Here at the playground, I spent a couple of posts talking about that bane of my writing life–coming up with titles! Since I want that process to be less painful with more satisfying results, I went through my booklists to find templates or formulae for titles.
First off, we have the one-word titles. These include names of people (Sabriel) or places (London). Straightforward and fairly safe. They’re not exciting but they get the job done. I prefer a little zing to my titles, so I like seeing more unusual nouns–novels named Dust–or compound words like Stardoc, Wintersmith, Inkheart. Then we have those nouns that are also adjectives. One that works for me is Soulless–a book that’s on my to-read list. I picked up an urban fantasy called Benighted once because of the title.
(Then there are the almost one-word titles that add an article to the noun–think John Grisham novels like The Firm and The Partner. I want to say that there are some historical romances out there with names like The Promise and The Keepsake. I’m not wild about this template.)
Now we come to the [adjective][noun], such as The Black Ship or The Red Wolf Conspiracy. These are workable, too. I’m not seeing any in my lists that has me filled with title-love.
Next up, titles that are [Something] [preposition][Something]. Most often, the preposition will be ‘of’ and we get titles like Prince of Darkness (how many vampires novels and historical novels could that title fit?–ha! I once read an autobiography called The Prince of Darkness!). That formula works for me if it juxtaposes two words your normally don’t see together. One I particularly like is Diplomacy of Wolves. A similar template is [Something]’s [Something], so you have The Singer’s Crown, instead of The Crown of the Singer.
Then we have the [Someone] and the [Someone/Something] title. Nancy Drew and the Case of the Clever Clown! The Hardy Boys and the Trembling Turnip! Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Peter and the Starcatchers. I think this works when you’re trying to go for a certain adventurous almost-retro feel to the book. Sometimes you have [Noun] and [Noun], like Whiskey and Water. If you pick two nouns that go together without being a cliche and throw in alliteration, you have a winner in my book. 🙂
I also noted titles that are allusions to poetry and literature, like Burning Bright (Tracy Chevalier’s novel about William Blake).
Whew. After going through the lists of books I’ve read over the last couple of years, I think that the titles that work for me are the ones that find fresh new words for their genre. Heart, desire and passion are overused in romance. Fantasy is filled with kings and princes (ditto all other royal titles); crowns, thrones, swords. Find some new words, or a startling combination of words. I will certainly pick up a book named Drowned Wednesday or Superior Saturday. Compound words work for me, too. I get a delicious thrill when I see names like Mistborn and Grimspace (regardless of how I feel about the books).
Any other title templates I missed? What are some of your favorite book titles?