Finding the right title
Choosing a good title for a story or novel can be tantalisingly difficult. I usually resort to random brain-racking, leading to a few unsatisfactory possibilities based on fixations with particular phrases or words that cannot be dislodged from the mind. So, I wondered if using a more systematic approach would help.
Predictably, there is a wealth of material online – individual writers and organisations offering various approaches. I selected one by iUniverse: https://www.iuniverse.com/Resources/Writing-Editing/HowToChooseABookTitle.aspx
This provides a step-by-step guide to generating possible titles. The advice starts with some general ‘rules’ about titles and then moves on to 10 ‘Tips to get Creativity Flowing’.
I tried to use these tips to generate titles (in italics) for a novel I am currently writing. (Please note that I have adapted the tips. There is more detail on the site.)
1. Consider the essence of your book. What is your book about? Underlying theme of story?
Illegitimacy, Identity, Paternity. Comment: As titles these sound like Sociology books
2. Look over your book’s text. Are there any lines that jump out at you?
Revelry for Gentlemen. Comment: In the novel this phrase, used in a letter by one of the minor characters, is meant to suggest the attitudes of upper class men to lower class women, but as a title it sounds rather pornographic.
3. Add perspective. How do the characters see themselves?
The two main characters commit criminal acts of different types and are remorseful.
Remorse, The Guilt of Thieves, The Price of Theft
4. Consider the visual. Is there a special setting for the story?
Early 18th century King’s Lynn, a thriving port with coastal and overseas trade.
Port of Plenty, Smugglers’ Haven
5. Add some mystery.
Who is my father? The Love Child, A Question of Fatherhood, A Mother’s Secret
6. Research best-selling titles in your book’s genre
A very swift survey reveals certain preferences: the pattern definite article – adjective – noun e.g The Italian Wife, The Incendiary Plot, The Scarlet Thief and definite article – possessive noun phrase e.g. The Gamekeeper’s Wife, The King’s Evil, The Prince of Mirrors
7. Search for words in the dictionary. Flip to random pages in your dictionary and look over the words.
dishonour, flesh and blood, imbue, mental, pursuer, rogue, titled, vassal
Comment: A thesaurus might have produced more relevant words!
8. Consider song lyrics and lines from poems and other books.
The Family Face (a phrase from a poem by Thomas Hardy called ‘Heredity’)
9. Free write. Jot down every title, word or combination of words that comes to mind.
Boat Crew, Inherited Evil, River of Evil, Redemption, Criminal Classes, Compulsion, The Hoard, Father and Daughter, Orphans of Evil, Theft and Keeping, Evil in the Blood, Crime in the Blood
10. Change your words. Try adding an adjective or verb to the main idea of your book.
Wicked Inheritance, Beautiful Bastard, Unknown Daughter, Base Born, Thieving Classes, Finding Father
In conclusion, this process certainly generated a wider range of ideas than I can usually produce, though I’m not convinced that I’ve found the right title yet!