Title Your Book in 3 Easy Steps

Naming your work of art? Your masterpiece? Summing up everything you think and feel about this story you've poured your soul into?  How can something so near to your heart be epitomized into one tiny sentence? There's just no simple way to do this!

Is there?

I'm picky when it comes to naming something. I poured over name sites for two days searching for the right name for my lamp owl. And that was just my lamp owl.

But how do you go about naming your work of art?

Let's start with the basics.

Where To Find Your Book's Title

Fiction titles generally fall into one of three categories. These include but are not limited to:

WHO: a person or thing - Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

WHAT: the overall theme - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Evil Under the Sun, Agatha Christie. The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane.

WHERE: the book's setting - Mansfield Park, Jane Austen. Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte. Walk Gently This Good Earth, Margaret Craven.

Or any combination of the three: The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, serves as not only the setting (WHERE) but as a symbol of new life and new chances(WHAT). The same with The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis (WHO and WHAT). The title North&South, by Elizabeth Gaskill, not only tells us WHERE but by digging deeper into the story you find it's about WHO and WHAT as well.

Find the Core of Your Story

What is it really about?
  • Who is the main character and what are their inner and outer struggles? Sometimes the title is NOT about the point of view character at all, though. Such as in Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit, and The Giver, Lois Lowry.
  • What is the underlying theme you want to portray? What must your character learn before they can move beyond what has happened to him in the past? Perhaps there's a short sentence, or piece of dialogue. The title Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, comes from what Zamp's father said about him when he returned from WWII. 
Whatever the title is, it's IN the pages of your book. Perhaps a snippet of dialogue, one of the best quotes. It's in there. You just have to dig deep enough to find it.
Ask yourself these questions:

1. Who or what is the story really about? (The Help, Kathryn Stockett)

2. What is the theme rising from the ashes of protagonist's past, present, or future? (Number the Stars, Lois Lowry.) Is there a vivid and meaningful symbol used? (A Wrinkle in Time, Madeliene L'Engel)

3. Does your story take place in a setting significant to the plot? (The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson)

Once you find the center, and decide the WHO, WHAT and WHERE of your story, get out a notebook and pen ideas of how you could possibly describe them in a poetic and meaningful way. Once you have found it, you can have a lot of fun disguising it to meet your book's demands.

In Behold the Dawn, by K.M. Weiland, the theme is redemption. This title is a great example of how you can come up with a title that describes your theme to the "T".

In no way should you feel limited as to what you may or may not call your story. Your book's title is completely unique to who you are and what your book is about. The world is yours!

Let's talk! How do you find titles for your books? Tell us about it in the comment section below!


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