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.
It’s a tried and tested technique: take an old, familiar storyline and recycle it for today’s audiences. Sondheim and Bernstein did it with West Side Story, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Helen Fielding based Bridget Jones’ Diary on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. So we’re in good company.
If imagination fails, old publications are great places to find inspiration. I work for the History of Advertising trust where we have large collections of vintage magazines; a quick browse reveals a storehouse of letters, problems and stories waiting to be recycled. There’s no copyright on ideas, so there’s no problem retelling an old tale, updating the setting and changing the characters.