1. PrettyLittleWonderland
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    PrettyLittleWonderland New Member

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    Coming up with a novel title?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PrettyLittleWonderland, Mar 26, 2012.

    I always have this problem and can never find a good enough title. Sometimes I'll look up words that describe the overall mood of my story, or I'll pull a line that I like from the novel and work with it. But I never feel like my titles can accurately portray my story or it just sounds conventional. How do you come up with titles?
     
  2. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    I can't find a title for the 105,000 word rough draft I wrote. Nothing seems to work, and I've had a lot of time to ponder this. But for the second novel I've started (I'm only 5,000 words in), the title jumped out at me, and I think it will stick. I found a quotation by Nathaniel Hawthorne that really spoke to me and reflected the story I want to tell. I wish I could say that I found this quote through my extensive reading of Hawthorne's journals, but, no, I found it through a google search engine. There are lots of sites with famous quotes online. I was just searching under the basic theme of my book, not intending to find a title, and probably procrastinating, but maybe this would help you.

    It really does seem like a lot of titles are already taken, or can't possibly do justice to your novel.

    I'm hoping that after rewriting my first novel one or two times, I'll have the nerve to get some readers, and maybe they will offer some suggestions. It would be interesting to hear what ideas they come up, and what message they received from my story.

    Georgia :)
     
  3. Rybe
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    Rybe Member

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    Oh jeeese, I was thinking of posting this question. I'm over 50k words into my current story and it's still saved as "lolworkingtitle" urhg. I have the characters well established, the theme well established, the plot, everything. But do I have any ideas for even a working title? No. I'll be curious to see what other people say. Titles have always been my bane, even when I successfully came up with them they always felt cheesy to me.
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I'm currently rewriting a novel that has already had two previous titles - each time I've overhauled the plot its title has changed. But on the last rewrite... nothing. I can't think of anything. Nada. Zip. It's historical fiction and those tend to have very standard, formulaic titles, but I want mine to be memorable and different...

    I also want it to have sequel potential, so that when I come to name the other two books, they form a cohesive theme.

    I don't think a title is really worth worrying over though. Write the novel, then name it.
     
  5. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't worry about it.

    Whatever your working title, when it comes time to publish i believe your agent and / or publisher will work on a suitable publishing title with you.
     
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  6. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I know, it's sometimes hard - sometimes, for me, a story will grow out of a title, and the title reflects the overall idea behind the story. Like one I'm working on now, called The Haulers. But sometimes I come up with the idea first and write the story and then struggle for a meaningful title. Like one I recently wrote; I finally settled on Quest, but I'm not entirely happy with it; I think its working title, The Book suited it better. ;)

    So I find it works both ways. Like you said, often you can take a theme or a quote from the book. It has to be a recurring theme, or a quote that references the whole situation or could be construed as referencing the whole situation, to seem relevant; people do that but it can be tough not to have to manipulate the dialogue.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I used to get frustrated trying to come up with titles, and I just started making them as simple as possible. I had stories with titles like "The Gun" and "The Compass". I try not to get too poetic with titles, because they can become embarrassing. Hemingway used to refer to books of quotations for his titles - that's how he got "The Sun Also Rises", "A Farewell to Arms", and "For Whom The Bell Tolls". I think these titles are a bit overblown, but they certainly worked for him.

    Please, please, PLEASE, though, if you're writing a fantasy series, don't call your novel something like The Voyage of the Ythbrogain: Book 1 of the Annals of the Three Golden Plectrosuns: The Chronicles of Blethenfnorst Volume IX.

    Because that's just irritating and comical, and it looks like everything else on the fantasy shelves of the bookstore.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always have this problem too. with the only exception of one novel (to which I had the perfect title right from the start, but never finished) Titles is probably the hardest part of the entire writing process for me. On the other hand I'm good with character names, I usually get them right away and never doubt them.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is it okay if it isn't a fantasy novel? ;)

    I can't imagine finishing a novel, including the editing passes, without the title shouting in your brain. Maybe you are just trying too hard, or being too critical.

    It doesn't have to be a title no one has ever used. Titles aren't subject to copyright.

    Personally, I'd avoid titles that telegraph the ending. But having said that, "Doomsday" could still be an effective title (and even though it has been used before). I favor short titles, but there have been some excellent verbose titles too.
     
  10. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    It's a tough one. I don't know if there's a secret to it.

    But I can tell you that a title is massively important. It communicates all those millions of things they talk about in branding tutorials.

    Like Hugh Hefner once said, it wouldn't have been a success if he hadn't called it Playboy.
     
  11. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    i'm soo original i'm going to call mine ''NAME OF MC'' Part One.
    yep... that's it.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    titles just come to me unbidden... i don't think i've ever had to go looking for one, in the many hundreds of pieces of poetry and prose i've churned out... i often start with a title and the work grows out of that...
     
  13. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I'm stuck on the title for an historical novel set in ancient Egypt, which deals with the Egyptians' vengeance against the Hebrews post Exodus. We're talking both political and religious persecution (there are some Hebrews who remained in Egypt after Exodus) and external military conquest (the supreme commander of the armies is gearing up Egypt for another foreign expansionist campaign against the Hittite empire, but this is a pretext for going on a smiting expedition against the Hebrew exiles in Canaan).

    I keep thinking about animals as metaphors - my MC (chief of police) is identified with the god Horus, who is a hawk, and the military commander (antag) could be either a jackal (identified with Anubis, a god associated with death) or a lion (as in Sekhmet, goddess of war - this works less well, as all feline deities were female). I guess the Hebrews are most commonly associated with lambs, due to the fact that the lamb's blood saved them from the angel of death on the night of the tenth plague, and in the bible they offer lambs as sacrifice, plus they are the 'prey' to the general (jackal/lion).

