What makes a good title for a story and how do you come up with names? - Page 2


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Thread: What makes a good title for a story and how do you come up with names?

  1. #11
    Titles can bring order to chaos when writing a story, and vice versa. Here are some of the scenarios I face when working on a WIP in regards to titles:

    1) Most of the time, I prefer to have the title before I start writing the actual story, so as to set the tone, as well as to illustrate a small part of the
    story itself. The title needs to be related to the story, when all is said and done.

    2) I've started a rare story without first having a title. In my current WIP, I have only recently (near the end of the WIP) come up with a title, after
    spending considerable time brainstorming, which leads me to....

    3) Actually spending an hour in a sidebar (away from the WIP) to brainstorm a title (if I don't already have one). This is rare for me, as I normally
    have a title by this point. If I'm nearly done the story in question, and still do not have a title, I will start a sidebar and come with something. This
    usually entails plotting out several title names, and then going over them using the process of elimination.

    4) A change in title. Even more rare, I have changed a title after settling on one, as I had just done in my current WIP, where the title has changed
    three times within a day to better suit the story. Very rare indeed.

    Writing. It makes your brain hurt sometimes....

    -JJB
    ​"Strong convictions precede great actions....."

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  2. #12
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    I loved making titles ever since before I started writing (the titles would be written in my sketchbook that contains character designs).

    My strategy was/is to find a word that represents the story or general event - or just name them using few words, directly or metaphorically.

    Sometimes in the process of avoiding generic word, I think I could get 'high' in it then start making weird titles that's hard to remember or catch, or something that's simply too stupidly long.

    Pouring the idea by writing the story down also helps title-making for me.


    As for my WIPs, the first and finished one needs a new title since the current one sounds too secretive over the world story and too hero-centric, while the second WIP just found a new title in these recent years using a single, modified English word that wraps up the whole thing.
    Last edited by Sir-KP; February 25th, 2020 at 05:57 AM. Reason: typo

  3. #13
    I love the ideas this congers up and where you could imagine a writer might take you with a title like that, but I hate using too many words in a title.

    So in my humble opinion I’d consider something like “Miracles in a Haunted World” if that still fits with the context of the story.

    kind regards
    RoseBud

    Quote Originally Posted by Theglasshouse View Post
    Sometimes the title can lure readers. Since my entry was for a contest. I tried everything. Because I want to win 1st place. My family is currently reading it. The final title is after much thought:

    The Haunted World that Performed Miracles.

    I consider it finished but it can be a novel (if I wrote much more). A good title ignites interest imo. It suggested itself after writing it. Imo it is a paradox. It is after a lot of thought I came up with it. I wanted to think of one very good one for halloween submissions to a magazine and a contest. This was the final result.

  4. #14
    Thanks rosebud. I will change that title to the one you suggested. That's a much better title and sounds improved. Thanks for commenting. It will help me. Although I need to rewrite that story. But that's pretty good. I was struggling for a title.

    Thanks JJBuchholz for your response: Yes it helps. Sometimes it even gives plot ideas. I think the way you settle on a title is much like my experience, and it is a bit chaotic. If you can find a paradox, or irony in a concept even better. For example reversing cliches. This isn't my genre but how about this: the policeman that helped mobsters. Your process believe it or not sounds much like my own.

    I consider it a easy way to freewrite. I advocated a dictionary for freewriting. Though reading works helps to inspire and maybe try something different and who knows to experiment. New classics are written every once in a while, and they give ideas. I am going to use a dictionary to freewrite since it's easier than having a blank page or a blank slate.

    Sir-kp: cool of you to do that. It seems interesting, why not share a title (only if you would like to) from your notebook.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  5. #15
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Theglasshouse View Post
    It seems interesting, why not share a title (only if you would like to) from your notebook.
    Thanks. I don't think mine are worth sharing. Some of these beta titles really do sound stupid.

    The stupidest one was 'Destined Destination'. I was trying too hard doing the wordplay.

    Then it was changed to something simpler: The Traveler, which is more direct and sums up what the protagonist is undeliberately doing. The typography was done (and I love it).

    Unfortunately not long after that, I saw a NatGeo magazine using the same title and similar typeface. So I'm looking for a new title for that 'The Traveler' story. :/

  6. #16
    I agree that choosing a title should be as organic a process as possible. I prefer short titles where possible, but single-worded titles often have the problem of sounding extremely generic. I feel like I've read a million stories called "The Fallen", "The Darkness", "Doubt", etc.

