1. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    How do you decide on titles

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by karldots92, Sep 15, 2016.

    So I have another question. How and when do people decide on their titles? I have no idea what the title of my WIP should be. Should I have one now or do you wait till the end and how do you decide what it should be? Its probably a stupid question but I was curious
     
  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a thread somewhere. Hold on.

    Can't find it.

    I don't worry about titles. I give my WiP a working one, and it may or may not change by the end. I like short titles - one or two words. I don't put a lot of store in them to be honest.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2016
  3. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    My WIPs always have a title very early on and sometimes before I start writing. Titles however can and have been changed so I dont pick a title with a strong attachment to it until I am done with the first draft at least. Also, I'm not sure whether or not the publishing company has a say in your title if you choose a publishing house.
     
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  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I usually go through a bunch of working titles before I hit on one that sounds right.

    I think titles are really important, but I don't pay that much attention to them because it's pretty common for the publisher to change them. I just try to make it good enough that editors aren't going to roll their eyes when they read the pitch.

    I recently read that one-word titles are bad, for reasons I can't remember... maybe because it's hard to say much about the book in one word? But I can't remember where I read it, and if that's commonly accepted in the publishing world or if it was just one person's opinion. Either way, my first two novels have one-word titles and no agent or editor has commented on it.
     
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  5. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Sometimes I get the idea of the title at the same time as the idea of a story, sometimes I don't come up with a title until long after it's finished and edited and I need a title if I'm going to submit it anywhere. It varies.

    Like Jud, I favor shorter titles and I give wips working titles that might just be one word, just so I don't have too many Untitleds sitting around on my desktop and don't have to open each one to figure out which one I wanted. It might end up being the final name, or at least part of it, but it's going to be something relevant to the setting or character or theme or whatever, which is part of how I go about picking final titles, too. A working title I have on my desktop right now is 'salt', which is pretty likely to be the final title as it's spec fic that sort of revolves around a quasi-magical substance called salt, but I also have 'cyberpunk pi', which obviously isn't final title material, so for things like that I'll usually wait until it's finished and think about the names of important things in the story, what the overall theme could be, if there are any literary or mythological references implicit in the story that could be more explicit in the title (that's a common one for me, anyway, because I'm a sucker for references). I feel like my dialog is one of my stronger suits so I'll check if any lines, especially towards the end, can describe the story particularly well, too.

    I'm sure I've read that too, but also can't think where or why.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I usually begin with a generic working title, just so I have one. Then, as the story develops, other working titles occur to me. For the novel I am currently pitching, a historical novel about Cuba, I started with the working title of Cuba (clever, huh?). Fairly early in the process, I developed a character who would become the focal point of the novel and named her Rosa. I changed the working title to Rosa. Almost immediately, I changed the title to Rosa's Secret, and that remains the title today.
     
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  7. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I almost always have a title before anything else, and weirdly enough it often doesn't change. Occasionally I'll hear a turn of phrase or think of some kind of expression that I really like and store it away in memory. When I'm ready to write a new story, sometimes I'll dig back into that list and see if any of those titles inspire anything.

    Lately, though, my songwriting has differed from this approach--most of my newest material has been written title-less, and it's been a real struggle to come up with something. I can only imagine how much trouble I'd have with a piece of fiction!
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I usually come up with a title as I'm figuring out the idea. I try to keep it simple. I'm a huge Hitchcock fan and I love the simplicity of his titles. Right now my WIP features a teen boy who becomes a tv star and battles a strange relationship with the director. As I was figuring out the idea I thought of the term Falling Star and decided to call the story Falling Child Star to hint at a tragedy. If it changes it changes but that's the title for now. If I can't come up with a title I give it the name - Untitled ( insert description ) project. For a while a screenplay of mine was Untitled Woodsy Horror. It wasn't until I wrote a section of dialogue that I came up with the perfect title - Snare.
    Though title are important never let them prolong your writing. If nothing is happening just go with something temporary. Believe me something will appear that will have you going - that's it!
     
  9. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    My first attempt at a book had no title. My current book was inspired by the title; it just popped in my head and I desperately wanted to write a book with that title. There's a sequel title for it, too, which is just as inspiring. I don't think titles are necessary if you're not hampered in your writing by not having one.

    Maybe you're thinking of the Character Names as the Title thread? Most of the titles mentioned are only one word.
     
  10. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Nah, I read it before that--I was going to mention it in that thread, but with the troll trolling I left it.
     
  11. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I've had a title changed on me before. I don't mind it. I kind of trust that the editor knows what he likes and what he wants to publish and what makes a good title. But the last time it happened, I thought I had nailed it with a great title. Wait, we did just have a thread not too long ago about this, and I said pretty much the same thing.

    Anyway, a title is an easy fix. I have gotten feedback from other writers like "this story needs a way better title" more than once on different works. Titles can be tricky. And even when you think you've got it right, whoever is buying your work might have a different opinion. It's not like all the titles I come up with are bad. It's just that sometimes it can take me a while to come up with something that I really like.