    None of this metaphorical symbolism has so far resulted in a title though!
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So far my working title is Shadow War - mostly because I've finally identified that that's the event the entire novel revolves around.

    When it's done, I'll try and come up with a better title, but it might be that I just stick with the working one.
     
  15. Dangerboy450
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    Dangerboy450 New Member

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    This is a great question. I actually love coming up with titles. I am a screenwriter by trade and I used to be a songwriter when I was younger, so I can tell you I've come up with my fair share of titles. Sometimes, even though it is derided by some writers, I'll start writing based on a title I've come up.

    I think when you have a finished piece, I would go back and explore the aspects of Character, Action, Subject, Theme, and Tone. A title should in a few words let the reader know a combination of these elements. Wit and Intelligence are your friends, but at the same time, don't fall victim to being trite and banal because you can't think of anything better (you're the writer, you're smarter than that!), or verbose (See Fall Out Boy album "Under The Corktree"). Keep track of the evolution of your working titles, these can also be useful for informing your finalized title. Example: I co-wrote the screenplay for a short film I was going to direct and my co-writer titled it "Time Trax" because it was a time-travel story involving a train. When it came time to audition actors and hire crew I told him, "When need a title we can pitch that is catchy but succinct." I suggested "Timely" because it captured the nature and genuine value of our subject but also said "this is a time-travel story" without being overt. He liked it and when the film was completed, it was the best title for that film.

    Going the route of using a quote can be appropriate, but it shouldn't be so esoteric that it requires the reader to consult Wikipedia. One of my favorite titles using a quotation is Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" which is lifted from Shakespeare's "Macbeth", "By the pricking of my thumbs/ something wicked this way comes." Almost as a rule, Shakespeare and the Holy Bible are always great English Language resources for inspiration. I used a movie quote for a song I wrote that compares emotional heartache to actual irreparable tissue damage. The original title was "Like A Bullet (Stay With Me)" but after watching "The Godfather Part II" I retitled it "I Knew It Was You...You Broke My Heart" simply removing Fredo's name for more universality. I would also refrain from using maxims and adages. If you do, try deconstructing/inverting it until you have something that is more interesting.

    Also, check out other writers and artists for inspirations. Keep a watchful eye and open ear. Language is free and what someone says or writes might just be the spark that titles your next great book. Good luck.
     
  16. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I never needed to title my stories before, but now I am writing a novel -- or at least, trying to, since I liked the idea -- called "The cursed son" which is about a demon hunter priest who is son of a human mother and Asmodeus, a fallen angel, just like Lucifer. The title just came to me naturally...

    I don't really understand why you have to put the title BEFORE the work is done. It's easier to title something that it's ready and set in stone to something that you are not sure of everything yet...
     
  17. spklvr
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    Because not having a title bothers the crap out of me, I have the (bad) habit of just naming my stories whatever crap I can think of until later. Problem is that sometimes it just sticks, even when the title has nothing to do with the story. I had one novel that I finally decided to rename Scarecrow after a long and hard think. It's a novel about organized street fighting and Scarecrow is the MCs fighting name. However, for about two years it has gone under the name Drink you Pretty. Absolutely nothing to do with anything.

    Regardless, I’m pretty good at coming up with titles, if I may say so myself. My favorite title was stolen though, from a title from a painting. Boy on White Horse. Awesome title. Suits my story anyhow.
     
  18. DaVinci
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    DaVinci Banned

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    By not over thinking it. lol.
     
  19. heyitsmary
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    I can't generally come up with a title until I've done at least a first draft of a story. The novella I did for my senior project in college went through about 6 title changes, and I was only somewhat happy with the one I eventually settled on. But I came up with a title almost immediately for the next story I wrote. Something generally jumps out at me; a major theme in the story or maybe a line that I like. I don't usually stress about titles too much.
     
  20. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    When your editor insists on changing it you're going to feel pretty stupid even wasting a second thinking about it. My working title right now is The 60th Career Path. Its purpose is to focus on the theme of perseverance. Its more for myself than anything else.
     
  21. ShortBus
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    The title should be used for marketing. If you are just looking at book titles, without really knowing or caring what you going to read, you'r going to look at the coolest or catchiest title you see. It could have nothing to do with the story but the first step is getting people to open it in the first place.
     
  22. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    That's true, but it should also have meaning. You don't title a book "The Case of the Ghost of the Mermaid Vampire and the Werewolf Prince Zombie" just to appeal to a wide range of audiences.
     
  23. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Hey, that sounds like a good book actually! :D

    You forgot the sci fi element though - can it be the ghost of an alien mermaid vampire? And can it be set on Tatooine?

    That should just about do it ;)

    I've been trauling through bible texts to get inspiration for my Exodus story - still nothing. I've been wondering whether to go with 'series title : volume title', which gives me a bit more room to explain, but is that too boring/cliche for historical fiction?
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Right now I have a working title. The problem is that the name of the lead's organization is also a slang term for another historic group. The issue is that the name works so well.

    Like any other aspect of the process, I'm sure a new/better/altered title will surface. For right now, the name of the story in my computer is 'myBOOK' so I can find it.

    BTW, remind me to get a flash-drive...
     
  25. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I humbly offer the following suggestions:

    1. Egypt
    2. After Exodus
    3. Passover Leftovers
    4. It Didn't End At the Red Sea
    5. Hitting the Hittites
    6. Smiting for Fun and Profit

    And I won't even ask for a piece of the royalties.
     

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