    But it depends. Even simple titles can work in the context of a double meaning or deep thematic link. One of my stories is titled "The Still" and it's about a stillbirth. Another of my stories is titled "Dignity" and it's about a woman who kills herself rather than go into a hospice (the title is also the name of a brochure for one of the hospices). So, I think a title is really about more than the sum of its parts. It needs to link to the story in some way, either by being a direct reference to a character, location or other entity within the story ("Moby Dick", "The Three Musketeers", "The Count Of Monte Christo", etc) or thematically linked to the messaging even if it's in a super abstract way ("Gone With The Wind", "Great Expectations", "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "For Whom The Bell Tolls", "To Have & Have Not")

    This is actually one thing that having feedback on can really help with. Ultimately a title is a marketing device more than a literary one -- the title is usually pretty irrelevant once the story starts -- so if somebody reading your work says something like "you should have titled this story X" I would definitely take that on board.

    Also...genre. Genre matters a lot when choosing a title. Titles that reference the tropes of their genre might be an easier sell. Of course, you have to balance that with originality. On the one hand, a fantasy title called "The Dark Wizard" has the advantage of definitely sounding like a fantasy novel. On the other, it doesn't make me necessarily think it's going to be a particularly original fantasy story. Because fantasy is full of wizards already.

    I also think that titles probably don't require a huge degree of contemplation, should be more of an impulsive selection. I usually deploy a working title when I start a story, usually something super basic (my current draft is temporarily titled 'The Islanders'...because it's about people...on an island...) and then when I am done I will revisit the title and if I find it works as-is, great, if not I will think of another one...but usually that won't take much longer than five minutes.

    Another thing that's important IMO is to check an idea for a title to make sure it isn't already in use. It's not a copyright issue, but you would probably be better off not using a title that is already used by a well-known book or one in a too-similar genre. A quick Goodreads look can give you a good idea as to the prominence of the story/stories that share the same title as yours. If you think there's realistic scope for confusion, you should probably not use it.
    Last edited by luckyscars; February 25th, 2020 at 10:15 AM.

  7. #17
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    I use kind of a play on words approach. I had a dream catcher, which was actually a sub-character in the book. The book had horror aspects to it, so I nameed it Screamcatcher. I hope the readers get the gist of it. It was a trilogy, so I had to come up with the series titles. Now, that was HARD.
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  8. #18
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    I'd say format is a good starting point. Right now, in fantasy, there are lots of "A [BIG THING] of [SMALL THING] and [ATMOSPHERIC THING]" titles (since A Song Of Fire And Ice") and while I think that is overdone, it's a workable way to think about it, and generates some decent stuff: "A City of Sand And Treachery". You see? I tend towards the "The [SOMETHING]" format - The Miniaturist, The Dark, The Kite Runner - it's easy and simple, yet can be evocative. I'm in the process of potentially renaming my first MS, because it currently focuses on one character yet the story seems to be drifting away from that, so am experimenting with the "A [DELIMITER] of [SOMETHING IN THE NOVEL]" format, a little like "The Book Of Dust"; I am thinking maybe "An Age of Sparkdust", "The Epoch of Dragons", something like that.

    But I want to look at other formats. I'm mining song titles for ideas: "Bohemian Rhapsody" could be the template for "Summerfate's Fall". Or what about single word, barely relevant ones, like songs were in the 90s; "Lithium" could form the template for "Fall". Something like that. There are, I would say, limitless ideas, and writers should cast their inspirational nets wide.


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  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stevenson View Post
    so I named it Screamcatcher.
    Sounds like some sort of advanced BDSM accessory.

    Ludwig came into the dungeon, dripping with sweat, clad all in leather. “Rise,” he commanded, pointing at the black satined bed. He held up the device, a broad black muzzle-cum-scolds bridle. “Zis here,” he purred, “A device of mein own dee-sign. Vee call it zer...Screamcatcher.”

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Theglasshouse View Post
    Thanks JJBuchholz for your response: Yes it helps. Sometimes it even gives plot ideas. I think the way you settle on a title is much like my experience, and it is a bit chaotic. If you can find a paradox, or irony in a concept even better. For example reversing cliches. This isn't my genre but how about this: the policeman that helped mobsters. Your process believe it or not sounds much like my own.
    For me, having the title itself give me plot ideas, or give the reader a sense that it has something to do with the overall story, is paramount.
    I am of the belief that the title should set the tone for the story, being the first words that are read.

    -JJB
    Last edited by JJBuchholz; February 26th, 2020 at 12:58 AM.
    ​"Strong convictions precede great actions....."

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