How to Decide On a Title For Your Story


Titles are not merely window dressing. They are hooks to get people reading your story and should evoke an image (or several). Writing instructor Jacob Appel writes in the Writer's Digest article "7 Tips to Land the Perfect Title for Your Novel" that good titles should be "distinctive, but not distracting." One thing you should not do is give away story spoilers in your title. If you can give your title a dual meaning (a meaning on two or more layers), so much the better.

  • Ask yourself who is going to read your story. You might be writing just for yourself, in which case you have much more freedom in selecting a title. If you are writing with hopes of signing an agent and getting the story published, or if you are submitting to a magazine, keep the story's audience in mind.

  • Go through your story and highlight your favorite details and favorite dialogue.

  • Brainstorm and jot down everything that comes to mind, no matter how silly or inappropriate it might seem. Include any details and favorite dialogue from your story. Pick at least five favorite titles -- 10 give you even more choices.

  • Go through your favorites one by one to ensure they have a connection to the story. Eliminate choices that have no connection.

  • Evaluate your choices based on such criteria as specificity and dual meanings. Titles that evoke specific images are good. Appel says, for example, that "Eugene O'Neill's 'Desire Under the Elms' is far more compelling than 'Love Under the Trees' would have been."

  • Pick the title that resonates most to you and the title you think will sell best. If you are unsure, ask your friends and family which of your final choices entice them most.

  • Remain flexible. Be open to changing your title later if need be. Many stories and books change titles before they are published.

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