Finding a fitting title for your novel can be a frustrating, tear-inducing, hair-pulling process. As I understand, editors and publishers might toy with and tweak your title before your book is published, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong working title for your WIP! A unique title will help your query stand out as you seek publication, and having a title that fits your work well can keep you focused on the overall message of your story as you write it.
So, how do you select a fitting title? There’s a billion methods, but here’s a few strategies that could work for you:
- Examine your novel’s theme or overall message, and see if there’s something to be mined there.
- Take a word or phrase directly from the novel.
- Pull from mythology or a fairy tale with some special significance to your story.
The title of the As Meat Loves Salt comes from a fairy tale about a love so reliant on and encompassing its subject, the lover (meat) is unpalatable without its love (salt). This is a broader, poignant metaphor for the rather toxic love story at the novel’s centerpiece.
- Find significant lines of dialogue within your novel, and mine those for ideas.
- Consider a title that has a double meaning once your reader has finished your story.
- Use a description of your main character or setting.
- Try a phrase that describes the overall plot.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, for example, details the heinous and senseless murders of the Cutter family and the deadly trial of the murderers.
Bottom line: You want your novel’s title to set the tone for your story and prepare (and entice) your readers for the experience awaiting them. If your novel is comedic in tone, don’t choose a serious-sounding title just because it seems more dramatic or professional. And don’t use a jokey title if you want your novel’s tone to be darker and more solemn.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite novel titles, each of which evoke a certain quality about the story to come:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
Tell The Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt
Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size of a Fist, Sunil Yapa
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams