A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
98. Choosing a title.
There are many aspects to writing that are difficult, frustrating, and sometimes downright miserable. Choosing a title is not one of those things. Oh no. Choosing a title is so, so much worse.
The title of a book is the most immediate of first impressions. It (along with the cover of the book) is the first thing a prospective reader will see, and with that in mind, you have to determine what exactly you want that reader to think when they first look at your book. A terrible title could completely destroy a book’s chances of being picked up, browsed through, purchased, and read. Imagine, for a moment, some alternative titles for your favorite books. Would you honestly have picked up that same book if it had had a ridiculous title? Can you imagine purchasing The Lord of the Rings, for example, if you knew nothing of it beforehand and it’s title was actually A Really Long Journey? What if The Chronicles of Narnia had been titled, Stories About Another World? What if Dracula had been titled, A Very Old Vampire?
These are extreme(ly silly) examples, of course, but never-the-less, you must agree that many an attitude can rapidly change about the readability of a book if you fail to title it properly.
Take, for example, my current work-in-progress, Parallels. This story, at it’s heart, is about a young woman who is pulled into an alternate universe – a parallel world, if you will – and discovers that she has been drawn there to save it from an ancient evil. I began writing this particular story almost ten years ago. It is the work that I’ve mentioned before…the one that I’ve re-written so many times that I’ve never gotten anywhere near to finishing it. When I first started this story, it was my intention that the world the woman comes from and the one she travels to would be very different, but also have many parallels between them. It was my intention that as she travelled along on her journey she would regularlty become confronted with people and places that mirrored the world she grew up in, which would force her to confront many personal issues. However, as the story evolved, was rewritten, changed numerous times, and eventually became the piece I’m working on today, that no longer became the root of the story. Yes, the two worlds are still parallels, but not nearly as much so as I had originally imagined. There are only a handful of these parallels left in the story I’m writing now, and that got me thinking that perhaps the title didn’t make much sense. Then I started really thinking and it occurred to me that even if the title did make sense, it’s really not a very catchy title at all, is it? Tell me truthfully now, if you were browsing through the fantasy section of your local book store and came across a book with the word “Parallels” emblazoned across the cover, would it catch you? Draw you in? Would you even notice it?
Now perhaps some of you can say yes to these questions. Perhaps even many of you can. But that is the hell an author has to go through when choosing a title : relentlessly wondering if it’s the right one.
Now maybe the title will just come to you and you’ll know, inside, that it’s the right one. Maybe you won’t even be given the chance because your publisher will retain the right to title your work as they wish (does this happen? I honestly don’t know). Or maybe you’ll be talking about your book someday and someone will say, “You know what you should call it?”, and it will be the greatest title ever and you’ll hug them and kiss them and be their best friend forever.
But chances are you’ll be like me, bashing your head off a wall, thinking about what a stupid title you’ve chosen and desperately wracking your brain for another. Many people have a very difficult time choosing a name for their baby. It is really no different for an author naming their book. So think about it hard, consider all the angles, and when you figure out the best method for making your final decision, please feel free to come back to this blog and let me know.