And, with blistered feet and chapped lips, her fingers frozen and shaking, she climbed the last rise and stood at the peak of the highest mountain. She looked at the valleys below her, the crevices and treacherous cliffs she had passed, and let out a breath. Here on this mountain, all of her journey was now complete.
Yet, she did not know the name of the mountain. The author had gotten distracted by playing Bejeweled and Candy Crush on Facebook, and had yet to create a name.
For now, her expedition would be called, Journey To The Peak of Mount [Cool Name].
Question 1: What Is Your Book’s Title?
If I was at The Bridge of Death, and asked this question, I may be in trouble. I may answer, “Blue… No… Yellooooooooow!” as myself and my book gets thrown into the pit of doom.
In other words, I have a hard time coming up with titles to my fictional works.
Blog post titles are much easier. I just say what the post is about and add an attention-grabbing twist. For example, if the post is about five ways to high-five people in space, I can just title it “Five Methods For Spacetacular High-Fives,” or, simply, “Five Ways To High-Five People In Space”. Easy.
Novels and short stories are a different creature altogether. How do I encapsulate over a hundred pages of story in a word or phrase?
One of my projects has been in development for 10 years, been through three complete drafts, and is ready for the Beta Reader stage.
Here’s the elevator pitch:
Gabriella, Princess of Edimor, wakes a century beyond her own time to find her family dead, her kingdom destroyed, and her enemy, Haldana, now reigning as Empress. While seeking a foothold in this unknown world, Gabriella has three allies: her witch-godmother who abandoned her, a wizard who is supposed to be dead; and the man Haldana brought to wake her. Unwilling to fear the armies hunting her, Gabriella chooses to stand against the Empress and seek justice for all she has lost.
The current, exhilerating title of this story is: Post-Sleeping Beauty
Yes. Just as creative as “Mount [Cool Name]”.
This manuscript has borne many temporary titles, such as: “Woken Princess,” “Warrior Beauty,” and “Why Is It So Hard To Come Up With A Title For This Book?”
My chronic lack of good titles extends to other projects: “The True Heir,” “Big, Long Dark Epic”, “The Dark Lord”, “Brain Game,” “Circle of Time,” and “Sci-fi Action Story”.
This is like naming a new puppy “Dog”.
Perhaps, I should follow Disney’s current trend with “Frozen” and “Tangled,” and just title the Sleeping Beauty story “Woken”.
Actually… that title’s not too bad.
I think finding a title is like buying new shoes: You have to try on a bunch in order to find a pair that both fit well and look good.
Question 2: What Is Your Quest?
To find a good title for the books I am working on.
I have done some research on creating titles, but have yet to find something really helpful. I’m really looking for a title that answers the following questions:
1. Does It Match The Book’s Tone?
The title is a promise of what lies within the pages.
For example, The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey would not be named “Of Principles and Pluck,” or “Sewer of the Mind’s Eye.” Captain Underpants is a silly children’s novel riddled with potty humor, and with a superhero who bounds over tall buildings without getting a single wedgie.
For another example, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin is about two sisters and their challenges within the social structures of Georgian England. It would not be called “Of The Dagwood Sisters And Dangerous Men”… though that could be a fun pulp version of the story.
2. Does It Match Or Reflect The Book’s Theme?
Many great books state the theme right in the title: A Farewell To Arms, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations.
The title “The Great Gatsby”, for example, gives the reader a sense of the decadence within in the book, of the larger-than-life main character, and even the lies within.
Disney’s Tangled has a title which title both implies Rapunzel’s long hair and the tangled web of lies she is caught within and must escape.
3. Does It Match The Book’s Genre?
There are certain expectations readers have as they approach a section of books. A fantasy fan is more likely to pick up Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart than Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Even if the fantasy reader was not familiar with either author, they would pick up Steelheart. Why? Because the title says ‘Sci-fi! Adventure! Suspense’, whereas The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency title says, ‘This book is incredibly clever, and will involve a mystery’.
4. Does It Create Interest?
In other words, if I see the title, would I pick up the book to read it?
A great current example is “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs.
I picked up the book from the library, not knowing what it was about, but intrigued by the title and cover. The tale inside is as strange and curious as the exterior. In fact, it was the title that kept me reading past the rather generic first chapter. Once I got to the meat of the book, I could not put it down.
Question 3: What Is The Market-Potential Of An Unladen Title?
Just as King Arthur could not complete his quest to find the Holy Grail without the help of his knights, so to could I not complete my quest for a good book title without the help of friends.
In other words, this post is a long-winded way to ask for your input.
I am moving toward self-publishing a series of short novels set in a world similar to the 1910’s, with the advent of technology pushing against the traditions of society. The citizens go about their daily life as factory workers, tradesmen, accountants, clerks, tailors, cabbies, all ignorant of the magic and fairy tales hiding around the corner. Each story follows one of these individuals, their tale intertwining with the lives of others as magic abruptly changes their daily rhythm.
Before I can start publishing, however, I need a title.
On my own, I came up with “The _________ Tales”.
Then, I began playing madlibs with the blank. Some of my own ideas include The Grimmville Tales (too dark), The Fair Town Tales (too bland), and The Calanville Tales (too random).
However, I was able to turn to my local
knights friends, and the came up with these excellent contenders:
A. The Willington Tales B. The Pippington Tales
Before you decide which title works best, or come up with a suggestion of your own, here are some pictures from The Commons on Flickr that I’ve based the feeling and setting of the stories on.
If you’d like to help, here’s a poll:
What is your favorite title? What book did you read based on the title alone? What is the marketing-potential of an unladen book title?
Side Note: In between working on this post, I read this helpful article: Why Is It So Hard To Write A Decent Ending? from I09.com.