re: Are We Running Out of Original Titles?

in Creative Process by

Dear Editor…

I’ve noticed that we seem to have run out of original titles. Old book titles, old movie titles, old used and reused quotation titles seem to be appearing more often. Ever wonder why? What could be the benefit of copycat titles?

Sincerely,

K.L.

Dear K.L….

You know, the music industry has been singing the same tale of woe recently. Only, in relation to band names. It seems all the good ones are taken. And the bad ones, too.

But we talk books here, don’t we? Publishers Weekly just reported that 764,000 self-published books were produced in 2009, plus 288,355 traditional books. With that many books pouring into the marketplace, you’re bound to get duplicate titles, or recycled titles from the past. The good thing is, you can’t copyright a title. But think twice before you reuse one. If it’s established—like, say, Dune—you aren’t doing yourself any favors by choosing it. Instead, strive for a title that reflects the distinctiveness of your story. Titles that suggest themes—Betrayal, for instance—tend to land flat with readers. They don’t promise ‘fresh.’ Find something particular in your story that is the crux of the deal, and build your title around that. For example, I can’t imagine why in the world anyone would ever repeat, by accident or on purpose, Because of Winn-Dixie, or Whales on Stilts. Those titles are specific to those stories, and they have immense personality. You worked hard to come up with a fresh angle on a universal theme for your story, do the same for the title you hang on it.

A call to all readers: I’ve always LOVED the topic of titles—hearing good ones, brainstorming new ones with authors. For the sake of inspiration, let’s share some favorites. I’ll start: Love Among the Walnuts. Yours?

Happy writing!

The Editor

6 Comments

  1. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury…which is amusing because it’s really a quote from Shakespeare. So not ALL that original, is it? But I like how poetic it sounds.

  2. “Shoes on the Highway” a book about seeing that one shoe on the side of the road and wondering and then writing a play about how just one shoe ended up along the side of the road.

  3. I haven’t read the books, but you have to admit that these two are original:

    Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
    Startled by His Furry Shorts

  4. “Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet” by Joanne Proulx. Joanne was a member of my writing group and worked on this book with us. For a year, it had another title, a perfect title, I thought. Then when she sold it, the powers that be came up with “Anthem…” It fit the story perfectly. Wow! I say original titles are still out there. I agree with Dear Editor. It’s a question of finding the essence of your story and saying it in a few words. That’s your title.

  5. As a juvenile lit writer and addict, I have two all time faves that say everything about the books they represent. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry!

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