Choosing a Title

When you write fanfiction, titles tend to come easily. A line from a song; a bit of dialogue; or a short phrase can work, but I have found it to be difficult outside of the fanfiction genre. I’ve had Wolf-Thief be a stand-in title for some time now and haven’t found something that is better fitting.

Though, a title can be created a million ways.

  • Name of a character
  • The goal of the story
  • A short phrase
  • A piece of symbolism or imagery
  • A song
  • The setting
  • The theme
  • Etc.

I do know that when you choose a title for your work there are three main rules to follow:

1. It has to be interesting.

Your title is one of the first things your reader will see and it has to be able to catch their eye in order to get them interested. You also can’t let it be blatantly obvious, because if you can guess the entire story by the title then you aren’t even going to take the time to read it.

2. It has to make sense.

If you write a story that doesn’t match it’s title, then what is the point of the title. When you have a title that doesn’t fit the story it’s attached to, the reader might put it down out of disappointment or confusion. I have actually done this before and proceeded to take the book to a local used book store to trade it for a different book.

3. It has to be concise.

Long titles are often best left for non-fiction works. More often than enough, titles for nonfiction are really the thesis statement. When it comes to fiction, shorter titles can express quite a bit as to what the story is without giving everything away.

Series Titles

If you are working on a part of a series, make sure that the title of that book is consistent with the other titles in the series. For example, the Heir Chronicles have the titles as “The __________ Heir”. This was how the author kept the titles consistent. For Patrica Briggs’ Mercy Thompson Series all the titles are two words and are descriptive. The Twilight Saga had titles that were related to the phases of the moon and placement of the sun. My Were-Witch Saga is all going to relate to plants used in Herbal Magic, this is because the main character is a witch with a talent for Herbal Magic.

Working Titles

When you have a piece that you don’t have a set title for, the title you use is called a working title. It is meant to be just a placeholder until you find a set title but sometimes it becomes the official one. If the latter becomes the case, it isn’t because you couldn’t find anything else but really because that title is what the story was meant for in the first place.

Another thing to working titles is that this can be the title you send when you send your manuscript to an editor. Though I don’t have experience with it myself, since I have yet to finish a piece worthy of an editor’s eyes. When an editor read’s through your work (if it is the entire manuscript) they will keep the title in mind and think of whether or not it fits with the story.

How do you choose your titles? Do you have a favorite title of yours?

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2 thoughts on “Choosing a Title

  1. I only came up with my title when I was 3/4 of the way through. I wanted to go with a theme that I could carry through the series and so that it also set the tone for the book. I think you know when it’s right when you stop changing it 🙂

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