    Sometimes I give things a title before I start and sometimes it comes to me later. Either way, it often changes as a story progresses or I just come up with something I think is better. That being said I absolutely love the titles of my current screenplay and novel. Both are works in progress, but I doubt I will be changing either of them unless I'm working with an editor or publisher who wants to change it.
     
  12. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Someone needs to tell Steven King :D

    that aside on the OP I generally pick the title first as part of my general idea...
     
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  13. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I think that's a pretty cool title - I'd read it if I saw it on a shelf
     
  14. Albeit
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    Albeit Member

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    I often find that they come up by themselves, not sure how, but they do. Sometimes they change and sometimes they don't.

    I guess I am not saying much here.
     
  15. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    It's certainly descriptive. I'd probably pick it up too if I'm being honest :D But it's not really my style, title-wise - there's a lot more going on that just there being a PI in a cyberpunk setting and I'd prefer to allude to some of that.
     
  16. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well picking random words from the yellowpages is a bad idea. One time I wound up with: Septic Insurance Dental Attorney Outlet. :superlaugh:

    I try to find some elements with in the story to come up with a title, such as the main plot point or theme. I like to keep it simple and on point. :)
     
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  17. Vanthu
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    Vanthu Member

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    It's kind of different for all of mine. For my first, it's the nickname of the protagonist (Vanthu). My second was a 26-word title describing EVERYTHING about the story. My third was the name of where it took place (Jacquinia). The fourth, I couldn't come up with a title, so I always called it "that thing I'm writing". I decided to just call it that, and later changing it to "That Thing I Wrote" when I finished. The fifth, it's the first initial of each main character (JAMMN). And the sixth is because it's about a guy who moved to Famenta, so it is called Welcome To Famenta.
     
  18. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    So, I'm not going to single anyone out here because I don't want this person to be upset or be flooded with title-help messages, but I was really struggling with a title for one of my short stories. I think the story is solid, but the title was probably the worst title ever given to a short story ever. It was really bad and I felt stuck. I sent a PM to one of the members here. Having read some of his posts, I thought maybe he would help me. I gave him a sentence or two on what the story was about. Very vague. No details. And he gave me the best title. It's something I never would have thought of. It's just brilliant! If you are reading this, you know who you are. Thank you!!!

    That being said, I don't think it's a bad idea to get some help with titles. It's something that seems to come easier to others than it does to me.
     
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  19. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Is this how James Lee Burke came up with "in the electric mist with the confederate dead"
     
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  20. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I just made up the bit about using random words in the yellow pages. But if it helps you come up with fictional company names, then that is awesome. :)
     
  21. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    That is odd, I got a simple phone book last year. Though it is the complete area within like 100 mile radius, and is not very thick. You could try
    Craigslist or something similar and see if anybody in your area would be willing to part with an older copy of the yellow pages that they might
    have lying around somewhere. :)
     
  22. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am curious why the function of title never comes up strongly in these title threads. I would think a title has a first purpose in catching the attention of the subject audience and should relate to the story. Short titles can do that but it would be pretty difficult for a one word title to get much of an idea across IMO. However there was quite a lengthy thread about using a character's name as the title and there were many pros and cons mentioned, what I noticed was that the pros used outliers as justification for this and this led me to think that a simple title like Lolita when it becomes immensely popular makes it easier for the word of mouth to spread it since it is easy to remember, etc. But the success comes first then the simplicity of the title works okay, again IMO.
     
  23. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    I think the purpose of a title isn't mentioned in these because everyone already knows what they're for, so it's something that doesn't need to be mentioned. What I read on the name thread was along the lines of "can a simple name for a title really do its job to catch a reader's attention?"

    My title is based on a major point for the plot and main character and, in my opinion, it's also catchy.
     
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  24. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well what if the author decides be deliberately misleading about a title? It could happen you know.

    Think about it. The Last Forest: then once you start reading it come to find it takes place on an asteroid devoid of vegetation. Now that would be a slap in the face and falsely titled book to be sure, but it could happen.

    In fact it has happened with a very popular (and very piss poorly written series) 50 Shades of Grey. The only thing not misleading about the title is the Character name. The rest of it is never addressed at all. Hell the first time I heard it my mind thought of a concrete worker who has a hard life dealing with an unhappy spouse that frequently sleeps around, and yet he always takes her back. IDK.
     
  25. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    That's true, I hadn't even considered misleading titles. Maybe that's because I find them so appalling? I don't like it when an author tries to fool me (I'm not talking about trying to keep me guessing in a mystery novel; I'm talking about obvious, "Haha I fooled you" kind of stuff). Using your example, the title The Last Forest would be fine if there was some heavy symbolism using that as an example or if, for example, stories of the last forest drive the MC to do what they do (and it's mentioned enough in the right ways). Using the title The Last Forest and having absolutely nothing to do with forests, even symbolically, would be, in my opinion, a dirty trick to try to get more readers. I've read a couple books where the title really interested me, and the whole book through I kept waiting for the moment the plot matched it and it never did. That was always a disappointment. Of course, I've also read a couple book descriptions that were NOTHING like the actual story . . . so I have "issues" with that kind of thing.

    I guess what I'm saying is that titles should always reflect the character, plot, or theme in some way. If the story and title don't match, it just feels . . . off, and almost a lie.
     
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