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Thread: Titles - How the heck do you come up with them?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Titles - How the heck do you come up with them?

    I've written a few novels and am working on a trilogy now, but I have never had an easy time coming up with titles. (Actually, I've never come up with a title for any of my works)

    How do you guys find your titles?

  2. #2
    Batmobile's in the Shop LadyV's Avatar
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    Mine sort of just come to me. I try to focus on an important aspect of the book. For example, my WIP Violet Dagger, the mentioned weapon is what ties all my characters together.

    Also, publishers will often change a title if they think something else will be more marketable.

    "Be yourself; everyone else is taken." - Oscar Wilde

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    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Let your editor do it.

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    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    I use a WIP title/code word for the manuscript through the first draft, and after that draft is done I see if I can think of a title to suit the story.
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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    Let your editor do it.
    Yes, but you need/want a half decent title when you sub, even if it might be changed.

    Think on your themes
    Trawl quotable lines from your book that touch on that theme, or on an important element

    Check quotes/sayings etc for inspiration. Check lines in your book that encapsulate what it is about.

    My book in my sig is kinda partially named for a song - but the Black is a very important thing (to my MC) If he fades to his black he is screwed...




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    practical experience, FTW RobertEvert's Avatar
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    Boy, I think this is a terrific question.

    When I first started pitching my manuscript, I called it "All Mortals Die." It was stupid, I know. But it came from something the mc said, just a flippant comment to laugh in the face of death that he didn't realize was coming.

    But my agent said that it was a horrible title. So we came up with "The Riddle of Iliandor."

    She pitched the book to several publishers who seemed moderately interested.

    One of the publishers wanted to me to revise the ms and said that the title had to go.

    I changed it to "Riddle in Stone." And the next publisher who saw it picked it up.

    Was it the title? I don't know. But I think titles are extremely important.
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    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertEvert View Post
    Boy, I think this is a terrific question.

    When I first started pitching my manuscript, I called it "All Mortals Die." It was stupid, I know. But it came from something the mc said, just a flippant comment to laugh in the face of death that he didn't realize was coming.

    But my agent said that it was a horrible title. So we came up with "The Riddle of Iliandor."

    She pitched the book to several publishers who seemed moderately interested.

    One of the publishers wanted to me to revise the ms and said that the title had to go.

    I changed it to "Riddle in Stone." And the next publisher who saw it picked it up.

    Was it the title? I don't know. But I think titles are extremely important.
    I'm sure any title I come up with will change. I'm just getting sick of looking at my signature line with no title. lol



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    practical experience, FTW RobertEvert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srgalactica View Post
    I'm sure any title I come up with will change. I'm just getting sick of looking at my signature line with no title. lol

    Just throw something on the page and see what sticks.

    There's a story about Hemingway and titles. Anybody remember it?
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    "In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." -Elwood P. Dowd

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    Edit . . . Edit . . . Edit . . . WriterWho's Avatar
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    For my first trilogy, it was about location. Interesting names of locations can work. In the second trilogy, it was about the main character's trials. In the last trilogy of the series, I have yet to name the books (I was just happy to finish it). In the end, it'll probably all get changed, but it works for now.

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    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WriterWho View Post
    For my first trilogy, it was about location. Interesting names of locations can work. In the second trilogy, it was about the main character's trials. In the last trilogy of the series, I have yet to name the books (I was just happy to finish it). In the end, it'll probably all get changed, but it works for now.
    I know people sometimes use the name of an artifact in their world if that artifact plays a large role. Or sometimes the title has something to do with theme. And I've seen books titled after the name of a character.

    My FMC is an assassin...so I kinda considered using the word 'assassin' in the title somehow. The MMC is a healer and leader of a rebellion, so I thought maybe something with that would work. This is more the FMC's story than the MMC's story, though.

    I could title the book after the assassins guild, but I haven't really named it. The FMC refers to it as just The Guild...which can be confusing, since the assassin's guild's front is a merchant and trading guild (so technically you could call the front, The Guild) lol. And of course there's that Felicia Day web series called The Guild...so that's kind of out.

    I'm not to worried. I'll worry if I don't have a title once I'm ready to submit. I was just very curious about where other writers find their titles.

    Thanks so much for all the great input everyone.



  11. #11
    Non-savvy tech writer WinterDusk14's Avatar
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    I would say it's based on any unique characters of the story or an organization, or the hero of the story - like Mistborn, Iron Council, Warbreaker.

    The city it takes place - Elantris, Low Town.

    Or maybe the entire world it takes place - Narnia.

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    Edit . . . Edit . . . Edit . . . WriterWho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srgalactica View Post
    My FMC is an assassin...so I kinda considered using the word 'assassin' in the title somehow. The MMC is a healer and leader of a rebellion, so I thought maybe something with that would work. This is more the FMC's story than the MMC's story, though.
    Actually, if it fit with the plot, I kind of like Assassin's Rebellion. It has a certain ring to it. Lots of conflict in that title. Just a thought.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WriterWho View Post
    Actually, if it fit with the plot, I kind of like Assassin's Rebellion. It has a certain ring to it. Lots of conflict in that title. Just a thought.

    That sounds really good, actually. It makes sense nd actually it works in two ways. 1.) My FMC does end up taking up my MMC's cause (rebellion) and 2.) And she ends up rebelling against even being an assassin.

