Your title is important. It’s the first words a potential reader sees, and your first chance to draw them into your story. How does a writer go about finding the right title for their story?
Titles Don’t Come First!
In my experience, writing a story for a title just doesn’t turn out well. It’s too constraining. Usually a title is made for a story, not the other way around. I’ve written multiple stories now that remain title-less even after the plot is full fledged, and are just waiting for some title TLC.
Titles Take Thought
Sometimes they come easy, but with longer novel-length stories, often they don’t. It helps to really know what your story is about. (If you’re like me and prefer to write off-the-cuff, sometimes you don’t know what your story is about. Someone once asked what the NaNoWriMo novel I’d written was about, and I said, “I don’t know, I haven’t read it!”) Titles take thought, study, critique, and revision. When something catches, you’ll know it.
- Reflect the essence of your story
- Have meaning for the reader before they read your story. If your book is fantasy, you may be tempted to write fantasy words into the title, but my advice is to keep this to a minimum. The title should communicate something about your story to potential readers who have no knowledge of your story whatsoever, thus enticing them to pick your book off the shelf.
- NOT give away too much. They’re just a glance at the worm on the hook. The first paragraph should get the bite, and the first chapter reel them in.
What are your tricks for titles? Writers don’t get much chance to practice these. A great way to learn is to pay attention to your favorite stories, study the titles, and see what works for your tastes.