“10 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title” via Anne R. Allen

I just read an excellent article on book titles in the ebook age that I had to share with readers of this blog. Take for example all the great advice in Tip #3 alone:

3) Study Titles that Work

Here are some title categories that are “tried and true.”

The hero’s name
This is the oldest type of title in the book, literally. A title simply stating the name of the protagonist has been around since the birth of the novel. Names made up the most common titles in early fiction. From Don Quixote, Tom Jones, Robinson Crusoe, David Copperfield, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Madam Bovary, Mrs. Dalloway, and Auntie Mame, to Olive Kitteridge and Coraline, the protagonist’s name can be a pretty safe choice for a title.

Then there are protagonist’s names with embellishments like The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Charlotte’s Web, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and The Talented Mr. Ripley

The antagonist’s name

Sometimes the villain gets top billing, as with Moby Dick, Hannibal, and Jaws.

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is one of the most clever villain titles, because even though Rebecca DeWinter is dead, she casts a shadow over the entire story. The fact the main character has no name but “the second Mrs. DeWinter” makes this title all the more compelling.

The main character’s occupation or title:

The Master Builder, The Vagabond, The Sot Weed Factor, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Master and Commander, The Continental Op, The Good Soldier, Gladiator.

A family member’s occupation or title:

The Mermaid’s Sister, The Duke’s Children, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Father of the Bride, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Baker’s Daughter, The Unicorn’s Daughter, The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

You’ve probably noticed that daughters have been in vogue recently. Here’s a piece with an infographic showing how titles involving daughters have expanded in recent years.)

Setting is good:

Mansfield Park, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Brokeback Mountain, Wuthering Heights, Cold Mountain, Mystic River, Echo Park, Dune, Tinseltown, Telegraph Avenue.

These let readers know where the story happens—which helps them decide if they want to go there. Remember you want your title and cover to give as much information as possible to your potential reader without confusing or overwhelming them.

Or use the setting with embellishments:

The Amityville Horror, Murders on the Rue Morgue, The Last Time I Saw Paris, The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge, The Bridges of Madison County

The main character’s place of origin

The Virginian, Bastard Out of Carolina, The Man from Snowy River

The main event or inciting incident:

The Hunger Games, The Great Train Robbery, Escape from Alcatraz, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Death of Ivan Ilyich….(or practically anybody). “Main event” titles are informative and contain the hook, so they’re great choices.

Theme:

These advertise the book’s big picture: Pride and Prejudice, Of Mice and Men, War and Peace, The Beautiful and the Damned. These are especially good for literary fiction.

Quotes from the Bible, nursery rhymes or the classics:

A Time to Kill, The Sun Also Rises, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, Blithe Spirit, Along Came a Spider, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Tender is the Night, Infinite Jest, His Dark Materials

In fact there are so many from classic literature they have their own Wikipedia page.

Quotes from songs or song titles:

Catcher in the Rye, Go Down Moses, Norwegian Wood, Sometimes a Great Notion, and most of Mary Higgins Clark’s oeuvre from While My Pretty One Sleeps (1990) to I’ve Got You Under My Skin (2014)

NOTE: If you take a line from a song rather than the title, make sure it’s in the public domain. Song titles can’t be copyrighted, but quoting even one line from a copyrighted song can cost you big bux.

Lines from the work itself:

The Silence of the Lambs is a reference to Clarice being traumatized in childhood by screaming lambs.)

To Kill a Mockingbird also comes from the book’s dialogue, as do Gone with the Wind and Waiting to Exhale.
….

Now get you over the read the rest of this great advice here.

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