Welcome to week 42 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here
- Choose a title for your novel.
Breaking it down
① Character comes first.
You could use your main character as the
title of your book. A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman is a simple but intriguing way to use this approach. Girl,
Interrupted a coming of age story by Susanna Keysen is a good example. Note
also how the comma in the title gives it an extra edge.
Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware capitalises
on the trend started by The Girl On The Train by
Paula Hawkins. (But be wary of trends — by the time you latch on to them,
they’re usually over.)
② Sneak peek or billboard.
Alternatively, you could have a titillating
phrase from your book as the title – like Now
You See Her by James Patterson, or A
Girl Walks Into A Bar by Paige Nick. Or it could be the blatant encapsulation
of the plot, like Missing by James
Patterson or Betrayed by Maria
What is the catalyst or role your main
character or antagonist plays in the story? Would this make a good title? The Trespasser by Tana French is a good
example of this.
drama/romance movie, The Idol Maker,
also does this very well. To add an element of poignancy, consider The Last Tycoon by Fitzgerald.
④ Classic update.
Why not play with the classics, not just for your
title but perhaps also your plot? Graeme Aitkin’s Vanity Fierce is a wonderful modern update on Thackeray’s classic Vanity Fair. Seth Grahame-Smith’s Jayne Eyre and Zombies does something similar.
Colour it in.
The use of
colour in a title creates enormous visual and emotional resonance, if used
right. Think of the crime-noir novel, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. Think of 50
Shades of Grey by EL James.
Less is more.
can be a great way to bring some irony into your title. In A Quiet Drink by Deborah Moggach, a simple drink at the bar has
far-reaching consequences for a married couple. Similarly, in Eric Rohmer’s
film, Claire’s Knee, a young girl’s
need becomes a metaphor for morality, sexuality, and other dangerous choices.
⑦ A foreign affair.
A phrase from another language is sometimes a
great approach – as it adds in some exotic flavour. Saraband
by Patrice Chaplin is a great example of this. Using the name of a slow,
stately Spanish dance for the inexorable sexual obsession the heroine, Kay
Craven, finds herself in is a perfect metaphor.
A snippet from
a song or poem can work well as a title, especially if it relates your plot,
character, or theme. For example, John Clare’s poem I Hid My Love has some great phrases that tie the sensation of
summer to the sensation of love.
collection of short stories, I Sing The
Body Electric, is taken from a poem by Walt Whitman. Just remember that the
Bible and Shakespeare have been exploited to death.
contrasting words or images next to each other can create a powerful title. The Stone Boudoir, a memoir by Theresa
Maggio, is a wonderful example of juxtaposing two opposite images or objects. A
boudoir is meant to be soft and sensual, why is it made of stone? My favourite
is probably Fabulous Nobodies by
fashion journalist and novelist Lee Tulloch.
A run-on or rhyming title is a nice quirk to add to your book –
especially if your book is a bit quirky. Me,
Earle, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews is a perfect example of this
approach. The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells also
adds a bit of sass and rhythm to the title.
Sometimes a title has
double meaning or hints at a double entendre. For example, if you called your
book ‘Killing time’ — it could be about filling up idle time or, quite
literally, a time to kill your enemies.
the movie The Deep End, starring
Tilda Swinton, is about a drowning victim – but also the emotional deep end the
characters find themselves in.
I’m thinking of using the setting of
the beach house in my novel as a title. A setting is a great way to ‘anchor’
your title. The Little Paris Bookshop
by Nina George is a charming example of this approach. In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Notice how the repetition in the
last title works to great effect.
Timelock — 1 to 2 hours
Take a few
hours to brainstorm the title for your novel.
5 Quick Hacks
Create or draw
a mock-up of the front cover of your book – see if the title ‘pops’.
- Look at Amazon
top sellers and examine their titles etc. – see if you can spot any similarities
- Keep in mind
people love the idea of ‘exclusivity’; they love the word ‘club’ and so forth.
Think The First Wives Club by Olivia
Goldsmith or Hollywood Wives, by
Jackie Collins. The Serial Killers Club
by Jeff Povey is another.
- ‘Secrets’ are
powerful reader-attractors. Think of The Secret Life of Husbands by Kirsty
Crawford or The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd. Donna Tartt’s The
Secret History is another.
- Try to find
3-5 lines or phrases from your manuscript that may make a great title.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:
‘That’s a fair
gloopy title. Who ever heard of a clockwork orange?’ — Anthony Burgess
Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!
If you enjoyed this post, read:
Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 41: 7 Questions You Need To Ask Of Your First Draft
Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 40: 3 Rules You Can Break To Start Your Story
- Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 39: 3 Big Questions That Demand An Honest Answer
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