I always find it a problem to come up with appropriate and relevant titles for my work. My imagination stalls when called upon to produce something pithy, apposite and meaningful. Some writers I know can’t put pen to paper or finger to keyboard without having first decided on the title. Personally, if it were possible to have a profusion of computer files and folders all labelled ‘Working Title’, I’d be there. Sensibly, this is no way to operate, so I’ve been thinking about where we can find inspiration when we’re stuck.
We can link the title to a scene in the story, the historical period it’s set in or that mysterious discovery the whole plot hinges on. The message of the story, the mood or the scenery can all be reflected in the title.
Bear in mind that there’s no copyright on titles (not in the UK, at least). This opens up a lot of older material, but that’s not to say it would ever be advisable or even sensible to title your new, young adult vampire story, ‘Dracula’ or ‘Interview with the Vampire’. That would be too confusing… and it would probably prejudice your success.
There’s been a crop of what you could call ‘instruction manual’ or ‘travelogue’ style of fiction titles just lately, such as ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ by Marina Lewycka, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ by Paul Torday and ‘Success Stories on the Threshold of the New Millennium in Glorious Uzbekistan’ by David Mikosz, but there’s nothing wrong with good, old fashioned titles plucked straight out of Shakespeare or the Bible. Figures of speech, like metaphors and allegories, are rich seams to be mined and the weather is endlessly fruitful.
Here are some of my favourite idea generators:
- Play on words
- A place – real or imaginary
- One of the characters
- Idiom / adage
- A plotline
- Proverbs / The Bible
- An item that features in the plot
- A date / number
- Weather / Climate
- The Classics / Greek & Roman myths and legends
- Metaphors, allegories & symbols
- Flora and fauna / The natural world