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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I believe that a title should fit the story. Too many books are being published where the title has nothing whatsoever to do with the content. Take for example the fad for one-word titles. Beyond that, titles can help brand the book if it is part of a series. I also like unusual and imaginative titles like the ones Camilleri uses.

I agree - the title needs at least a loose association. Mine all follow a theme which help build the series brand too. Too often crime writers seem to think as long as they include the word dead in the title, then that's OK and the rest doesn't matter.

For about half of my stories the title comes with the initial idea. It's the easiest part of the process. If I don't get lucky, I will wait until I have something approaching a final version of the story and then read it with an eye for a phrase that conveys the essence of the story without giving too much away.

In a novella that appeared last year, a supporting character tells prostitute Diana Andrews, "It's not like me to make the same mistake twice." I realized that Diana had spent the whole story confronting old mistakes and old enemies, and I knew I had my title: THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE.

 

I have a lot of trouble with titles, though what has evolved for me is very similar to what Albert does. Sometimes the title comes to me with the idea; those are usually best. If not, then I hope something in the book will pop out at me during the editing process. As an example of how I no longer stress in advance, I'm nearing the halfway point of the first draft of the fourth novel in my Penns River series. The current title is PR4.

That'll probably change.

This is a good question, John.  Most of Stephen King's titles are pretty mundane, but his name sells his novels.  The rest of us want a title to capture the attention of an audience.  I once read a book called "The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters."  The best thing about the book was its title.

Here's what I did for my legal mystery, The Past Never Ends.  I made a list of every possible name I could think of for the novel, saved the list, and didn't look or think about it for a few weeks.  I went back to the list and started eliminating titles that really didn't work.  In this process of forgetting and then looking again at the possibilities, I came up with a new title altogether that became my final choice.

That's a good title, and suits the book well.

That's a great idea. Nothing like putting something in the bottom drawer to get some perspective on it.

The title should reflect the content of the novel but should also be enticing, eg The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

Funny you should mention this, as read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold last week for the first time. You're right about the title, which works on multiple levels.

I think the title should be organic, developing as the story develops. Sometimes they come easy, but sometimes I realize halfway through that the story no longer matches the title, so I need a new one. My publisher and I named the first book together and I think I was very lucky there. I knew I needed a new title and had been told many publishers would do it without consulting the author, but they gave me a list of ideas which we bounced back and forth until I found the right one.

MY newest book Hunting Pleasure (Autharium) was an obvious title.  What do you do when you sit down to read? You want some form of pleasure.  What is a signature serial killer doing regarding his victims?  Hunting Pleasure. If you let me have the nuts and bolts of your story (summary in 250 words or 3 paragraphs) I may be able to help.  I am now published in 5 genres and aiming for 6th and 7th. 6th is done, just awaiting illustrator and 1/2 through sci-fi. 

It's funny, this question started me thinking back on how I came up with my titles. With my first novel, about a serial killer aboard a submarine, I tried several possible titles dealing with dying in the ocean depths before I came up the final title. With my second, about a murder in the desert playground of Palm Springs, I played with several titles that were descriptive of the desert environment. For my sci-fi novella, now in production, and the mystery thriller I'm writing right now, the names came almost simultaneously with the plot ideas. More than a year ago, I started plotting another thriller, but it bogged down. Then I read something about the melting of the polar ice cap and zing! A new title popped into my head and I changed the locale. Now the plotting is coming along nicely.

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