Sunday, 8 May 2016

Ten Typical Titling Conventions

Do you ever struggle to choose titles for your stories? I know I do. If I don't have a title when I start it, chances are that I'm not going to have one when I end it either. 

But it shouldn't be this difficult. Here are ten typical ways that writers choose their titles.
  
1. "Protagonist"  
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13104964-seraphinaBy far the simplest way to title. Just take the protagonist's name and bung it at the top of your manuscript. For a twist, consider using the protagonist's title or alias. This type of title can also be used for groups of main characters, provided the group has a name (an example would be The Raven Boys).
   2. "The Plot Element"
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6110731-13-treasuresAnother simple way to title is to name your story after the major plot element, a la The Scorpio Races and The 13 Treasures. 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/893172.The_Lightning_Thief3. "Protagonist and the Plot Element"

We've seen it with Harry Potter, we've seen it with Percy Jackson, and a whole host of other very successful series. This type of title pulls double duty, introducing both the protagonist and a major plot point, but it's also long and not particuarly catchy.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21416690-the-invisible-library4. "Location"

Many novels are named after their settings. For example, The Invisible Library, Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey... You don't really see this type of title as much as you used to. Gothic novels are especially guilty of this. 




https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23573418-i-ll-give-you-the-sun5. A Line From the Story Itself
  
Sometimes writing the story before you come up with the title is the way to go. Characters can come out with seemingly innocent phrases that just happen to double as perfect titles. This comes with the added bonus of a title drop. And everyone loves a good title drop. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23395735-all-fall-down6. A Quote or Song Title

(Apparently, song titles cannot be copyrighted.)

Right. There are plenty of novels out there with titles lifted from songs. The same is true of quotes. Especially Shakespeare quotes. Ally Carter's Embassy Row series takes its titles from various nursery rhymes.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20493914-equal-rites 7. A Pun

Cliches and other common expressions make bad titles. Puns on the other hand...

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/862894.The_Twins_at_St_Clare_s8. Exactly What it Says on the Tin

I will admit to using this type of title a lot.

(And not just as placeholders either.)

 Exactly what it says on the tin is when a book is literally named for what it is. There's nothing particuarly clever about it. It just is.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13493463-eve-adam9. A Religious or Mythological Reference

Similar to Shakespeare quotes in that these are used a lot. They're references that a lot of people will understand - you don't exactly have to study classics to know the story of Troy, or to have read the bible to know the story of Noah and the arc, or Adam and Eve.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8017585-john-dies-at-the-end 
10. The Eponymous Spoiler

Okay, so I've only ever seen this done once, but it's brilliant. A lie so blantant that it can't be true...or can it?

 And there you have it. Ten different ways to title.

Which types of titles do you usually use? And, when buying books, do you have a favourite?