Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#1
In this thread I wanted to ask some of the more experienced authors here
how they find a title for a story they've created...

I guess there are cases where you first have a title and build around it but
at least in my case, I'm here with my fiction, not knowing how to call it...
I'm constantly thinking of various titles, linked to the story itself because I 
think that is more or less the right way to find a title, isn't it? 

It's my first time really writing something and I really don't have a clue
how to find a good name, even with characters or places I don't often 
have it easy with finding names but this another story...

I guess I sound like a complete newbie and I really am so after thinking
about it a bit and asking some friends on the topic I've decided to ask 
for help here in the forum...
Sorry to bother you with this problem,
Hope you all have a great time!

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#2
Well, you're not alone in that. I suffer from that as well. Best thing to do, some say, to realize what the theme of your story is, and name it after that. Or you can also use the name of your mc, or the world the story is set on. For example, "Chronicle of Thomas Covenant" or "Chronicles of Narnia"...

But I don't think there's some easy to use method. Some are good at it, while some, like me, are just awful and have to fumble around to come up with something semi-decent(Yeah, I'm looking at you, Viewpoint: Bloom)...

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#3

I Wrote: Well, you're not alone in that. I suffer from that as well. Best thing to do, some say, to realize what the theme of your story is, and name it after that. Or you can also use the name of your mc, or the world the story is set on. For example, "Chronicle of Thomas Covenant" or "Chronicles of Narnia"...

But I don't think there's some easy to use method. Some are good at it, while some, like me, are just awful and have to fumble around to come up with something semi-decent(Yeah, I'm looking at you, Viewpoint: Bloom)...



I was thinking if this is some kind of hidden talent that one has to have in order to find good names... seems to be the case though

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#4
I titled my fiction 'hot chick with zweihander' in the draft as a play on the 'hot chick with a sword' page on tvtropes, but as I kept trying to think of a better title I couldn't find one. It's a satire making fun of overdone fantasy tropes, so I wanted something silly and simple. And (major spoiler warning) there's a hot chick with a zweihander. Not too complicated, and that's the point. What you see is what you get. 

What's the feel of your novel? The genre? I would think 'hot chick with zweihander' would likely be a terrible title for a grimdark, for example, even if the mc was still a hot chick with a zweihander. 'The zweihander conqueror', 'A thouand zweihanders grave' or 'How to seduce a deadly zweihander billionaire CEO amazon woman' are all probably very, very different books. 

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#5
I am definitely in the 'good titles are difficult' boat. I went with a very obscure in-joke for my title, and I think there's got to be something better I can use if only I can figure it out.
I've heard some people say you should look for a meaningful quote from your story that you can convert into a title, some snappy line of dialogue, but I've never had any luck with that and it means you have to finish the work first.

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#6
I honestly couldn't say how I come up with names, they just appear. Usually before the story even coalesces in my mind, it comes with a built-in title. Sometimes I have several options I have to sort through - for instance, for book two of my just-started series, book 1 is 'An Unwanted Dragon' and I'm trying to decide between 'An Unwanted War' to keep the consistency, or 'Dragon Mage's War' to keep the focus on dragons, or 'Reluctant Rider's War' to focus on her unwillingness to be involved. I suspect by the time I reach that point, the tone of the story will inform me of which title is best, or I'll have a new better one that does all three.

But when I try to title someone else's story, I get nothing. It's like a vibe that I tune into by default for my own stories, but I don't know other people's well enough to think of anything to call it.

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#7
Well, I go for the central idea of the story and then make it a bit vague. My current story's MC is a monster and the other characters explore the dark side of human relationships. Therefore when 'A World of Monsters' materialised in my mind, it just felt right.
My other story has the title 'Merchant of Malice'. It centres on the MC who sells wishes for the malice in one's heart. I was torn a bit in between this title and the other which was 'To Sell an Apocalypse'. So I polled my friends and they almost unanimously chose the first option. 
Hope this helps!

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#8
I have no idea how to title my work nor the chapters. I'd not even know how to name my characters if I didn't just choose ones at almost random. The worst impulse I have is to just put random words as chapter names. Imagine you read a chapter and a character dies and the chapter is called "Potato Realism: A Essay on Canon Cleaning." I constantly secretly want to do that.

