Discovering A Title For Your Story

I’ve made brief mention of my probable next novel – the Shakespearey metafictiony film mess that will be my 2014 NaNo. I had no clue what to call this thing, as I only have a page of notes.

Last night, I discovered a title for it.

I say “discover” because that’s almost always what titles are. You almost never go into the brainstorm stage with a title in mind. If you’re lucky, you’ll be writing notes, or an outline, or maybe the book itself, and you’ll pause. You’ll look back at the line you just wrote and you’ll say, “That’s it. That’s the title.”

The working title for my next novel is Verisimilitude. Long, clunky, and will probably get changed, but I’m overjoyed to have a name. Plus, it really is fitting. My book will explore the blurred barrier between reality and the ‘fictional dream,’ told from the POV of a grip working on a film. As you may know, ‘verisimilitude’ refers to the illusion of reality that you “believe” while absorbing a fictional work. It’s the imaginative “truth.”

Sometimes titles don’t come so early or so easily. The title for Paradisa was originally Crusaders. It was Crusaders for almost four years. Only once I finished the book and was explaining it to Austin did he say “Calling it Crusaders doesn’t really make sense.” So I swapped it to Paradisa, which was the name of the second book, but I’ve found the adjustment quite easy.

Some people might say “who cares about the title? The editors will change it anyway!” First of all, this isn’t always true. Read some success stories on Query Tracker and see that a good number of authors get to keep their titles. Additionally, you’re  still selling the book to an agent! You want the agent to be intrigued, right? And the title is doubly important if you’re self-publishing. With all the self-promotion you have to do, let the title’s intrigue do some of the work for you.

In James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure, which is one of my favorite books on writing, he gives a few more examples for how to ‘discover’ your title. Here are some of his and a few of mine:

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