Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lauren and the Post About Titles

I searched for "titles" and this is the first picture that came up.

I recently came across a blog that linked to this blog. It's not about titles, but about covers (the author designs book covers) but it got me thinking about titles - in particular, fiction titles, the titles of novels or short stories or films.

I've always had trouble choosing titles. Either they end up being really obscure (I titled a short story, "An Exception") or they're way too obvious (e.g. The Story of Simon King) or they end up sounding like picture book titles ("Gwen's Bad Day").

One thing about shelving books at the library is that you see a lot of books, and, if you're paying attention, you see a lot of titles. I mostly pay attention to the fiction titles (the non-fiction books have really boring titles like "How to Knit ____", or "Why I'm a Hindu", or even just "Gardening."). I've been making (mental) notes on all of the titles, and I think I've found a way to categorize titles into six basic types.

Just before I wrote this blog post, I did a search to see if anyone else had made a list of the types of titles, and all I found, besides articles about what types of land titles there are, was this article here. It describes two types of titles, descriptive and suggestive, but it deals with both fiction and non-fiction titles, whereas I want to focus on just fiction titles.

Type 1: So-and-so and the/with the/who did/at/of such-and-such. 

This sort of  title reveals the main character of the story and the object/objective/important phrase, location, or theme of the story. It can be a long title, but I can think of more examples for this kind than for any other (except maybe type 2).

Some examples are Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (or Philosopher's) Stone, Anne of Green Gables, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Man who was Thursday, Pride and Prejudice, the Fellowship of the Ring, Murder on the Orient Express, Rose Lortz's Road from the West, and Wives and Daughters.

Type 2: The adjective + noun or possessive noun + verb.

This title describes the main character, location, theme or special object. It's a pretty common title because it's so simple. It tells you either the name or identity of the main character, or focal character, as well as an adjective describing them, or a verb describing an action they will take.

Of the recent books I've read, some examples are the Lightning Thief, and the Squire's Quest. Other examples that come to mind are the Hunger Games, the Three Musketeers, Great Expectations, His Last Bow, and the Two Towers. Also, the movies The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Type 3:  Dramatic/mysterious/ironic noun.

These are the one word titles. Twilight is a recent example. It's both a dramatic and a mysterious word, even though I'm not sure what bearing it has on the story.

Other examples are the Inkheart trilogy, Agatha Christie's Curtain, Christopher Paolini's Inheritance and Brisingr, both The Odyssey and The Illiad, and the movies Inception, Up, and the new Pixar movie, Brave.

Type 4: The tale/ballad/legend/story/adventure/song of [insert main character or theme here.]

This kind of title seems almost redundant - I mean, the reader knows that this is a story, so why say "the story of the protagonist?" However, it is a popular one. It's simpler than type 1.

Some examples are the Adventures (and Memoirs, and Return) of Sherlock Holmes, the Tale of Desperaux, the "Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber" (Hemingway), the Legend of the King, a Tale of Two Cities, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I also think that Diary of a Wimpy Kid goes into this category.

Type 5: Main character's name - pretty self-explanatory.

Think Eragon, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, Pollyanna, Hamlet, Julius Caesar. Or any of the recent superhero movies: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, as well as Hugo, or Sherlock Holmes.

Type 6: The random/creative title, sometimes taken from a phrase in the book or from another work of literature

This is the category to place all the other books that don't fit in the first five categories.

Some examples are Around the World in Eighty Days, Gone with the Wind, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Rosencratz and Guildenstern are dead, as well as I Serve.

Even after I've said all this, I still don't know what to call my current work-in-progress. Right now it's going under the general name The Twelve Worlds, which I'm thinking is more of a series name than a book name. It's still a little early in the process to be worrying about that, though, since I'm barely three chapters in.

 Can you think of fiction titles that don't fit in any of these categories? Did I miss a category or place a title in the wrong one? What's the title of your story? Let me know by commenting!


  1. I think you nailed all of them! This was very helpful. I myself have never been able to choose a name for my series. All these years and I can't think of what to call it, even if a name DOES sound good to me. I can't decide!

    1. I know, I keep telling myself, "it will be easier to find a title when the book's finished and I actually know what it's all about.":)

      On the other hand, I read that F. Scott Fitzgerald was displeased with the title of "The Great Gatsby" and tried to change it at the last minute, but was too late (they'd already started printing). If even a famous author like him wasn't satisfied with some of his titles, then maybe I don't have to be. ;)

  2. Lauren, I think you got all of them. At this moment I can't think of anything else to add. Thanks for sharing this link with me, else I would have missed a great post on titles.

    1. You're welcome, Rachna! Glad you enjoyed it. :)



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