DrakanFascinating

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#9

Haust Wrote: I titled my fiction 'hot chick with zweihander' in the draft as a play on the 'hot chick with a sword' page on tvtropes, but as I kept trying to think of a better title I couldn't find one. It's a satire making fun of overdone fantasy tropes, so I wanted something silly and simple. And (major spoiler warning) there's a hot chick with a zweihander. Not too complicated, and that's the point. What you see is what you get. 

What's the feel of your novel? The genre? I would think 'hot chick with zweihander' would likely be a terrible title for a grimdark, for example, even if the mc was still a hot chick with a zweihander. 'The zweihander conqueror', 'A thouand zweihanders grave' or 'How to seduce a deadly zweihander billionaire CEO amazon woman' are all probably very, very different books.



Oye! I'm waiting for chapters 4 and 5. :P

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#10
There's no secret formula to coming up with a title. Where your story takes place could be a title. Name of the MC and what they do, "Bob the Duck Herder" for example. Those are pretty standard. If you want to try something different, think of some unique attribute of your story and use that. Perhaps part of a quote that's relevant to your story. It also helps to not stress about it. The title will come to you when you least expect it. Good luck.

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#12
Let me tell ya, naming titles is extremely difficult for me. I feel like I can never get it quite right. It's such a difficult thing, should I go short? Long? Simple naming convention? Something more complex? The more I think about it the more I feel like I need to change it lol.

I remember having a full list of titles for one of my stories. Like 12 different titles that all seemed like they fit very well. The irony is I ended up going with the very first title I chose. RIP.

Anyways, I unfortunately don't have any advice for you on this one peodead

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#13
You assume that being a more experienced writer means you gain the ability to title all your work effortlessly. This is untrue from my experience. I've found that no matter how much experience you have, there will always be a story that you cannot think of a title for.

I mean, I follow the same rules of titling stories for years. Titles come from something in the story. And yes, I know that's vague, because that can mean I can pull a title from a theme, a character, a setting, a thing, or an idea. Basically nouns, lol. But it doesn't work all the times and I end up using a placeholder while crying and wishing I can think up a stupid title.

Titling is hard. I think there are many experienced writers who would agree that they rather do anything else than think of titles for their novels.

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#14
Now this thread is amazing to me, because no one has said what I'm going to say:

Titles for stories just fall out of my head, simply while I'm thinking about a story. Names, concepts, monikers, lingo --- even acronyms. 

I suppose it's the same for dustcover blurbs and elevator pitches and single sentence descriptions -- most people find them hard to do, but for me they just fall out of my head.

Dots - A humble man must save the world.
SIX - A cruise vacation goes wrong
SHARK - A deadly lover presses her gambit.
MIRЯOR - A maintenance man loves a penthouse heiress.
C.A.R.O.L.I.N. - A computer program thinks it's a woman.
QueerSpace - Furry bounty hunters find love.
Transciety - Technology creates a new gender.
forever eve - A space alien falls in love.
In SO Many WORDS - A violinist finds a home.
The Life Factor - Time travel technology goes wrong.
The VocaLords - Cybernetic reapers harvest souls using music.
The Sinhalese Beauty - A common man loves an aristocrat on Mars.
Superhero Cinderella - A shady man loves a young gold digger.
Disney Sith Princesses - A parody of a zombie apocalypse.
The ClockMaker's SteamPunk Elves - Magical beings help a poor tinkerer.
Roxanne in a Time Not Far Away - The spirit of a dead woman lives on.
St. Charles and the Children from the Sun - Evil begets evil in an alternate reality.

Boom. Like that. 😸

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#17
You want to know the dirty secret about all those awesome (and some not-so-awesome) titles on the trad-pub bookshelves? Most of them were not picked by the author. 

When it comes to trad houses (not self-pub), the title, blurb, and cover are normally not chosen by the author. This is because part of what the large publishing house is supposed to do that the author can't is marketing. This ideal is not always reached. Actually, what really happens (especially today) is the publisher banks on some books over others, effectively picking winners and losers. If you've ever looked at a cover and thought "This scene isn't in the book!" that's because they often give artists just a simple description and tell them to have at it. The cover is there to sell the book, not tell its story. The title is the same way. 

