March 21st 2013 01:06
Titles from Characters
Some authors name books after their protagonists. Consider Johanna Spyri’s classic children’s story Heidi, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or Stephen King’s Carrie. Other classics named for the book’s main characters include Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Screenplay writers use this technique, too. Examples include Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison, the Indiana Jones movies, Arthur, and Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump. My historical romance novel published by Kensington uses this technique since I named it Night Singer, which is the name of my heroine.
Another character-related title option is to use a phrase that somehow describes the character’s personality, vocation, or dramatic situation in the story instead of giving your story the same name as the character. Consider John Fowles’ book The French Lieutenant’s Woman or Stephen King’s Firestarter. The Dark Knight in the Batman film series utilizes this titling strategy as do the Terminator films. My own short story "The Fire Scryer" uses this technique, too, since the protagonist is a woman who can divine the future from candle flames.
Titles from Genre Buzz Words
Another way to title a story is from buzz words common to the story’s genre. Mysteries, for example, often incorporate “mystery of,” “mystery at,” or “the case of” in their titles. Romances frequently feature bride, baby, or cowboy in their titles. Western titles may include revenge or showdown or battle. Paranormals may feature words like ghost, vampire, or witch in their titles.
Titles from Plot
Some story titles hint at the plot and/or genre of the story. Sue Grafton’s B is for Burglar reveals that the story will somehow concern a burglary. Back to the Future indicates that the film of that title involves time travel. Star Wars indicates that the film of the same title involves a war set in space. Stephen King’s Misery hints that the protagonist will suffer. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers tells you all you need to know about the plot of this classic film.
Titles from Setting
Often a story’s title refers to the setting. Consider the classic movie Bridge Over the River Kwai or the popular 1980’s television hit Beverly Hills 90210. Bronte’s classic novel Wuthering Heights and television’s Downton Abbey also utilize this technique as does my ghost story "The New House".
More Title Tips
Ideally, a story’s title helps clue the reader in on what kind of book she’s buying. It should reveal character, plot, setting, and/or genre. Short titles work best, too. Note how many classics or current bestsellers have one- or two-word titles.
Take a look at the title of your current story. Is it short? Does it hint at the character, plot, setting, or genre? If not, can you think of a short title that does?