The first thing you read when you pick up a book is the title; it’s the hook which intrigues and attracts, offering that anticipatory moment between title and first page.
The majority of titles fall into two types: descriptive and evocative.
Descriptive titles indicate something of significance: the main character, Anna Karenina, Oliver Twist, Dracula; a reference to the theme or plot, Crime and Punishment, Angels and Demons; genre: I, Robot is clearly science-fiction, The Vampire Diaries a paranormal fantasy, and Confessions of a Shopaholic chick lit. These titles build expectation as they have a direct connection with the book’s subject.
Evocative titles work because they fascinate and tempt readers. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a beguiling title and one of my favourites, because I love the poetic juxtaposition of the words, and there’s no clue as to where this story will take you. A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies are two other titles which fall into the enticing category; it's almost as if not understanding what the title refers to invites you to find out what the book is about - and it may not be what you expect.
How do writers set about choosing titles? John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is from a line in Burn’s poem To a Mouse, and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye combines a children’s song with Burn’s poem, Coming thro’ the Rye. So poetry can be a fertile field when looking for a title. However, using quotes from other writers can be a delicate issue, because if you don’t have permission you can be accused of plagiarism. Older works such as religious texts or Shakespeare’s plays etc. are generally safe but if you choose this route, check with a legal expert to be sure.
Titles are often short and pithy as they have to catch the passing eye, and stick in the mind. Interestingly there is no copyright on titles, but it’s a good idea to check on Amazon or just google it and see what comes up. An original title saves your book being confused with others of the same name.
The title, like the cover, can pull readers in because we’re all susceptible to appealingly packaged goods, yet the real strength of a title is not in its capacity to attract. The real power of a title is in its ability to summon from memory those images that live most strongly in our imagination, along with the emotions experienced during the reading of the story; and that’s something worth spending time on trying to achieve.
I feel so much better now I’ve started my read aloud read though and 3rd edit. I needed a break, but I have to say I was miserable without my daily dose of writing. During my last editing break I worked on other pieces, but not this time – and the lesson is learned! On the plus side - the spare room is looking much better.
Still no working title – but I’m nearer than I was to the general idea I want to encapsulate. The time line for publication is more likely to be the beginning of August, rather than July because I want to be sure I’ve done my best, and not rushed the details that will make a difference. So I’m enthusiastically pushing forward... the thought of having a book ‘out there’ sometime in the near future is exhilarating.
On a more minor note, Wattpad, the free reading platform, has promoted my sci-fi flash fiction, Space Glitch, (link on the right) to its quick read list - Quickies. Taking the wider world into consideration, I know this is a small step, but to me it's a validation that I'm on the right track - and it's brilliant to find out someone likes my writing!
greening stalks of wheat
seed heads thicken ripen beige
gold - I love my toast
An entertaining post about naming characters:
Dr. Jeremy Dean’s popular psychology website isn’t writing related, but the jposts could be of use to writers looking to give background or depth to a character. The article in question is a good example of how to be informative and humorous.
I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the links to the right.
Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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