Coming up with a title for any story has always been difficult for me. From over-the-top KAPOW! titles to curiously vague and elusive ones, I never have an easy go of it. What tricks or methods do you employ to finally settle- decisively- on a name for your own works? 

Sometimes I want to throw a dart at a dictionary.

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Do you find plot easier than characterization?

Titles can be difficult. I discovered 10 books with the name Jigsaw as my first book was named and at least one other No Substitute for Murder with my second (changed 'no' to 'a'). I had someone pick from a list of titles I'd checked for duplications and he chose Something Fishy in Manhattan for the third. 

I like Debbie's comment about not just throwing 'dead' in the title and I like to give an indication that the the book is a murder or mystery. For my next three, Mystery at Pima Point, Death in Sequence, and The Numbered Cups Murder (not sure about this - wanted to use Red Solo Cup - but it's a brand)  I struggled with the titles. 

Martin, It'd be great to hear what those titles are. 

Jeannie, my titles are:

The Killing Depths (serial killer aboard a sub)

Empty Places (murder myster set in Palm Springs)

Eden (sci-fi novella set in Iraq where scholars believe the Biblical Eden was located)

The Butcher's Bill (a follow up to The Killing Depths)

Polar Melt (a mystery thriller set in the Arctic Ocean)


It's difficult to come up with titles that no one else has used. There are several books with "Empty Places" in the title. Same with Eden.  My first book is a short story collection with a military theme called Duty. I found many books with that title. Most recently, former US Defense Secretary Bob Gates named his memoirs Duty.

I'm curious about Eden. Have you had any problems? I know two other authors who have books with that title and both received emails from a third author claiming the title was "his" and he would sue them if they didn't change their title! No copyright in titles and it's utterly ridiculous, but I wondered if you'd had one too?

All my titles follow the Pied Piper theme. They all just seem to jump out at me so I've never really had a problem with them. There was another Paying the Piper that came out around the same time as mine, but I don't think it's ever been a problem.

Eden is still in production, so no.

I think it would be hard to copyright the name Eden, unless you held the rights to the Bible. Since God didn't sue John Steinbeck when he published East of Eden, I don't think there's a problem. <g>

Yeah - kind of what I thought at the time! :-)

Debbie and Martin are correct. You can't copyright a book title. I'd still rather not duplicate, but I do't worry anout it if I do.

In the first novel I wrote, my protagonist is falling apart psychologically as well as being physically hurt.  I wanted something that would reflect both of those, and I came up with Stress Fractures.  I decided to stay with the theme.  The second book was set in January in New Hampshire, so I used Frostbite.  Third novel, the one I finally got published, is about my protagonist trying to fit in with his family, and not really doing a good job of it.  Lead Poisoning.  I'm working on the fourth now, and I originally called it Arrhythmia, because he ends up with a broken heart at the end, but nobody likes that title, mostly because nobody can spell it.  I'm considering Hypothermia, because this one is set in December in New Hampshire, but I don't know if that's too close to Frostbite.  I'm also rapidly running out of these medical themes.

Well, speaking as a medically-oriented person (military medic and Navy medical analyst), "arrhythmia" isn't a broken heart, just a heart with a different beat. Some arrhythmias are dangerous, some are not. Technically, a broken heart would be called "asystole," but that doesn't sound inviting either. However, asystole essentially translates as "Still Heart." That sounds better, doesn't it?


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