the story. Though be careful not to tip over into pretentiousness.

4. Rhythm

A title can also attract readers by having a good beat or flow. Alliteration is often a fun way of accomplishing this.

I read those posts about two weeks ago and I guess subliminally they must have been working on me all this time since yesterday I managed to come up with a title for my current WIP. And I really like it. I'm calling it a working title for now, but I think it will probably end up as the finished title. Here it is:

The First Day

So what do you think? Does my title fulfill any of the above criteria? Does it sound intriguing to you? How do you find your titles? Is it difficult or easy for you?


  1. I'm not so good with the titles. I like the one I'm using, but it confuses people. They think I have real dragons in my story when I'm really refering to the Welsh flag and symbolism of the dragon. Haven't quite figured out what to do about that.

    Without knowing exactly what your novel is about, I would think The First Day could be about a lot of things -- school, work, the Tour de France. It might need a modifier to make it more specific to your story. But remember I suck at titles. :P

  2. You're asking the wrong person about titles! I came up with the first one, but my publisher had to bail me on the second book.

  3. I think your title works. I like it. :D I usually have a hard time with titles, myself. But then there are days where a title will pop into my head and I start to write the story around it.
    Great post! Now you have me thinking...

  4. I'm not good with titles, either. I'd have to know more about your WIP to even begin to offer an opinion. (I am a relatively new follower.)

    It IS good that you are putting thought into the matter, though. And VERY good that you have a partner in your writing process. I am lucky there. My wife helps me out a lot with research, etc.. (Shhhhhhhh.....don't tell)

  5. Great post!

    I have a hard time coming up with Titles too! It took forever for me to name my trilogy, and I must have changed it a dozen times before their release.

  6. L.G., I admit, I thought your story would have dragons when I first heard the title as well.

    You're right about mine, it is a bit generic. My husband suggests modifying it to The First Dawn. I think I might like that better.

    Alex, it's always good to know I'm not the only one.

    Caledonia Lass, unfortunately, I don't think I've ever had that happen.

    Bryce, my husband is an invaluable help. Some of my best ideas come from conversations we have.

    Amy, thanks. Hopefully I won't have to do that. :)

  7. I am useless with titles! Beyond useless. I did a post on this a while ago and someone suggested going through the WIP and picking out phrases and words that have significance, and choosing one of them for the title. It's great advice, and I will be using it!

  8. Awesome post! I'm the same way as you are with titles. My latest WIP has no title. I'm into the second revision and I still don't have one. I want it to meet all your criteria too. I like The First Dawn better. It has a more magical feel.

  9. I agree, titles are hell to come up with. I'll take a look at Flynn's posts though, they look to be useful :D

    I've more or less kept with my current title 'Noscareg' (a play on the Welsh for night stone), at least until something better comes along :P

  10. I find titles really easy to create, but character names give me trouble. I have taken day to research names to find a suitable match for my characters' personalities.

    Unfortunately, I don't know enough about your story to say whether or not the title is a good fit...

  11. Your title is most definately Arresting! Thanks for the tips and links.

  12. Your title make me wonder, the first day of what?

    My WIP #1 took a year to come up with a title. Now I'm working on a cover. Ugh.

  13. To me, your title is definitely suggestive--what's going to happen on the first day? And, what is it the first day of?

  14. Great post! Titles are tough for all of us, I think. I *have* to have at least a working title very early in my conception of a story. Otherwise, it remains too nebulous for me to really get the feel of its shape and tone. Once I have a title, I have a story.

  15. I usually come up with titles rather easily, but that doesn't mean they're GOOD titles. hehe

  16. Awesome post, and much needed advice. I think The First Day covers all of the above, and certainly leaves me wondering what it means.

    I've been wavering between two titles for a future WIP, a post-apocalyptic tale called either Hometown or The Choice. Decisions, decisions!

  17. Hey, thanks for posting my Sparkfest icon on your site! I recently changed my URL without realizing this would affect the icons. I feel pretty stupid about that, but would appreciate it if you could update to the new icon. (The old one isn't broken, but has my old URL displayed in the image.)

    Sorry for the inconvenience and a big THANKS to your patience as I figure this all out :D

    The new code is posted in my sidebar. (Blogger won't let me send HTML over comments.)

  18. The first day *is* suggestive, of more to come. Couple that with an awesome cover design and it would definitely draw my attention. Mine's Out of the Water. Some days I worry that it might sound tame. It takes a while for titles to come to me - usually I don't have one until at least the first draft is done.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. The title sounds fine. Makes me curious - first day of what? I like seeing the title with a picture and a blurb. Without everything together, it's hard to know how well it works with the project.

  21. Thanks everyone. The point of the title is definitely to make people wonder. I think I like it as is instead of as "The First Dawn". At least for now. Of course my husband suggested that variation because he knows more about the story than you guys. ;)

    Theresa, I've actually started working on some visuals and things to help me get in the right mood for the story. I'll probably post them sometime soon.

  22. Titles are not my best thing, I stole from Robert Heinlein and hunt down lines of poetry ...

  23. Good insights on titles! I usually wind up naming my WIPs after the main characters until I come up with an actual title. :)

    I think the genre and cover art will be key elements to supporting The First Day. It's definitely intriguing, and could have totally different context in fantasy as opposed to mystery or literary.

    Also gave you a shout out with a blog award in my latest post! http://nicole-singer.blogspot.com/2011/07/new-blogs-on-block.html


Comments, Precious, we appreciates them!