What makes a good title?


Gone with the Wind . To Kill a Mockingbird . The Diary of a Young Girl . Pride and Prejudice . Under the Greenwood Tree . Anne of Green Gables . Rilla of Ingleside . Crazy Love . The Book Thief . The Little House on the Prairie .

I love all these titles. They've got something about them; a punch, a dash of whimsy - an air of unforgettable-ness. Maybe it's because their content is good (although I've never read Under the Greenwood Tree - I just like the title) - maybe we remember these titles just because they happen to be famous... but seriously, these are some good titles. Like, how did Margaret Mitchell come up with something as epic as Gone with the Wind?! It sums up her book in four words and it doesn't give away any spoilers. How does she do that?! How did Harper Lee find such an intriguing title for her masterpiece? To Kill a Mockingbird sounds exactly like the kind of book you'd want to open to find out more.

With all these amazing titles in the world, I have a dilemma. I CANNOT NAME MY BOOK. It isn't finished yet (although slowly the end is in sight!) but man, I am bad at thinking of a title. Either Google search shows me there are already 100 books with the same title (yes, slight exaggeration, I apologise), or either it sounds so stupid I just roll my eyes at my own laptop screen.

What I'd (ideally) want in a title are 1. Something personal to the book. 2. Something that sounds pretty (not ya know, something like, Amy Stubbins' life in London)  and 3. Something that sounds good... something that rolls on the tongue. (However much I love The Guernsey Literary Potatoe Peel Pie Society, I am not searching for something in that field.)

I have identified six types of titles. You must tell me which you like best (after all, you are my imagined future audience.):

1. The snappy one. Such as: Crazy Love . Cool! . Not a Fan . These are often for learn-more-about-life books. Their title sparks interest. Their title isn't, perhaps, what the book subject might seem. It's a punchy title and it's what makes hands grab books. I like a snappy title. (However, it would not suit my book. My book is an historical piece of fiction with a fair amount of deaths. A flashy-punchy-colourful title would be... odd.)

2. The whimsical one. This is where I should paste basically all L.M.Montgomery's book titles. Especially Magic for Marigold and Jane of Lantern Hill and Anne of Avonlea. They all sound exquisite. I wish I had the knack for such beautiful title but whenever I do they sounds laughably ridiculous, like I'm just trying way too hard. Ha.

3. The This-is-what-the-book-basically-is-in-short title. Such as The Diary of Anne Frank or The Book Thief or A Series of Unfortunate Events or The Little House on the Prairie. It's like a tiny resume but it sounds really good on the front cover. I want one like this but ah how do I do this. For my book that would be something like, The Girl who has Problems and other people too and then it Slowly gets Resolved. That's not an ideal title, you've got to admit.

4. The monstrously epic one. We've touched this subject. Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird and other titles such as Pride and Prejudice and The Hunger Games are like this. But probably just because they're famous. But still. These kinda books are epic even without trying. The title does all the work. (I've given up on one like this. :-/)

5. The one word one. These CAN be cool but they're often, in my 'umble opinion, boring and/or cheesy. Some books pull it off: Emma . Christy . Persuasion . Homestead . (I thought of naming my book Blessed but then I looked it up on Goodreads and bam, about 10 books with the same title came up. I never thought I'd say this, but I wish there were less books in the world, haha.)

6. The this-title-could-do-for-any-book one. These are the ones I generally go for because they're easy. Romance novels have these. Titles like Back Home or Far Away from Home or In His Arms or Stealing His Name or Only when We're Apart or stuff like Waves of Love. They sound original, but they're not because switch the two titles from two Christian Fiction novels around and it won't matter - the title will still suit the content. Basically. (I thought of Only if it's You and Green Eyes for my novel but one, these books already exist and two, they could be the title of 90% of the books out there. And I don't want that.)

So there you go. The struggle of finding a title for my novel. I guess I'll just finish the novel first and then decide. Or better still, I have Emma read the manuscript and she can name it. She is wickedly good at naming things. (As I write, she is probably naming cows and horses in Texas.)

