How Important Is A Good Title?

by Hazel Buys
How do you go about choosing a title for your novel? Step 1: search Amazon, Google (or similar) for the title you want to use. If it’s already taken, cross off and go to next choice. Repeat. Once you have a title that doesn’t show up in your searches, you’re done, right? Not necessarily. What makes a good title (other than it isn’t out there yet)?

I’ll tell you what makes a bad title: one that gives away the end of your book. Who would do that? You’d be amazed. I just finished reading a middle grade book that does just that. The title (changed to protect the guilty) is similar to: “Eddie’s Championship Spring.” This fictional book is about a boy who enters a track competition to determine the region’s champion. Can you guess who wins? When a writer gives away the ending in the title, all tension and suspense has to come from somewhere else. Subplots? Interpersonal dynamics? The stress of training? The weather? It almost doesn’t matter. We already know the ending.

The best titles sum up the book without giving anything away. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great example. It’s intriguing, mysterious and we don’t really understand why it’s such a good title until we finish the book and learn what happens. I’m sure you have your own favorites. Titles are part and parcel of why we love certain books. Make sure you don’t hamstring your novel from the get-go because of the first words the reader encounters: the title.

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