Your Novel’s Welcome Mat: Intriguing Titles

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Welcome Mat: Your Novel’s Title

When you are brainstorming titles, think of it as a welcome mat. A title’s job is to bring readers into your novel, story, or picture book. This is why the title is often changed by the marketing/publicity department: they have their fingers on the pulse of the audience and have a better idea of what will be appealing.
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Improved Titles

Here are some titles, as originally proposed. Fortunately, these lame titles were changed! See if you can match them to the well-known title below. (See answers below.)

  • 1. The Mute?
  • 2. Private Fleming, his Various Battles
  • 3. To Climb the Wall
  • A. The Red Badge of Courage
  • B. The Blackboard Jungle
  • C. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Sol Stein, in his book, Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies, emphasizes that titles are sales tools, an invitation to the world to enter your story. He recommends finding an apt metaphor for the story, preferably one in iambic pentameter.

Titles look outward to the audience and tease. They lay a Welcome mat before the threshold of the story. Today, try writing 20 different titles for your story and then mix and match the words from the 20 until you have 20 new ones. Read them to friends and ask which title makes them want to read the book. Anytime you’re stuck on a revision, play with titles.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

My daughter suggested the title for my teacher resource book on prewriting activities for students. She was thinking about brainstorming and storms and writing with pen and paper and came up with this: Paper Lightning. The editor loved it and the title stuck.
Answers: 1C, 2A, 3B.

From Rejection to Acceptance

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1 Comment
  • Natalie Aguirre
    July 23, 2010

    That’s a great way to brainstorm a title. I’ve read on Kristen Nelson’s blog how she sometimes goes back & forth with the author and sometimes the editor to come up with a good title.