This doesn't mean that a publisher won't choose the title picked by the author, or give a successful author the final say, but that's pretty rare. One author I know, John Ringo, has an unfinished science fiction series with Alice in Wonderland references. The existing books are Into the Looking Glass, Vorpal Blade, Manxome Foe, and Claws that Catch. That fourth book was originally supposed to have a different title, also drawn from "Jaberwocky," and the publisher changed it. Ringo was miffed about that, because he was planning to use "Claws that Catch" for a later book. (Incidentally, the reason the series is unfinished is because his scientist coauthor -- actually the real-life model for the first book's main character -- is off doing sciency things and doesn't have time to continue.) And of course you can't forget that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone got changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States because the US publisher said Americans would never buy a book with "philosopher" in the title; personally, I skipped over it the first time I saw it on the shelf precisely because I think the US title is stupid, and I would have absolutely read it with the UK title, but we'll never know if the publisher was right on the whole. 

Now, this has little bearing on how you might pick your own titles, but I'm offering it to help you know that there's a reason why you're having trouble with titles. Publishers don't traditionally pick the titles just because they want to throw their weight around. Authors are usually so close to their books that they have trouble figuring out what title to use. It's the same issue with self-editing; but fortunately, unlike with trying to be your own editor, there are a few tricks you can use. 

What is the cool factor? Imagine, for a moment, that I'm not just a professional freelance editor; I'm your dream editor, the guy who holds the destiny of your book in his hands, the guy whose opinion matters more to you than legions of adoring fans because you'll only see those legions if I say so. (Not a realistic view to any extent, because publishing doesn't work that way anymore; but just pretend for a moment.) You've just bumped into me while waiting for an elevator. You've only got as long as the elevator takes to get to the next floor. What can you say in that space of time that will convince me to give you a chance to impress me? 

This is called an elevator pitch, and it's a very important sales tool. It's a short statement, no more than two sentences and takes less than thirty seconds at the absolute maximum to say out loud. You want to focus on the part of the book that'll make readers recommend it to their friends. The mental exercise is for your dream editor because you have to keep in mind that editors hear these pitches all the time (even low-tier freelance writers like me) and if you can impress them then you've got a chance to impress an audience. 

Now, I make every author give me the elevator pitch, but for this topic I want you to take it in a slightly different direction. Many elevator pitches will point you to titles. For example, the pitch An urban fantasy noir mystery series set in Chicago led one famous author to the title Semi-Automagic, an extremely famous urban fantasy book many of you know better as Storm Front by Jim Butcher. (Note, I have no clue what Butcher's original pitch was, but that's a slightly-less-snarky version of his own description of his early draft.) As time went on, he realized he needed a new title, but that working title helped set a tone for what he was writing. Meanwhile, his friend Larry Correia was writing a very different kind of story in the same genre that usually gets the pitch Imagine if the people in the horror movie were armed and had training, and when Correia self-published his original book he called it Monster Hunter International after the name of the characters' company. It leads directly from the pitch because it tells you they're professional monster hunters; in fact, you don't really need the pitch at all once you have the title, which is why it's brilliant even though it's not exactly sexy on its own. 

Another common technique is to consider: What is a special term in the series? This is pretty much how Brandon Sanderson's books got titled, as well as each of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books. I was mapping out an idea for a science fiction story I got last month with the working title Lost Colony, and as I was worldbuilding details I realized that one particular term used by the descendants of a long-ago colony ship crash would make an excellent title: Starfallen. This can also go in the opposite direction, since as A. C. Crispin's sci-fi series Starbridge where the name came first and got justified as a translation of an alien term. You also have similar on-the-nose examples from very popular shows named after the main character, a place, an object, or an organization: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Miami Vice, Magnum: PI, Chicago Fire, Babylon 5, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and so on. 