What are some of your favourite titles? What makes a good title? Any tips for the titling-my-novel-process? Cuz I need tips.

Comments

  1. Excellent post!! Quite fascinating to read. I think the secret to a really good title is poetry. That's the movement.

    I can answer your question on Margaret Mitchell: She couldn't find a title she loved until well into the final editing on Gone with the Wind She had some humdingers in the mix for A LONG TIME, like "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep," "Tote the Weary Load," and "Bugles Sang True." One night, she was reading Ernest Dowson's poem "Cynara" -

    - I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
    Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
    Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind,
    But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
    Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
    I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. -

    The line "gone with the wind" jumped out. She felt it was right, telling her editor:

    “Taken completely away from its context, it has movement, it could either refer to times that are gone like the snows of yesteryear, to the things that passed with the wind of war or to a person who went with the wind rather than standing against it.”

    I think my favorite title is To Kill a Mockingbird. It's just magic when near the end of the novel, the title is suddenly explained. I'd say that's my favorite sort of title -- the one that is curious and poetic and then MAKES SENSE when you read the book, like it's an inside thing that you just GOT.

    I also LOVE the title Leaves of Grass. It took me FOREVER to realize "leaves" referred to pages though, ha ha.

    So I'd say my favorite is definitely your #4. I love your breakdown. :)

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  2. Titles are so hard to come up with! Any I try just sound bland. All those books have such good titles! How did they do it!?

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  3. Argh, I HATE the "this-title-could-do-for-any-book" one. I don't understand how any author could be satisfied with that??? Knowing that their title could be swapped out with any other book and it wouldn't even MATTER? *shakes head*

    My favorites are #3 and #5, I think. Jane Austen was a master of the one-word title, wasn't she? Some of my favorite books have that kind, too: "Echo," "Fangirl," "Heidi," etc.

    Basically, my best tip for fiction writing is to take something from within the story itself, and use it. So, like, not to give anything away, but my own novel starts off with Kristallnacht in Berlin, and the main character says something about "the sound of breaking glass"--and hence, "Breaking Glass" is my title. Because it just seemed to fit, you know?

    "A historical piece of fiction with a fair amount of deaths." *shoots hand up in the air* MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. That describes my book exactly. Only I bet I have even more deaths than you :-P

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  4. This was so interesting. I never thought about book titles in this way before. So cool how you broke them down into different types.

    I'm sorry you're having such trouble coming up with a title for your story though. I wish I could help in some way but I'm afraid I'm not very good at coming up titles either. :P Don't worry though. I'm sure you'll get an idea eventually. Just keep writing and maybe by the time you've come to the end the title will be there waiting for you. :)

    Good luck with your story, dear!! It sounds like it's coming a long nicely. Which is awesome! :D

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  5. Uh huh... yep... *nods head*

    Titles are a definite struggle, and I envy people who are good at them. I'm not very proud of any of my titles, except for the last short story I finished; I like my title for that - "Love, Lily". But generally, (at least in my experience) it doesn't work to somehow force a title to come - you have to let it come to you. ;) I literally thought of that title as I was typing THE END for my edited story.

    "To Kill a Mockingbird" was definitely one of my favourite titles, because I was dying to figure out what the title meant during the whole book, and then when it clicked I was so excited and pleased! I'd love to be able to come up with something amazing like that, but I feel as though my attempt would be incredibly cheesy and out of place. That's why I don't even try. :P

    I have a title in mind for my WW2 story, but it's taken from a Bible verse which is a sort of theme throughout my story, so that while it's not the most imaginative title, I think it still fits well enough.

    Well, sorry if I wasn't much help (which I feel like is the case). But I wish you the best of luck in your titling-your-story process!

    ~Miss Meg

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  6. (This is Emma commenting under Sadie's account because she's signed in and I'm too lazy to fix it now)

    First of all the END IS IN SIGHT YAAAAY! I can't wait to read some of it. Maybe then I can help you out with a name...I do it way differently because I always seem to come up with a title and then I have to build the book around it. I don't know if either of our ways is very good. :-P

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  7. First, that is a perfect list. Yep. Sums up every book title ever. Number six is my least favorite. I roll my eyes over and over again when I look through the romance section of bookstores because of those cheesy titles. Yeah, don't go that direction.

