Ok, so my last post was more of a joke than anything else. I’ve been sick, so in my fever chill delirium, I decided it would be fun to think of a “lazy writers” post. But in all seriousness, thinking of the perfect title for your novel can be a pain in the butt! Just like thinking of character names (stay tuned for a helpful guide on that as well), titles are important to the overall vibe and feel of your finished piece.
Before I jump into some helpful tips on how to go about the process of titling, let’s look at some examples of pretty neat titles.
- The Name Of The Wind
- Good Omens: The Nice And Accurate Prophecies Of Agnes Nutter, Witch
- The Bell Jar
- The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe
Now that we’ve seen how some of the pros do it, let’s take a look at the different methods for titling.
5 Methods to Title Your Novel
Go with the serial approach
Just like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, if your book follows a specific character and you know you’re going to have a series based around the same characters, the obvious answer here is to name the book after your main character with subsequent titles for what each of the books will be about. That way you know that Stephen King And The Killer Lampshade will be about our beloved hero, Stephen, and his adventure with the killer lampshade.
Or the series approach
Similar to the serial approach, the series titling approach is best for shorter stories or fast reads that fall within the same genre. Series are often books that can stand alone from the other books in the series. For example, goosebumps. Each book is titled Goosebumps, followed by the name of the short story within. These are not earth shattering fiction, but they are entertaining and follow the same genre; horror. One can be called The Mummy and the next can be called The Haunted Mansion, depending on the contents of the short story, and the titles do not have to relate in any way.
Further Reading on Serials vs. Series: Series of Books or Book Serials: What’s the Difference?
Use a phrase from your book
Yep, just like The Catcher in the Rye or Gone With The Wind this method takes a common theme in your book, or more specifically a quote from your actual story, and turns it into the title. My short story, Parasite, uses a word found within the text as well as Parasite being a major theme of the story.
What you see is what you get
This is the most straight forward approach. If I see a book called The Life of Abe Lincoln, I would expect to read a book about the life of Abe Lincoln.
The click-bait title
John Dies At The End is a good example of this. It’s an attention grabbing spoiler alert, or a profane slur, or a shocking statement. This grabs the readers interest and at least makes them pick up the book, if for no other reason than to see what all the hype is about. Much like click-bait, these titles better live up to their promise. If John didn’t actually die at the end, either physically or metaphorically, I’m sure there’d be a bunch of pissed off customers who regret spending their hard-earned money on that book. (I never actually read John Dies At The End, so I’m not actually sure whether or not he does, in fact, die.)
Generally, the most popular way to title a novel is to use a phrase that is prevalent within the text. Whether that’s a person, place, or thing, the title most often revolves around the central focus of the story.
So, repeating myself from the joke post, my advice still stands.
Don’t overthink it.
Sure, you can add wit and mystery to the title, but overall, you reader is going to pick up your book because the title sells them what’s inside. Don’t try to trick them. Don’t try to be too fancy. And don’t think too hard about your title. Good luck!