    Thanks WriterWho!!!!



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    Edit . . . Edit . . . Edit . . . WriterWho's Avatar
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    You're welcome. Glad to help.

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    That hairy-handed gent
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    Sometimes they happen right at the get-go, others I derive usually from some line in the story. If you're writing good sharp vigorous prose, you should have some expressions in the story that will generate a useful title or two.

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  16. #16
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    Good question. I have a follow up question. Does the title of anovel have to be completely unique? I've ditched many titles when I found out they were already titles for other books or movies.

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    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    For one of my titles, I went with the name of the spell that is the central focus of the story and came up with White Fire.

    For the other, I referenced the antagonist's situation and came up with The Man in the Crystal Prison.

    Most of the time, though, I suck at titles. I have so many untitled works in progress it's ridiculous.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW romancewriter's Avatar
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    Just a thought. Sometimes I poke around on Amazon in categories similar to what I'm writing to see if that inspires something. Granted this isn't an exact science, but sometimes it helps.

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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keepcalmandwriteon View Post
    Good question. I have a follow up question. Does the title of anovel have to be completely unique? I've ditched many titles when I found out they were already titles for other books or movies.
    Nope - my title is also the title for at least two well known songs, a couple of books, a magazine, a movie and (I think) a video game.

    Now, granted, you probably won't want to call it the same as another well known book in your genre, say 'Mistborn', 'Best Served Cold'* or 'Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone'. Apart from trade mark in Harry's case, the confusion won't help you.

    Other than that though, the title world is the mollusc of your choice.





    *There are two The Blade Itself's IIRC. Both released around the same time, but one is fantasy and one is a crime thriller. Only problem is makes it harder to google and find the one you want if it's not as popular...




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    J'decline l'honneur d'Ítre un angel K. Trian's Avatar
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    I think if I knew, the novels I've written with my hubby would be named by now.
    Well, one is, the one in the sig, but its sequel seriously eludes a title.
    Coming up with book titles is hard. I get frustrated and then I want to name them something stupid. Like A HAT.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    My book in my sig is kinda partially named for a song - but the Black is a very important thing (to my MC) If he fades to his black he is screwed...
    Morbidly enough, 'Fade to Black' by M'tallica was one of my favorite songs as a kid.
    The female half of a writing outfit known as T. K. Trian. We write alone together. Currently working on Solus - The Darkness of Space: a sci-fi adventure.

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  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Purple Rose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    Think on your themes
    Trawl quotable lines from your book that touch on that theme, or on an important element

    Check quotes/sayings etc for inspiration. Check lines in your book that encapsulate what it is about.

    My book in my sig is kinda partially named for a song - but the Black is a very important thing (to my MC) If he fades to his black he is screwed...
    This is a great start. This was what I did and there were quite a few possibilities from this exercise.

    Quote Originally Posted by romancewriter View Post
    Just a thought. Sometimes I poke around on Amazon in categories similar to what I'm writing to see if that inspires something. Granted this isn't an exact science, but sometimes it helps.
    This helps a lot, too. I did this as the second step.

    Overall, it was still very difficult for me. The title was the hardest part and I often get asked how I came up with my title. After toying around with about five or six options during work in progress and then another five while the ms was with professional editors (all three of whom disliked all my title options), I thought about how I felt at my lowest.

    The words "desperate" and "hopeful" popped into my mind. As I refer to a statue of the Goddess of Mercy in my book, I came up with this title. I asked the editor I trusted the most and she loved it. Everyone I spoke to liked it. So did my publisher.

    Looking back at my list of 67 title options over the past two years, this was the only one that just sailed into my head. The rest were created after much thought and some agony. While I thought some were good, even if the editors disliked them, none captured the essence of my book quite like the one I now have.

    I think some times it just happens. The title just comes to you, just like that.

  22. #22
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    My titles are always NSTC, project names no less.

    But, I like them to sound good. So, I find something that encompasses what the main story element is about. Advent, is the advent of the series (far too many things going on to really pin anything. LifeFire is about the fire wielding clan in my book. Book 3 is NSTC, but harder than hell to think up of one.
    My series name The Emperor's Right, is a play on words about the main element of the story: The Emperor's Right hand man, his knight.
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  23. #23
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    I hate titles. Most of my WIPs are named after the MCs. Small Change is my sci fi which is named after the idea that a small change can have vast consequences.

    For my fantasy it took ages. I based it first on a plotline which then got cut out. So I wrote the names, theme and so on on a sheet of paper and just wrote random stuff connected with it. My main theme is that people who are weak can have power and those who are in power can be weak. So I picked The Illusion of Power.

    I don't know whether that will work for you but it did for me.
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    So Goth That I Was Born Black AW Moderator Kitty27's Avatar
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    My friend has the same issue. We play a sort of Word scrabble. We look at themes in the books and we write down words like sword,dark,elves,etc.

    Then we flip them around and around until we come up with titles. This works,plus it's fun!
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    Monolithic reiver33's Avatar
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    I tend towards semi-poetic phrases;

    Whisper My Name
    Let Every Voice Be Still
    Under Darkening Skies
    No One Shall Weep
    The Bright And Hollow Sky (a line from 'The Passenger')

    I find that some things just stick in your head and beg to be used.
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