Titles are hard. As a writer, I have to go title hunting fairly often. I have to come up with titles for my academic papers, which can be very amusing. I have to find titles for my stories and scribbles and poetic attempts.
Recently, I needed a title for my senior project. I had no ideas. Zilch. Some people are talented title-ers, but I am not. Sometimes I have a title as soon as I start writing a piece, but usually I just let it sit unnamed for a long time.
My senior project needed a title by a certain date, however. I searched for title generators online, hoping that I would find inspiration, if not an actual title. I realize that this may be some form of cheating, but I think that inspiration can be found anywhere, and inspiration is an essential part of creativity.
So I did finally find the right title for my project. Then I started thinking about titles in general.
I’m a big fan of evocative, vivid titles. The ones that use familiar words in new and lovely combinations. The ones that use alliteration or humor. The ones that use words in unexpected ways. The ones that capture the heart of the story in just one or two words.
Robert Jordan’s Knife of Dreams. Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance. Francine Rivers’s And the Shofar Blew. Karen Kingsbury’s A Time to Embrace.
But there are a lot of books out there with really sad, pitiful titles. I don’t mean to pick on any one genre, but a lot of the bad book titles I’ve seen come from the romance genre. Of course, I’m not a fan of the romance genre in general, so I do have a biased opinion from the start.
In my opinion, titles based on anything related to the sun, moon, stars, or times of day are the most cliche titles in existence. Especially when the title is just one word like sunrise, sunset, dawn, new moon, or twilight. Stephenie Meyers is not the originator of “Twilight” or “Eclipse” as a title. They were overused long before she published her books.
Really, though. What does a title like “Dawn” even say about a book or story? Maybe the first time someone used it as a title it meant something special, but if you can’t find a more unique way of describing your story, or even just adding another word or two, maybe your story has a different problem altogether. Title it “Dawn Falling” or maybe “Dawn is the End” (okay, that one is pretty bad). Both of those use the word “dawn” in a way that makes the reader go, “Huh. I wonder why dawn is falling instead of rising?”
The purpose of a title is to capture the heart of a story and catch the reader. I’m much more likely to read a book titled “The Day War Came to My Door” than “War”. Be creative! Make the reader curious. Unless your one word title is a very special word, don’t do it. Avoid the generic.
I’ve used stupid story titles, I’ll admit. But those titles never saw the light of day. Working titles are usually working titles for a reason. I’d like to think that I’ve polished my skills as a title-er. I’ve written a story titled “Venator”, which I think is pretty clever. (According to Google translate, it’s Latin for “the hunter”.)
But sometimes I just go with the obvious. Hence the name of this blog post.