I love titles. Titles are essential; they are the first part of the story the reader comes into contact with. They can be works of art in their own right. They can add additional meaning, provide interpretation or focus, sound allusions… their potential is near-endless.
There are titles I admire, titles I love more than their stories, and titles I love despite having no interest in their stories at all. There are titles I don’t initially like, but that later reveal themselves to be perfect. And, of course, there are titles I dislike; that I find awkward, ugly or ill-fitting, or so lacking they do their story an actual disservice.
For a long time, finding titles was a trial for me. I used to put off finding a title until the last possible moment in hopes that there’d be a quote in the finished story I could use, or else that something would occur to me at the last second. It usually didn’t, leaving me to spend a day or two frantically leafing through books of poetry and the collected works of Shakespeare in search of a title.
Let’s just say that I ended up with a very mixed bag of titles. Sometimes one of my beta-readers would come up with a great title; sometimes I found something more or less okay myself; and sometimes, desperate, I made Truly Unfortunate Title Choices.
Seriously. If there were a contest for Worst (And Vaguely Pretentious) Title, I could compete.
At one point, I even started a community for the title-impaired. I also invented a title meme, which was huge fun, even if it didn’t solve my title issues.
And then, one fine day, I thought of an awesome title. It was lovely and evocative, and it fit the story perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. The next few titles were torturous as usual – but then, another good title happened. Slowly, good title experiences began to edge out bad title experiences.
Right now, I even have awesome titles for two stories I haven’t written yet.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what brought about this change, and so no way to bottle and sell it and make a million dollars. I only hope that talking about it will not cause title luck to flee me again. My best guess is that years and years of torturing my not naturally title-inclined brain eventually caused it to contort itself into a more title-friendly shape. Alternately, maybe the fickle and capricious Title God took pity on me. Who knows?
Sources of Titular Inspiration
If you’re desperately looking for a title, maybe one of these sources will help:
- poetry (try Blake, Swinburne, Keats, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, or any other poet in the world, ever)
- lyrics (again, by anyone ever)
- the Vagrant Story room list (yes, seriously – this is amazing stuff)
Example Titles Using These Sources
The Cuckoo Song
The Author’s Epitaph, Made by Himself
Full Fathom Five
A Litany in Time of Plague
Air and Angels
A Place of Wind and Flowers
Light, Light, and Light
A Whisper in Water
The Ocean Miles Away
Path of Cinders
Bury Me Alone
A Kiss on the Wind
When the Lifespray Cools
The Going Water and the Gone
Monsters and Madmen
Dust Shall Eat the Days
Those Who Drink the Dark
The Body Fragile Yields
Running With the Wolves