Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Titles Are Hard!

Once you write somethingbe it a novel, a poem, a blog post, whatever it may bethe hardest part is over, right? Well, sort of right. Until, of course, you have to find a title for it. Creating a title that accurately sums up the theme and mood of something that youve worked so long and hard on seems like a huge undertaking. Should you be witty and try to find an ingenious pun? Or do a bit of soul searching in order to come up with something profound. And how on earth do you select a name for your novel that will stand the test of time? We have a couple of little tips that you might want to take into account when youre looking to christen your writing which might make the process a little easier.

1.    Does your title reflect the content?
If your title is funny, readers will expect the book to be funny. Imagine the readers surprise when a book with a funny title is incredibly depressing. The title is the readers first clue as to what reading your piece will be like. Beyond the tone of the piece, the title can also reflect major themes, plot points, or settings. The Great Gatsbys title lets the reader know that Gatsby and his grandeur (real or perceived) will be the focus of the book.

2.    Is it too similar to another title?
Allusion is great; it makes readers feel like theyre in on your wordplay. Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf? creates irony by evoking a childrens story. But choosing a title thats too similar toor exactly the same asthe title of a more famous work will only confuse readers who may be looking for your book. Doing an Internet search for The Metamorphosis will always yield pages and pages of Kafka links, even if someone is looking for your piece.

3.    Is it specific enough?
Sometimes the two-word title is all you need. The title of The Tempest evokes all sorts of emotions and clues the reader in to what will happen in the play because tempestis a particularly interesting word. But a title like The Book may not be interesting or emotive enough to draw a reader to your piece in a sea of more evocative titles.

4.    Is it WAY too long?
That being said, your title can include too much detail. Theres been a real ardent trend in publishing to option books that have ludicrously long titles. The Curious Activities of the Cat with the Fifth Paw in the Nighttime on a Tractor in Slovakia. And so on. Those kinds of heavily contrived titles are probably starting to wear thin now. A three sentence-long title may give the reader clues as to tone, theme, setting, character, and plotall at the same time. But it will also be nearly impossible for the reader to remember. You want readers to remember your title, not get lost in it, so they can find your piece and recommend it to others.


Youve spent time and energy crafting a piece of writing, so dont let it down by giving it an unfit title. You want to draw readers in so they can experience just how great your writing is.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I absolutely do not agree with points 1 or 4!

You give bad examples.

I've never read The Great Gatsby - or watched the movie - and neither would I based on a title which gives no clue as to what it's about!

On the other hand, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time, is one of the most memorable, thought-provoking titles in modern fiction.

Anyone who's glanced at the cover of that book won't ever forget it.

I'd also argue that titles don't sell books. If that were the case the Harry Potter novels would never have become a globally-selling phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the reader comment above. I feel these are all valid points. Speaking from nonfiction and marketing experience, I will add that these days it can help to be aware of how internet searches work. If you plan to advertise your book mostly online, you might consider how it will do in. Google search, keeping in mind that Google will ignore words like the, of and and.

Even if you are writing a fiction book, you might consider whether you have a unique combination of words that won't accidentally elicit the wrong audience. Try searching for your current title on Amazon or B&N, and see what pops up. You might be unpleasantly surprised to find that your horror novel will share space with Christian devotionals. Is it that right crowd for your book? It's not a perfect system, and I know this sounds horribly practical for dreamers, but it is a useful exercise in a world where people can't easily wander by your book on a bookshelf.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typo! I meant I totally DISAGREE with the other reader comment. I think these are all valid points.