Thursday, 31 May 2012

What's in a title?

It isn't just the cover that first grabs our interest in a book, it can be the title too, so I think titles are important. Often authors struggle with trying to think of the best title for a story only to have it changed by their publishers anyway, and Pocket Novels are no exception. Most of my Pocket Novel titles have been changed or amended. The only one that has made it onto the cover 100% intact is The Smuggler Returns, but then that particular story just couldn't have been called anything else.

The title, in this case, is the story premise.
The Smuggler Returns = a story about a smuggler who returns.

Immediately the reader thinks, who is this smuggler? to where is he returning? Unanswered questions mean suspense. So this title contains suspense too. And action. And also a suggestion of conflict: something has changed, something is significant in this smuggler returning.

As well as titles being right for the story genre, I teach my creative writing students that good titles should contain at least one of the following:

- action
- drama
- intrigue
- suspense
- conflict

Pocket Novel titles almost always contain one or more of these elements which reflects the fact that they contain action, suspense and drama. They are active stories with a keen pace and page turning quality. Good stories in the classic sense. My own Pocket Novel titles are no exception:

Fateful Deception
Intrigue, drama, suspense

The Restless Heart
Conflict, drama, action

The Smuggler Returns
Conflict, action, suspense

Secrets at City Hospital
Intrigue, drama, suspense

What are your favourite titles and what makes them stand out?


  1. I love chosing titles and can't get on with a story or novel without one! Completely agree about that suspense aspect.

    1. Me too, Rosemary. I must have that title before I begin. :)

  2. Hi it's Cara here.

    Many, many congratulations Rosemary on your short story competition win that you blogged about recently, well deserved!

    On titles, I find sometimes the title comes really easily and at other times it's like pulling teeth. I've noticed quite a few good titles are either alliterative or onomatopaeic (if that's how you spell it) - they sort of have a lilt to them like, 'Great Expectations' or 'Forever Amber' as well as being engimatic and inviting you to find out more. One of the longest and most intriguing titles I know is a book my sister bought me called, 'All fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye' by Christopher Brookmyre - it's on my to be read pile. With pocket novels though Kate you are right in that the title should give a clear indication of what's inside. One of mine, I called 'The Sanctuary' because I think most people dream of some sort of sanctuary from the hurly burly of everyday life. I like, 'Secrets at City Hospital' for its intrigue.

  3. Oh, that's kind of you, Cara - thank you!

  4. Lots of useful pointers here, Kate.
    I’m one of those authors who struggle with titles. It’s so important to get it right (even if editors do later change it)
    If I haven’t found the right title (in my eyes, at least) I don’t commit to the story in the same way.

  5. Kate, I absolutely must start with a title and they mostly come fairly easily. One in particular has haunted me now for quite some time and, although the story is well plotted, I still can't bring myself to start writing it because it still doesn't "feel" right.
    My titles pretty much half and half either reflect the story [Starting Again, Nanny Wanted e.g.] or the setting [Outback Hero, Wombat Creek, Ocean Blue].
    And I agree, it's a real drawcard to have a hint or promise of mystery or secret. Titles really are important and we give them a lot of consideration.