What’s in a Title?

How important do you think a title is when you’re choosing a new novel? I don’t mean when you know you want to read a novel by Blah Blah by Whatshername. But if you’re browsing in a bookshop, the library, or online, would a title be enough to encourage to pick up the book?

I do think titles are important, which is contributing to a certain amount of angst for me at the moment – because I haven’t got one for my new novel! And I want one!

I’ve finished the first draft; I’m on the revision stage, so I should know what its title needs to be. The fact that I don’t worries me because it suggests something about the novel isn’t right, or I haven’t got to the heart of it yet.

I console myself with the knowledge that I didn’t hit on the title for ‘Unravelling’ for a long time, and now I love that title. It was originally called ‘All That Remains Is’; then I dropped ‘Is’, but still wasn’t happy. It then became ‘Circle of Love’ – briefly! – and then ‘Unravelling Love’. And finally ‘Unravelling’.

In contrast, I knew from the beginning what ‘The Piano Player’s Son’ would be called and never wavered.

I’ve got a few possibilities which include: The Broken Road, Flawed Perspectives, Fatal Perspectives, Unframed Masterpieces, Journey Home. But I’m not sure any of those will make the final cut. Let me know if one of them leaps out at you.

I’ve just been playing around with a random title generator and got: Silent Angel (strange because one of the characters is called Angel but she’s not silent!), The Grey Shadow, School of Consort, The Door’s Snow, The Danger of the Edge, Edge in the Girlfriend. I quite like The Danger of the Edge, but The Door’s Snow? One thing about these is that three out of the five begins with ‘The’, and a lot of successful books also have ‘The’ in the title as the first word.

Hey ho! Playtime over – back to revising.

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14 Comments

  1. Debbie Young says:

    “The Journey Home” gets my vote – second place to “The Broken Road” (let’s keep “The” in there as it appears to help!) I think the other three in your first list are too much of a mouthful (and would make a bit of a squash on the cover).

    Titles do grab me – but if they’re too obscure, they’ll put me off or confuse me. The titles for your other books were spot on! The title also needs to work in tandem with the cover image to make a message that’s greater than the sum of the parts – e.g. I was really pleased with my cover image of a gorgeous butterfly for my flash fiction “Quick Change” (subtitle: Tiny Tales of Transformation) . I suppose I’m stating the obvious. But I like stating the obvious sometimes too! πŸ˜‰

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Debbie. Glad you like the titles for my other books – I want to be able to match their effectiveness. Your title was just right – so good when you hot on the very thing!

  3. Maureen Hall says:

    I agree with Debbie, although my vote was the other way round: (1) The Broken Road; (2) The Journey Home. Good luck with the revision!

  4. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Mo. Food for thought!

  5. I love Journey Home and The Broken Road – they are the kinds of titles that would draw me in if I was browsing in a book shop. That title generator tool sounds bonkers! πŸ™‚ I can’t really get going writing a novel until I have the title – I need to see the book as some kind of thing in itself.

  6. Me again! I disagree with Debbie – I think Journey Home works better without the The. But it works for The Broken Road. Don’t know why.

  7. I’m not much influenced by titles and would not select a book on the strength of the title, so may not be the best person to suggest, but mix ‘n match I do like…so how about Unframed Danger or Danger Unframed or even The Unframed Danger?

  8. Lindsay says:

    That’s why I’m worried because I haven’t got a firm title, Jo. The Broken Road is doing well at the moment!

  9. Lindsay says:

    Ooh, you rebel, Polly!

  10. I sympathise, Lindsay. I’m in title-pondering mode at the moment. My husband came up with a brilliant title for a book I wrote a few years ago but it didn’t get published and although it would work equally well for my current WIP, it doesn’t feel quite right, as in my head it’s too closely associated with the first story. Try as I might, I can’t seem to shake that feeling off!

  11. Lindsay says:

    Difficult one, Wendy. If it’s a brilliant tile and it fits, I think I’d shake the feeling a bit harder!

  12. Linda says:

    I also like Journey Home with out “The” .
    Titles are important, and often students at school talk about books and shorten the title, often dropping “the” as in “Bunker Diary” rather than “The Bunker Diary” This is why I think titles of one or two words are more appealing! Just having a quick glance round the shelves, most books have short titles without A or The at the beginning.
    I think this would make an interesting survey for the students! I might try and it, and let you know the results!

  13. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Linda. I would be interested in the results if you do a survey. Titles are fascinating, aren’t they?

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