    Some of my favorite titles: Everything, Everything. Wuthering Heights. Mansfield Park. Great Expectations. Far From the Madding Crowd. Ordeal by Innocence.

    The epic titles like Gone With the Wind are by far the best. Well, tie for best with the whimsical ones, yeah.

    I agree, though, coming up with titles is sooo hard! I wish you luck.

    (And btw, yes, I totally agree. Loved TGLaPPPS, but that title. I hope they continue to call the movie just "Guernsey". Lol.)

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  8. This was such a fun post! I LOVE how you categorized titles. Heh. As to which kind I like best....I have no clue. I guess I like some of them all, depending on the book and how well the title fits the story. (It would take waaayy too long to list my favorite titles, but here are a few that popped into mind: The Blue Castle, Behold the Dawn, Fireflies in December...)

    It. Is. So. Hard. To. Title. Books. I know. It's crazy. It took me a long time to come up with the title for my Princess and the Pea story, but there are still days I think I could do better. But I'll probably keep it. It sums up the story (I guess it's the #3 type) and when I googled it there weren't any other books with that title! That, above all, makes me want to keep it. ;)

    Hahahaha. What you said about the #6 type of titles. YUS. CFR novel titles are usually so stupid. I'm sorry, but I just can't get on board with them. Rarely do I see one that doesn't make me want to roll my eyes. :P

    Hmmm. I wish I had some tips for titling, but I can't seem to think of much. What I usually do is just start writing down every possible title I can think of, using main elements from the story like the plot or the character name/attributes. Sometimes I'll even switch parts of different title ideas around.

    Good luck with titling your novel and GRAND JOB on being almost done!! That's so exciting! (If you need anyone to read it someday....*raises hand*)

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  9. Whimsicality is a part of my personality, and therefore is something that I definitely love so much. But hey, you can't argue with the epic titled ones! Some of my favorite titles are The Princess Bride and The Snow Child-- they're pretty epic!

    xoxo Abigail Lennah | ups & downs

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  10. Love this post! Some of my favorite titles... I LOVE Jannette Oke's titles, like When Calls The Heart, and also the title of Joanne Bischof's YA novel, To Get To You. *sigh*

    New follower! =)

    Micaiah @ Notebooks and Novels

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  11. Titles are so hard. Either I get one right away, or I spend ages doing what you're doing, namely banging my head on flat surfaces in frustration. I often turn to Shakespeare -- I've gotten some great titles from him, like "The Beaten Way of Friendship." (And some bad ones, like "A Pipe for Fortune's Finger," but hey, I was 19, so I'm slowly forgiving myself for that one.)

    Best of luck at figuring this out! I think your idea of asking Emma for help is the best.

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  13. I've been a long time silent follower of your blog, but I think it's time to come out of the shadows... I just have to say that I absolutely love your writing style and voice! The variety and whimsy and quirky-ness (in a completely good way! :D) of your blog has made me smile so often. In fact, your blog has inspired me to begin my own blog! I just wanted to let you know that I've nominated you for the Awesome Blogger Award. :) Check out my blog: https://thewayofdelight.wordpress.com/ for more details.
    ~Hannah M.

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  14. Oo my personal favorites are probably #1, #2, and #4. Only once in my life have I ever thought of a title that I would consider whimsical. I bounced around in awe of my awesome title thinking skills for about three days XD. Have I ever done it again? *Lydia Snort* Nope. -___-
    Keep thinking! You're posts are great, by the way! I love reading your work!
    ~Miss Woodhouse

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  15. Great post! I quite like "Only if it's you", but it's too bad it's already taken. :( Oh well, I'm sure you'll think of something! (Or have already!)

    I don't especially struggle with titles, but if I ever can't think of one, I write down a list of adjectives and "aesthetics" that describe my novel, and play around with combining the words/phrases I get. That usually results in me finding a title I like! XD

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