Monday, January 21, 2013

Title Me This

I can't explain myself, but when it comes to naming my projects I fall short. How is it that someone who can string together a whole plot can't come up with one word? ONE WORD. In case you haven't noticed there's been a title trend, as of late, that usually consists of only one word. Maggie Stiefvater has Shiver, Linger, and Forever. Stephenie Meyer started her series with Twilight. Becca Fitzpatrick even threw her hand in the pot with Crescendo, Silence, and Finale. All of these titles are thought provoking in their own right and some of them are dead on. The first in Maggie's series, Shiver, was a perfect title in my opinion because it was woven well throughout the book. She illustrated the temperature at the opening of every chapter, explained how it affected the wolves, and it ended up playing a pivotal part in the end. Twilight, though not as obvious, wrapped the title up in the ending of the novel. Now, this isn't to say that all titles should be one word. I'm merely trying to point out that I'm incapable of doing so. It begs the question, how does one choose a title?

Here is my process, and please chime in if you can teach an old dog new tricks:


1. Keywords - To start the treacherous journey I begin pulling keywords from my novel. Things my characters say, scenery, descriptive words, actions, etc; If there's danger then I for damn sure put down "danger". Generally speaking, none of these words end up in my title, but if they do then that's neat. I wouldn't go for the obvious unless it's absolutely pertinent to your story. That's just me. I also tend to like wonky titles like The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button because they stop and make me think. I like thinking, don't you?

2. Synonyms - At this point I'm looking at all of these words trying to make sense of the puzzle I've created.   There are plenty of things I can skim off the top because they're not integral to the plot. Nix that, cross that, and I'm left with what I think is the crème de la crème. Now what? I drag out my trusty thesaurus and see if I can find words that I deem even more relevant.
3. Agonize - I kid you not, this is where I spend most of my time. I second guess my decision, wallow, consider taking up smoking. Not kidding. It's tough! But eventually something sticks. And I shop my favorites around to friends and family who have read my work, hoping they can make it easier on me.


When you obtain an agent, or publisher, they may change it for you, in which case, AWESOME. But you will still need a title before you start shopping it around. Know in your heart that what you've created is truly your finest and go with the best title that reflects this. I suck at it, but one day I'll get better. Anyone out there have some advice?


Thoughts? Opinions? I'd love to hear them!
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8 comments:

  1. I have ONE project of my bazillion that actually has a title. I SUCK AT THIS. HOnestly, if I ever have a memior-- I wouldn't be surpised if it's called "Untitled"

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    1. We should create a title troop where we just pass around each other's WIPs and name them :P It would be more interesting than my process.

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  2. I normally name mine something that has to do with the protagonist. So what happened when my latest was from two points of view? No title. Thanks for outlining your process. It just might help. If not, I'm sending it to Haylee. ;)

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  3. Hahaha, I'll be the head of the title troop. Can we at least hand out cool badges like they do in Girl Scouts?

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    1. OMG, yes! I think we should do that for all writing achievements. Synopsis writing, plot restructuring, query letter achievement...

      (Also, just pretend the word "you," falls between "to" and "Haylee" like it should have, 'kay? Thanks.)

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  4. There's this Zen story/parable of a man digging a well. First he tries here, but then, dissatisfied he moves over there, but still doesn't find any water. So then he digs a little more over there, but doubts his actions will be fruitful, so then he moves to another spot, etc. At the end of the day, he doesn't have a well--he just ends up with a bunch of little holes.
    Hmmm. When I started this comment I thought this was relevant and that I had a point--but I don't know where it went.
    Maybe he should plant trees in those holes?

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  5. It would help the environment, that's for sure ;) And your parable is relevant. Not only with titles, but with writing in general. It's important to see things through or you will constantly have a bunch of loose ends. No one benefits from a half-knit sweater, my friends!

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  6. Keywords, synonyms, agony-- this sounds like my cycle exactly! I got out blank paper and filled up multiple pages with keywords, and then branched a bunch of those out with synonyms, and somewhere in there I lost my mind.

    And then my husband titled my novel for me. *shrugs* Titles are my enemy.

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