by Denise Weimer @denise_weimer
Your book, your story – you’ve put your heart and soul into it. You’ve agonized and edited and even produced the nutshell summary that should snag publishers and readers alike. But one thing evades you. Maybe just one word, in fact! But oh, what a word. The title.
The other day a reader asked me for the first time how I go about choosing titles for my books, which got me thinking. You know, titles, like writing styles, have really changed in the last quarter century. There was actually a time sweeping sagas dripping myriad adjectives, adverbs and descriptive details – accompanied by a dramatic title – were prized. If it wasn’t grand, it wasn’t worth picking off the shelf. Now, after the title of our book grabs the reader with succinct cleverness, we’re supposed to introduce both hero and heroine on page one, while simultaneously plunging them into hair-raising action.
That said, there are still several ways to go about selecting a title that both draws attention and encapsulates the heart of your story.
· The descriptive, one-word title. Think of all the popular YA reads with titles like Shattered, Hunted or Erased. It’s powerful, arousing curiosity and creating immediate kinship, if you can find just one word that says so much.
· Two-word, action-name or action-noun title. Examples: Redeeming Grace (the title of my first novella, which also reflected theme) or Finding Fairies. Couples your clever character name or subject with what happens to them.
· Location title. Consider this option if your story encompasses a region or exudes a strong sense of place. Granted, titles like a state or city name can sound Michener-esque, so you might want to go with something less grandiose by adding another word, like the movie, Mississippi Burning.
· If an item figures prominently in your story, the item title may be your way to go, especially if you are going for either foreboding or sentimental. Example: The Heirloom.
· The play-off-a-similar title title. Be careful that you’re not infringing or offending, but there are times it’s appropriate and even humorous to play off the words of a well-known title, especially if your story is tongue-in-cheek or spoofy.
· The character-possessive title. Example: Sarah’s Revenge.
· The theme title. If your book possesses an underlying lesson for the reader, or if a thread runs through your story or series, you can reinforce that in the title. I did this in both of my series. The Restoration Trilogy titles of White, Widow, and Witch offer punch and puzzlement while representing the historic back stories at the heart of the novels. In The Georgia Gold Series, each title (Sautee Shadows, The Gray Divide, The Crimson Bloom and Bright as Gold) reflect the light, shadow and color of turbulent times and the mystery of missing gold throughout.
I’ve just scratched the surface, but hopefully I’ve got you started thinking if you’re stuck. Choosing a title doesn’t have to be the point where you bang your head against the wall!
What about you? Do you have a tried and true formula for selecting your title, or as a reader, does a particular type of title really capture your interest?
Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below. Join the conversation!
Author bio: Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. A former magazine writer, she is the author of romantic novella REDEEMING GRACE, The Georgia Gold Series (SAUTEE SHADOWS, THE GRAY DIVIDE, THE CRIMSON BLOOM, and BRIGHT AS GOLD - winner of the 2015 John Esten Cooke Award for outstanding Southern literature) and The Restoration Trilogy (WHITE, WIDOW and WITCH). Denise is a wife and swim mom of two daughters who always pauses for old houses, coffee and chocolate!