Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What's in a Name? Finding the Perfect Title #amwriting #writertips #romance

The title of your book, or series for that matter, is a very important aspect of the overall experience for the reader. It give the reader the first glimpse of your story. What its about, what genre it is a part of, what they can expect from the writer.

Of course your title can't convey the whole story, that would be way too much to expect from a few words. But it gives the reader their first glimpse, combined with the cover, of what your story is about. You wouldn't expect a book titled 'His Highland Princess' to be a sci-fi novel or biography, nor would you expect a book titled 'What Lies at Night' to be a romance novel. It could be. Its not impossible. But its probably not the first image to come to mind with that title.

It also gives the reader an idea of the author. If the title is witty or interesting, readers can expect the same from the book. If the title is dark and ominous the same will probably be true of the story. In that way, the title of a story might be an author's most important advertising. And definitely the first choice the author must make in positioning their work.

So the process of selecting a title is very important. And like almost every other aspect of writing, it is a very personal process of each author. Some come up with the title before they start writing the book. Some don't pick it until the book is completely written. And for others it might come sometime in the middle of the process.

For me, it can be a mixture of all three. Some stories, very few, come to me with the title already. Most of the time this happens the title holds the genesis of the story idea. Like Naughty List. The whole basis for the story surrounds a naughty list, so it only makes sense that would be the title. But most of the time I start with more a general idea of what the story is about. If you look at my computer files you'll see most of them have names like 'musical menage' or 'three neighbors.' Just a quick description of the story so I know what is contained in that file, until I pick a title.

Most of my titles come at some point in the process. Either one of the characters says something, or something happens in the story, that sparks the idea of a title for me. Sometime I'll even do rewrites after picking the title to more firmly cement the idea inside the story. But there are other times (more than I probably am comfortable with) where the book is completely written and polished before I have a title for it.

When picking a title, I have a few important criteria that I consider.

1. I like it to be short and easy to remember. I try to keep it to just a few words, two to three are best. But I don't always succeed. The shorter the title, the easier to remember and for readers to find.

2. I try to make my titles original. With the number of books that exist after centuries of publishing it is hard to find an original title, but I try my best. I do a quick amazon search before landing on a title. Its not a fool proof method, and sometimes don't see a book and accidentally pick a title that has already been used. Or sometimes, someone publishes a book after you with the same title. Its not the end of the world to have the same titled book as someone else. Readers can tell the difference and find the book they want. But if possible, I try to avoid it.

3. If its a series I try to have continuity between the titles in some way. Maybe they'll be of similar length, have a similar word or theme. So a reader can instantly tell which are connected.

4. I like for the title to convey something about the story. Is it a menage? Is it a reunion? Is it enemies to lovers? Whatever the central theme of the story, my goal is to put it in the title somehow. It might not be in a way that reader knows right away, but they'll know by the end of the story.

5. If possible, its nice to make the title witty or funny or memorable in someway. As a reader, I'm always drawn to those types of titles. I imagine others are as well.

So those are my rules for creating a title. I'm sure every author has their own set of criteria but this is how my thinking goes. I hope this gives you a little idea into my process.

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1 comment:

Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Willa, and I totally agree. If you have a weird title that no one understands, sales will suffer. Although I read "Silence of the Lambs" and saw the movie, I still think the author or publisher could have come up with a better title.