The Magic Ingredients of an Unforgettable Title

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The title of your novel, your short story, your masterpiece – is critical. It’s your first foot forward, the very first time your reader meets you.

What are the magic ingredients of an unforgettable title?

A title has got to reflect the theme/s of the book, be a hook and ideally be a kind of paradox or pun. And it’s got to be memorable and fresh!

Something in the Water now available for pre-order at Amazon. Click on the image!

That’s a lot to ask from 1-5 words. So it’s important to find one that grabs you, but really hard to do!

I tried out over 50 working titles on my upcoming novel, Something in the Water.

I began with the Wisdom of Solomon. That was my first love and lasted the longest. I tried on and then passed by Drop in the Ocean, Stolen Thunder, The Hardest Word and Swimming With Angels. I smirked at To Krill a Mockingbird and giggled over The Humpback of Notre Dame.

Ask your beta readers for ideas and feedback, ask your friends, ask yourself after you wake from your dreams  – collect every possibility and then choose the one that feels right.

I don’t know if the title of my upcoming novel is unforgettable. I hope so. It’s the one that felt right to me.

That’s all we can do. Good luck!

BEN white_headshotWhat titles did you try out – and then discard – for your most recent masterpiece?

What do you think is important in a great title?

Leave a comment (click on the link next to the date above) and let me know!

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13 thoughts on “The Magic Ingredients of an Unforgettable Title

  1. HI Ben, great piece.Short, funny and to the point. Some of your ‘play’ titles certainly gave me the giggles. Like many writers, I suppose, I have spent almost the same amount of time agonising over the title of my (as yet unpublished) novel as I have writing it. And I’m still not 100% comfortable with it! I’m going to take your advice about asking myself after I wake from my dreams. Perhaps some subconscious insight will do the trick.

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    • Hi Di, Yes, I agonised in parallel too! Just planning another post with more titles-that-were-cut. I did several rounds of feedback from beta-readers, facebook and local friends. It was difficult to find concensus but received lots of good ideas along the way. 🙂 Ben

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  2. This is a good look at the reason why we struggle so with titles. I can answer your question for my most recent release. The first working title was Georgiana Goes to London (quickly shortened to Georgie Goes to London. What made it a working title rather than having a chance at being the final one is simply that it set the wrong tone in a lot of ways. The final title, An Innocent Secret, speaks to the themes and the struggles in the novel.

    I’d add another reason to strip a working title beyond it lacking power. Often my working titles speak to a critical element of the theme or of the novel’s core that would act as a premature giveaway. I have one novel I stopped calling by the working title early because I realized it was a spoiler.

    Anyway, nice take on such a critical topic.

    Cheers,
    Margaret

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      • Thanks :). I hope others find it intriguing as well. The whole series has titles like that, though the first, Beneath the Mask, came easy, and the second, A Country Masquerade, required a lot of brainstorming with friends and family. You’re right that sometimes marshaling your support team is the best way.

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      • That last is an almost impossible challenge. Your goal should be to find a title that isn’t used in your genre recently or by someone with huge presence…like reusing a Shakespeare title would pretty much guarantee yours would never be found. However, if you get the right title for your work and it’s been used before, it’s not an automatic dump. Sometimes you just have to accept the crossover. That happened with Beneath the Mask, which has both actual and symbolic meaning for the story. When I chose it, pretty much no one was using it, but then I sat on the manuscript for a number of years and when I decided to indie publish it, several books used that title or a variant of it. It was too appropriate to dump, and it’s served me well :). All of the variants are not in sweet Regency romance, though, which helps.

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