Bringing it to a Head: Choosing a Title for Your Story

Oh come on. We’ve all been there. You: “I’m writing a story.” Friend: “What’s it called?” Chagrin chagrin chagrin. You, gritting your teeth: “I haven’t named it yet. It’s just my story.” Friend: “Oh.” Don’t expect them to follow up with a “What’s it about?” because if they didn’t start with that, they were likely never to say it.

But that’s exactly what a book title is: an extremely short summary of the work. In a few words, it tells you what a book is. The old adage “Never judge a book by its cover” rings true in today’s world, but people seemed to have adopted it for its figurative meaning and have thrown the literal meaning under the bus.

As much as we may quote the cliché, we don’t actually mean it when it comes to books. And with good reason: if you were a Christian, you wouldn’t buy a book that was titled thus: “Why believing in God is F–ing S–t”. You wouldn’t just waggle your finger and say “Nuh uh uh. Never judge a book by its cover”. You would judge a book by its title, and by extension its cover. Checkmate.

In light of how people will judge your book by its cover, the first thing of substance they will notice would be the title. If it reads “How Bob Saved the World”, “The Axe of Evil”, or, so help us, “Samantha’s Cool Lizard”. This isn’t your high school writing class where all that mattered was your content and the title was of minimal importance.

Now, I know that you want a cool title. Even so, I’d just like to say: a “cool title” is relative to the reader. The same guy who wrote “This Present Darkness” also wrote a book called “Tilly”. Obviously, if you think a title is cool, you know that other people like you would reasonably think that it’s cool as well. You have no idea what the readership at large would like, so operate what you know.

I prefer longer titles. They are easily abbreviated and make for a professional longer title. But that’s me: I know some people would prefer a more laconic title. You have to pick something that doesn’t sound stupid and sounds cool to you. Don’t settle on the grounds that “Oh, but the title doesn’t matter”, because it does.

Now for a few tips and tricks. If you’re having trouble thinking of a title, try a very simple concept of your book and then replace some of the words with synonyms. Here’s an example: “The Magic Hammer”. Pretty bland. However, this means the same thing: “The Maledicted Maul” and sounds much cooler. Experiment with synonyms.

And for all those out there who like a double whammy, you could also add a subtitle as well. “The Maledicted Maul, Book 1: Beginnings” sounds pretty great. Another cool trick is to make the title in question the subtitle. “Sunfang’s Sorrow, Book 1: The Maledicted Maul” is a triple whammy.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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