Coming up with titles is a hobby of mine. Having been in a band, written music, and now stories, I spend an inordinate amount of time using random word generators and trawling the internet to spark my imagination when coming up with new titles. I also love dragging my fingers across the spines in the crime section of bookstores, reading the titles for the sheer fetish of it.

In the world of crime fiction, I have to say that most titles I come across are generic, only giving a hint as to the rough area of subject matter while being a painfully clear reminder that this is crime fiction.

You know the ones: Death Room, Black Murder Weapon, Kill For A Cuddle.

I'm just wondering what kind of titles draw people towards a book. Does alliteration catch your eye, or are you pulled in by something jarring or obscure? Do you prefer something more conventional, because at least you know you're in the right aisle of the bookstore? Or are you the kind that goes for big, single word titles that could easily be used for a goth/nu-metal/American Idol wannabe?

As Mr. Terrenoire says, "talk to me."

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I know, I know. We're not exactly civilized over here. And ask me sometime to tell you my merkin story. It's not what you think, but it's a pretty good 'un.
I'm weary of titles that are common legal or police phrases and ones that have some combo of "death," "dead," "blood," "black," or "dark" with another word. (For some reason there are runs on these - "black" and "water" turned up in half a dozen book titles one year, and I don't think it was the secret work of a security corporation.)

Other titles just sing to me. Dennis Lehane had a wonderful knack for titles, back when he wrote books. "A Drink Before the War," "Prayers for Rain," "Darkness Take My Hand" - wonderful! And I really love Giles Blunt's title "Forty Words for Sorrow."

So I guess I'm looking for a bit of poetry and originality. If your random title generator comes up with some of that and you have titles to spare, let me know, eh?
So you mean you're not going to buy my new book BLOODY DEATH IN THE DARK BLACK WATER?
Well, actually - I would. But only because it would say in even larger letters DONNA MOORE and in only slightly less large embossed letters," Scotland's Dorothy Parker," and then another line about "Alaskan Adventurer" ... and I'd have paid for it before I got to the title.
Start writing it and we'll buy it. :)
Now THAT title I would notice.
Now that everyone's had their say, I can share my thoughts.

Quotes, I like, but more so as a line from a poem or song. Martyn Waites is great with these, especially since he uses songs from people like Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Single word titles don't really do it for me. I guess I've spent too much time coming up with band names to find any single word from the English language interesting as a title. I do like ambiguous titles with alliteration, or strange word combinations. Ken Bruen and Ray Banks have got some great ones here.

Funny thing is, I've changed the working title of my current WIP to a phrase from a song. I'll have to finish the book to see if it really fits, or go back and make it fit.
I recently found a hardcover re-issue of John D. MacDonald's first novel The Brass Cupcake. Love that title. Unusual combinations of words do it for me. The Catcher in the Rye is one of my faves.
quotes are good, I like imaginative titles, and am put off by series clone titles - "X Death" followed by "Y Death" followed by "Z Death" etc. Offhand good titles - "Sharp Objects", "Heart-Shaped Box", "Dance Hall of the Dead".
I like puns. So sue me. Actually, that would make a great Tony Hillerman title: SO SIOUX ME. Maybe not.
The Man With the Getaway Face by Richard Stark. You know it's a great title when you're jealous that you didn't think of it first!
Lurid, retro, and evocative always do it for me. THE NAKED KISS is a perfect title in its own way. So is BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL.

I also like classical allusion, so a novel called, say, FULL FATHOM FIVE would at least make me stop and peruse. Edward Albee used Shakespeare in an incredibly wicked way with his recent play THE GOAT, OR: WHO IS SYLVIA? That was a fine shakeup of an old quote.

Puns generally don't get my attention, unless they're outrageously good ones with a triple-axel and a twist (Craig Rice's MY KINGDOM FOR A HEARSE).

The titles I loathe are the two-word ones that sound like a slick, empty Hollywood thriller: BASIC WEAPON, LETHAL INSTINCT, etc. I'm sure there's a computer somewhere that spits out adjective-noun combinations by the millions for Hollywood producers and airport-novel editors, and I wish it would die.


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