Give it a good title

True, it’s what’s inside the book that counts. It’s the narrative, the plot, the vibrancy of the characters that keeps the reader going, but the thing that gets them to your book in the first place is the title.

I love titles. I particularly like the ones that are explicit about the characters or the plot. THE TAMING OF THE SHREW gives you the low-down on the plot of the play. COWBOYS AND ALIENS gives you the movie’s two opposing sides.

Let your title tell something. Either the main character: SNOW WHITE, the main source of aggravation: MOBY DICK, or the plot: THE ODYSSEY. Sometimes being a little more subtle works too. My own title, ANGEL’S GRACE, tells the name of the main character, and it’s a pun that you get by the end of the story. But really obscure titles don’t make people curious about what your story’s about. It just makes them move on to a title that they understand better. And after all the hard work of writing the story, you don’t want the title to turn your readers away.

So give it a good title.

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10 thoughts on “Give it a good title

  1. unwilting says:

    This is something I learned when I spent my time on an art site. That particular website leaned more towards visual arts and had little love for writing. The only way I could lure people to click the boring grey thumbnails that marked my works as ‘literature’ was to make a title interesting enough.

  2. Karen says:

    This is so true. I recently read 4 YA novels for a book festival. 2 had great titles that connected with the plot. 2 did not, and by the end of the book I still didn’t get why they picked that title. Also, I have a really hard time even remembering the title, which is not a good sign.

    A few of my favorites: A Tale of Two Cities; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime; Little Children.

  3. Tracey says:

    Karen, it’s interesting that you don’t even remember the titles of the books with the odd titles because even if the books were good, you can’t recommend them to anyone else. Yet another good reason to name appropriately. Know what title I didn’t get? FREEDOM. Meanwhile, I never made it to the end of that tome, so maybe it made sense by the end.

  4. broadsideblog says:

    Yes, but….My first book, non-fiction for adults, is about women and guns, “Blown Away” which has a double meaning, the explosive effect of firearm violence and how I felt about it.

    My new book, out April 2011 from Portfolio, is “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.” I love the title’s double meaning, but I didn’t choose it! My editor did. It was very strange to not be able to name my own book but I just couldn’t seem to think of one. So sometimes your publisher will be doing it for you.

  5. Tracey says:

    Then you’re in good company. I have a file full of awesome titles and no prose to go with it. I figure someday I’ll think of a story and then one of those awesome titles will come in handy. (Did I mention that they’re AWESOME?)

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