Titles…

Someone asked me the other day how I come up with the titles to my stories and novels.  They are all different and don’t really follow a common thread. Book titles, I feel, are like your children’s names: you want them to be unique, but not so unique they become albatrosses or points of ridicule. I discovered through research  (okay, through Google!) there is an entire industry devoted just to this: how to pick the correct words to capture a reader from the get-go; the word combinations never to use in a title; the words that have the most impact on sales.

I know some writers who use song titles for their books and expound on them in the story.  I love this idea. I know another author who writes down every combination of a phrase based on what the book is about until the perfect title presents itself. I also love this idea.  Some experts say never to have more than one word or two at the most in the title so that it grabs the reader’s attention.  Long winded names can be turn offs to people glancing at the book rack in Barnes and Noble. The key, advertising executives always say, is “short, punchy, and memorable.”The original working titles for my favorite all time book, Gone With The Wind, were Tomorrow is another day and Ba! Ba! Black Sheep.

Now would GWTW have been such a mega hit if it had one of those titles? Who knows. I certainly don’t think the movie would have done as well with the sheep title, do you?

To Kill a Mockingbird was called Atticus before Harper Lee – thankfully – changed it.

And my favorite title change – more about why in a bit – was Pride and Prejudice. Austen originally called it First Impressions.

Now my titles are usually the first thing that pops into my head when I’m working a new plot through. I don’t try to be cute or fancy or erudite. I just “see” the title in my head, and that’s it for me. I’ve never had an editor or even a reader tell me the work was mis-named or would have been better suited to some other title. Maybe this is arrogant on my part, and okay, I’ll agree with that. They are, after all, MY titles. But again, just like when  you name a child, you want the title/name to be a reflection of your thought and love. You want it to be able to convey something of what the book is about when you are trying to capture a potential reader’s attention. Skater’s Waltz has two words and is actually a piece of music. There’s No place Like Home, has 5 and it’s a sentence in one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz. My third book, which I am thrilled to announce just went to contract, is First Impressions. See now why I like that Austen changed her title?

Titles are like names. They should be individual, coherent, and special. They should capture a reader’s attention and their desire to want to read more. Think of your favorite book titles. Do they fit in with this thought? I know mine do.

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2 Comments

Filed under Characters, Dialogue

2 responses to “Titles…

  1. Hi Peggy, Glancing at some of the books in my bookshelf, I see several “short, punchy, and memorable” titles – Quiet by Susan Cain, Excuses Begone! by Wayne Dyer and Onward by Howard Schultz. The longer titles are also interesting: Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen, When My World Was Very Small by Ruth Rakoff. Regardless of length, the title must have some pizzazz. BTW…I like “Skater’s Waltz”…it conjures up so many beautiful scenes. Joanne 🙂

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  2. Peggy Jaeger

    What a doll you are! Thanks. I, too, have some titles that go beyond the short and tight word range, but for the most part, I think the 2-4 word range covers most of my reading loves.

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