Titles mean much, so much, wow. They have the power to help or, as my friend likes to say, “shit all over” a book. They can draw you in or turn you off. It makes sense, therefore, that there’s a mystical appeal to the creation of a good title, so here is a transcription of sorts of my writerly instincts and what they tell me about titles. They could be totally off, but that’s okay.
A good title is immediate. It grabs your eye, forces you to linger a while.
A good title conveys depth. Sure, it’s attention-grabbing, but that’s because it hints at something more, raises questions.
A good title is true to its material. It doesn’t initially mislead the reader. A title designed to mislead the reader is probably followed by a mischievous, misleading, sarcastic book.
A good title has a picture of a mountain.
A good title is poetic. When read aloud, does it pass the goose-bump test? Do the words work together, or against each other?
A good title is readable. This is especially important for fantasy! Florquisord’s Herbdizerd of Superfluous Might might be an interesting book, but as a title, it’s pretty useless.
As far as my own titles, the process of creating a main title is pretty rigorous. I go through a bunch of ‘working titles’ that try to angle at the meaning. Then, through trial and error–and relentless masochism–I discover the ‘true’ title, or I wimp out and go with my favorite ‘working’ title. Either way, it’s hard to be truly satisfied with a little label that will forever color the way people regard your art.
Chapters, you ask? Well, I use iTunes song titles at first. I pick songs that best approximate the mood of each chapter, and then, at the very end, I change them to match the content.
So, what are some of your favorite titles? Of albums, of books, of poems, of ships? And why?
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Don’t steal my words. They’re mine. Zachary Barnes 2015©