History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Titling a Story

Last week, I talked about starting with a title and writing a story to fit it. This week, I’m looking at something like the opposite: when you’ve got a story, with no ideas for a good title.

The first thing to think about when you’re trying to title a story you’ve written is whether it’s got any really excellent phrases that encapsulate the theme of the story. If so, that can be a perfect place to steal your title from. My story “All That Transpires Under the Night Sky” was named in this way, pulling a line directly from the story.

However, that sort of title can also potentially give away more about the story than you want to. Instead of pulling a phrase from your story, you could also think about the theme and base the title on that without giving as much away about the story.

If the theme of the story presents a possibility, but you don’t love it, you can try Panlexicon to find an associated word that might be more inspiring. You can also try searching quotes related to your theme to see if any of them present an interesting title.

Finally, for an option that works best with stories based in a real-world, non-English speaking culture, you can always take a simple title and translate it to the appropriate language. “Fortissimo Possibile” was the first of my published stories that used this method, taking it’s name from a musical term (that also happens to be used in the dialogue of the story. If you do this, be sure that you either know that language well or can run the title by someone who knows the language well. Just using Google Translate for something like this is probably not the way to go!

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