The title drop is a pretty innocuous turn of phrase, but can be used to great effect. All things considered, it’s not the most important writing technique to master, but you should have a scalpel as well as a hammer and nails in your toolbox. Just because something has a more niche use doesn’t mean that you should ignore it.
The title drop is just so: mentioning the title of the book within the book itself. A good example is the LoTR films, where Peter Jackson took it upon himself to work the subtitle of each book into various lines around the movies (Elrond: “You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring”, Saruman: “No one can stand against the might of the Two Towers”, Gandalf: “Authority has not been given to you for you to deny the Return of the King, Steward!” Each is from their respective movie.)
If you’ve taken any IEW, you might know that a quick tip for a title is to take a few words from the last sentence of your novel and reorganize them into one. This is really a reverse title drop, but the reader will still read the title and then the final sentence and assume that’s what you meant to do.
Now, other than a possibly cheeky easter egg, what’s the point of a title drop? The main thing you want to consider when answering this question is that if people don’t remember anything about your novel, they’ll remember the title. I remember The Brother Karamazov if I don’t have a clue about the contents of the novel anymore (which I do, but it’s still been a while).
A title drop is a bit of a gambit: it can be used as a narrative hook, but you’d be ill-advised to open with it. I’ll explain: if your book is named The Legend of the Seven Mountains (a terrible name, I might add), the reader will naturally assume that the book is about seven special mountains of some sort. If you don’t mention those mountains within the first half of the book, the reader is going to wonder if you really know what you’re doing.
On the other hand, if you title drop “The Seven Mountains” in a hushed conversation and infer some interesting things about them (perhaps they’re not really mountains: they’re code for some secret organization, maybe they’re relevant locations or superweapons), it will act as a narrative hook for the reader, making them want to read on and find out what the Seven Mountains really are.
One word of advice: title dropping is useful early on, but don’t directly open with it. There are stronger openers when it comes to writing a story, and title dropping makes the most impact when we’re just starting to care about the plot and characters you’re writing about.
Title dropping has one other use that I know of: justifying your choice of your book’s name by fitting some semblance of the title into the final words of your book. (See Where the Red Fern Grows and As The Crow Flies) here you would title drop to give a sense of finality to the reader, as well as making more sense of the title.
In the end, how good your title drop is depends on the when and the why of using it. Why are you referring the reader back to the title? Does the reader really need to know something about the title to infer something within the story? When are you inserting this title drop?
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!