The perfect name is hard to find. It’s the principle of first impressions. Get it right and your title will be the first step in enticing a reader (or agent) to pick up your book. Get it wrong and your work of fantastical brilliance will be overlooked as readers skim through the wide variety of competing titles. However with a bit of focus (and a flash of brilliance from the creative muse), you can give your title a fighting chance to stand out from the masses.
Don’t get attached to your working title:
Very rarely is your first idea your best idea. I often think of the working title as a childhood nickname. It’s fine when you’re nurturing it through the development phase, but is it really the best way to present it to the world? And bear in mind, if you’re heading down the traditional publishing route you might not have control over the naming rights at all.
Make a list:
Often a good time to start is when you’re writing the book. Look for things that are unique to your story so you can give yourself plenty of options. These could include:
- key character names (Frankenstein), descriptions (The Time Travellers Wife) or titles (Prince of Nothing)
- significant locations – specific (City of Bones), or descriptive (Dune)
- major events (The Hunger Games)
- timespan (1984, The Wheel of Time)
- key objects – particularly those with a magical bent (The Sword of Shannara)
- quests (The Name of the Wind)
- unique-to-your-world characteristics (Ironskin)
- themes (Divergent)
Set the Tone:
Ask yourself what you want your title to evoke from the reader? The Mists of Avalon, makes me think of a long forgotten time in history shrouded in legend. Game of Thrones speaks to the epic scale of the novel, covering numerous kingdoms and their interactions. Whereas The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy smacks of humour of an out-of-this-world variety.
Is your fantasy gritty and hard (Prince of Thorns), or based in a more whimsical setting (Starlight)? Is it dealing with a personal struggle (I am Legend), or the effects on a wider population (The Fellowship of the Ring)? Does your title really capture the essence of your novel?
Don’t forget to google your title, it’s an easy way to check that your title is as original as your novel.
Don’t panic – even your most obscure title can still be a winner. Hugh Howie’s best-selling Wool series was lauded as a terrible name for a dystopian fantasy, yet it is undeniably memorable (and does make sense if you read the novel!).
And when all else fails, you can always rely on The Random Fantasy Novel Title Generator to come up with something amusing – if not entirely original.
What are your most memorable fantasy titles?
– Raewyn Hewitt