I have a small confession to make: I hate coming up with story titles for my writings. I can never think of a good one. I even struggle to name many of these blog posts.
I think it really boils down to a problem naming things. I had trouble naming all but my oldest son (since he is named after me it was easy). I had a hell of time picking a business name I liked (when I was in business), and now it plagues me when I try to name my stories. Its exactly the reason I could never use a pseudonym
I am not sure why this is. Perhaps the permanent nature of a name is what concerns me. After all, once the story is published I have to call it by that name for the rest of time. With titles, its also about getting the readers attention in some way. I think it also boils down to wanting to find one of those great titles I see in publications.
So with a bit of self exploration, I decided I would look into the purpose of a title.
The title names the story for recognition and ease of description. Can you imagine if every time I wanted to talk about “Death Watch“, I said “The story about the guy with the watch that tells him when he will die.”? I can’t imagine doing that. But that is probably the most basic of reasons for a story title.
But, lets face it you are attracted to more unique titles. When I browse the crowded book shelves of the book store (you know that place you can get real books at) or look at short stories, I am always attracted to the titles that are different. But different is a relative term. Obviously you don’t want to use the title “The Computer”, but “The Computer Code” would draw my attention.
But also your title shout be appropriately named. You will want to avoid names that may imply a different genre then the one you are writing. For example, you may not want to use “Princess Tales” as the title of a story about the Starship Princess’ voyages. The story title implies something different.
I love double meaning titles, though I have not picked one. “The Computer Code” is a good example. Computer code is a common topic for the IT department, but the Science Fiction reader will know right away, that you are not talking about 0 and 1. Perhaps that is part of the story, but Code likely refers to something completely different, like a Code of Conduct perhaps. Its a bit different then what I mentioned above because the title is still fulfilling its promise in the name. Where as “Princess Tales” isn’t really a double meaning but is rather promising something different. A thin line perhaps, but a line none the less.
I hate long winded titles. “Greg Branson: The Millionaire Who Never Spent a Dime” is an insane title to me. Its long, awkward, and often people shorten it anyway. Of course that is my opinion, and I have nothing to back that up, as many people have been professionally published with such titles.
And of course, even though I have seen it forgotten, the most important thing is that your story title has something to do with your story. I don’t think I could have called “Dream Job” something like “The Car Chase Chronicles”. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is, a title is part of the promise you make to the readers.
Really only you can name your story, but asking for opinions is great. You may have to ask directly because in all the critiques I have gotten, no one ever has mentioned the title. So ask people what they think of the title when they read your work.
Don’t delay writing a story simply because you don’t have a title. In fact, almost everything I have written got the title after it was finished. Like I said above, I have so much trouble committing to a title, so I’d never write anything if I waited.
Keep a sheet of paper near your computer. Titles have often hit me while I am typing out a story (or even these blog posts). Having a sheet of paper to scribble down a title you think of can be as valuable as your story ideas notebook.
Often that initial thought that brought the story to your mind, may make a good title. Both “Dream Job” and “Death Watch” are named for their story idea source. “Death Watch”, came from the idea of how a device that would tell us when we died might influence our choices in life. “Dream Job”, came from a nightmare I had.
So I hope you have a better time with titles then I do. If you do have an easy time, share your tips below for those poor writers (like me) that struggle with naming our precious tales. I always look forward to the comments.