Friday, 1 April 2011

How Do You Title?

Happy Friday! but before we get started, I'd like to point you over to Poetry Unscripted, a wonderful poetry blog by Robin, who has recently invited me to share in it. :) It's poetry month, so go check it!
Back? All right, here we go!

Book Titles and Series Titles. Do they matter?
Well, yes, they matter.
But how much?
I wouldn't say many authors are underestimaters of the title - we know it's important. We agonize over it. More often than not, it's what we change most about each novel, looking for the perfect title. What makes a good title, either for a series or a novel?

The Legend of Zelda.

Simple. Covers a lot of ground. It has 'legend' in it, which evokes quite a few pictures. It's also a big name - if a novel/game includes 'legend,' it had better be legend worthy. Don't choose big words unless your novel lives up to them. For example, a series of memoirs about band camp should NOT include the words 'epic, epoch, revolutionary, tortuous, world-defining, glorious.' Unless, of course, it actually is one of those things (or is being used in a sarcastic sense).
An evocative title may grab attention, but it must be true to the series.

Also, a series title doesn't have to cover everything from every book. Zelda isn't even in half the Legend of Zelda games. They actually focus around Link. The title is still true to the series, but in a tilted way. Link evolves and changes, so "The Legend of Link" would be liquid and movable.
The Zelda character is pretty much the same in all the games. Her steady character is a rock in all the games she's in. It implies a bigger picture than the individual game, which is important. Let me repeat: the series title ought to imply a bigger world than the individual novel.


Individual titles are more tricky. There are several different ways of doing this:

Wind Waker - Include the main character's name or a name the character goes by. In Wind Waker, Link is, you guessed it, the Waker of the Winds. (sooo cool). (The Hobbit is another example of this, or.... Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

Twilight Princess - The driving force behind the whole story. In TP, the princess of twilight is a shadowy figure (you're not even 'sure' who it is till the end) but is definitely the instigator of Link's actions. (Pride and Prejudice is the driving force of the novel, Hunger Games is the driving event. Not the same novel. But that'd be awesome!)

Ocarina of Time - Include the object of a quest. Not the main goal, necessarily, but an important item that is either a motivating force or a weapon that allows advancement. (Game of Thrones, anything with 'sword' in the title.)

Majora's Mask - Heck, name it for the Villain. Or his power. Or his quest. Make it fun. (Lord of the Rings, Rebecca)

(Or you can always go for a pun - here's looking at you, A Link to the Past)

Really, of course, name it what you want. These are just ideas to help.

What's the best book title you've ever read? Do you have trouble coming up with title ideas?

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L.G.Smith said...

I'm quite terrible at titles. I'm thinking I need to set aside a day to brainstorm something new for my WIP.

Marsha Sigman said...

I'm usually really good with titles. It's one of the first things that pops in my head when I get a story idea. But my current wip is kickin' my ass! I can't believe I'm having this much trouble, changed it twice already and I still hate Oh well.

I'm going with that whole 'build it and they will come' thing. Just gonna write it and hope it comes to me!

Missed Periods said...

I never read the book, but I always loved the title Waiting to Exhale.

Robin said...

The most moving title I've seen to date is The Things They Carried. I read that book in high school. After reading I realized how fitting the title was for the book. I think a title has to capture me, echo in my mind make me think about what I'm reading as I read.

Titles always seem to come as I write. I'm not a "writer" in the "I write stories!" sense of the word, but titles seem to work the same way in poetry. I always think of a title during or after I've finished a poem and edited it about 5 times. =]