I’ve been adding new classes to my Outschool listing, one of which is a critique group style class. This last Thursday was our first meeting. We wound up talking about titles. Well, titles are not my strong point. Many of my projects have gone through half as many titles as revisions–and I revise a lot. I remember taking a middle grade sci-fi to workshop once. When I said, “Oh, and this is a just a working title,” there was relieved laughter around the room. 😛
So what makes a good title? When I survey titles on my shelf, I see a lot of them have to do with setting, such as The Secret Garden and The Illyrian Adventure. Some titles refer to a character, like Anne of Green Gables, Ella Enchanted, and The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen. I think it’s more common for current titles (at least in kids literature) to mention some thing about the story. Just looking at book titles of people I know from VCFA, we get Hearts of Ice by Adi Rule, The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, and Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera. Of course, some books that aren’t too old have characters in the title, like Fiona Finkelstein, Big-Time Ballerina!! by Shawn K. Stout (it’s been a little while since I read it, but I remember really enjoying it). In looking through new and upcoming releases, the titles are similar to the last four I mentioned.
I think a key to finding the right title is figuring out how to distill the heart of your story into a couple of words or a phrase. Which sounds to me about ten times harder than writing a synopsis. . . .
I’m currently working on the title for one of my middle grade stories. So we’ll see how this goes . . .