The third technique is to examine a theme. This can be something like a play on words, a common element, or anything else that might help titles in the same series feel like they're titles in the same series. For example, that's what Jim Butcher came around to do after rejecting Semi-Automagic. Every book in his Dresden Files series is both a brilliant multi-layered reference to its events as well fitting the same format of two words of equal length (except for book twelve, Changes, which made every fan sit up in shock and expect real changes, which was itself another kind of brilliant). I don't know if Butcher picked all the titles by himself or how much he had to fight his publisher, but I don't think that was very easy until he started bringing in the big bucks. Other theme-based examples include the sequels to Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International, each of which has a Monster Hunter [x] pattern; most of Mary Higgins Clark's suspense novels; and probably more than half of Anne McCaffery's books but I'd have to go check. In many cases, the first book's title sets a theme for a series, though there might be other patterns to it (such as David Weber's Honor Harrington novels, the first of which is On Basilisk Station to give a C. S. Forester feel, but every even-numbered book has the word "honor" in it; in this case, the second book set the pattern). 

When I decided that I couldn't investigate the web publishing industry without trying my hand at it to prove a point to the trad pub industry, I took a look at the long list of story ideas I've had that I've never had the time or energy to get around to. (Editing uses the same part of the brain as writing, so it's very hard for full-time editors to even be part-time writers. That doesn't mean I don't write stuff down when I think of it.) Most of them have project names, rather than real titles. My litMMO story involving a ballet dancer who can no longer dance because of a car accident is my second-oldest idea currently under consideration for something, and in the past seven or eight years I've never settled on a real title. Even now I'm not sure what to call it, but the folder in Dropbox is currently Firebird: A Virtual Life. One alternate is Battle Ballerina, which is a nickname she gets (and hates) as she becomes a more famous player and enters esports; I'm not crazy about it, but it could work better for a Royal Road title. However, the individual book titles are much more set, with a pattern of using one ballet term and one gaming term, such as the first book being titled The Adagio Exploit. Currently, the individual chapters in The Adagio Exploit are inspired by lyrics from the song "Windbringer," by the Cruxshadows; whether that sticks in the final copy or not is up in the air, but for now it's an outlining tool. 

I've got web publishing on the mind, so when I decided to relax with an old 80s detective show last night I found myself suddenly thinking of how to adapt something with this premise to stuff that sells on Royal Road. As we all know, the stuff that sells the most include isekai, litRPG, and reincarnation, and as I continued watching I thought it might be interesting to write a story about what happens on Earth when all those isekaid no-longer-main-characters keep returning to Earth with their supernatural powers intact. How would Earth respond? Did anyone come back from the other world(s) with the Earth-born heroes? I paused the show, opened a new page in my main Wikidpad tree, and started taking notes under the title The Returned, which seemed to be a very natural title for this sort of story. 

In the end, it's all about the sale you make. Don't obsess over it when you're writing the first draft or two; just put down a working title and go from there. Chances are that when you write, something will come to you. If not to you, then probably to your alpha readers. 

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#19

NovelNinja Wrote: You want to know the dirty secret about all those awesome (and some not-so-awesome) titles on the trad-pub bookshelves? Most of them were not picked by the author.

This entire post is a treasure trove of information for an author who struggles to name titles. Thank you for this. My rep capped out for the day, but I greatly appreciate your post and it helped me vastly peolove

Re: Am I the only one who does not know how to find a title for his fiction?

#20

Oskatat Wrote: TL;DR
When it comes to trad houses (not self-pub), the title, blurb, and cover are normally not chosen by the author. This is because part of what the large publishing house is supposed to do that the author can't is marketing.

In other words, you're off the hook unless you self-publish

Yes, but that wasn't quite the point I was making. More that the vast array of famous trad pub titles out there can make it intimidating, because it feels like all those "real authors" (note, web authors are still real authors, don't let anyone tell you different) are endlessly creative. In reality, most of those titles are chosen by someone in charge of the publisher's marketing. That's usually an editor, since we editors are more familiar with certain aspects of appealing to general audiences than most authors. 

I've already had someone ask for advice on a title over in my Ask the Editor thread, so if anyone wants my advice on the same you can drop a question there at any time. I don't put most threads on constant notifications, so it's the easiest way to ask for my help. However, I'm still learning my way around web publishing, so my advice runs the risk of being heavily biased toward trad pub marketing. Web pub, especially in the top genres on this site, has a lot more Japanese influence in it than I'm used to.