No matter what stage you are at in the writing/editing process, the subject of what to call your book will be on your mind at some point. If you’re one of those lucky people, safe in the knowledge you’ve already got a fabulous title in mind, the following is likely to be of limited interest. For the rest of you, read on …
“Thinking up pretty, witty and epic sounding titles is the last stage in finding the perfect name for your book baby. Start your search by uncovering the heart of your story, the features that define your novel and give it its soul, and refine what you find from there.
Before you know it, you’ll have a title that has readers plucking it off the shelves, a title that is intrinsically connected to the story it belongs to. Because they’re the titles that readers remember.”
On then to the worksheet. Although Kirwin uses this quote to close the detailed and informative blog post which accompanies and supports her workbook, I felt it was important to start with it.
As with many other “how to” guides, Kirwin starts with a review and gathering process, with hers broken down into three primary sections – Names, Story and Meaningful. The Names section covers characters, settings/location, time period, any key object/event. The Story section includes major themes, character goals/motivation, key conflicts, and key terms which relate to the story’s genre. Finally, Meaningful is for bits of dialogue/narrative, words or phrases describing or fitting characters, and any meaningful words or phrases that don’t fit anywhere else. In each case, the blog post provides examples. Using the mind map templates (or your own), you are encouraged to develop each, adding descriptive detail as you go.
The next pair of worksheets are entitled Splurge and Word Class. The blog post goes into considerable detail on the Type of Words you might consider for your title, again providing examples of which you may choose and why, whereas Splurge is the place for just dumping any and all ideas.
So, cutting to the chase, would I recommend the workbook? Yes I would. I found it useful as it made me consider aspects I’d not before, especially the section on types of words, and how the use of different types of word could convey a particular meaning.
But I did also come across some other excellent works on the subject. For example, Kristen Kieffer made the observation that character-driven stories are often named after the protagonist, or the themes revealed through the protagonist’s story arc. This could save you time in the review and gathering process as there are – potentially – less aspects of your story to review. But it was this question about plot-driven stories which really struck me :
“If you’re struggling, ask yourself what lies at the crux of your story. What element, if removed, would utterly deflate its plot?
Without the Hunger Games, for example, Katniss wouldn’t have had to volunteer as tribute to save her sister. Neither would the Pevensie children have found their way to Narnia if the lion, the witch, or the wardrobe did not exist.”
I also found this post at iUniverse helpful in that it addresses some basic Rules, but their 10 tips also addressed the gathering process slightly differently :
1. Consider the essence of your book. What is your book truly about? Is there an underlying theme that runs throughout your story? How about a universal concept or feeling?
2. Look over your book’s text. Are there any lines that jump out at you? Are there phrases that sum up the theme of your book? Is there a trait in the main character that runs through the storyline?
3. Add perspective. How do your characters see themselves? Do they have a specific flaw or quality? When and where does your story take place? Does your story have a unique perspective?
4. Consider the visual. Is there a special setting in your story? Can you describe the uniqueness of the main setting or destination?
5. Add some mystery. Pique readers’ interests by teasing them a bit with your title.Create a question, mention something of meaning without explaining it or express your book’s main theme as a dilemma.
6. Research best-selling titles in your book’s genre. Notice the titles that stand out to you and consider the elements that drew you to them. How can you replicate that effect in your title?
7. Search for words in the dictionary. Flip to a random page in your dictionary and look over the words. Do any of them stand out? Add them to your list and repeat.
8. Consider song lyrics and lines from poems and other books. Are there lyrics that fit with your book’s genre and theme? Are there poem lines that pop out to you? Just stay mindful of copyright.
9. Free write. Jot down every title, word or combination of words that comes to mind.
10. Change up your words. Try adding an adjective or verb to the main idea of your book. Use your character’s title or role. Exchange a more commonplace word for a more powerful, descriptive, uncommon word.
Once you’ve got your short-list together, sleep on it before making your decision. Then, if you’re still unsure, do some testing, get some trusted (or random) opinions. Finally, check back to Faye Kirwin’s quote above – is it a reflection of your story’s heart? If not, you probably need to re-think it.
What methodology do you use for deciding on your book’s title?
© Debra Carey, 2020