When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I took a very systematic approach to figuring out her name. We independently came up with a list of names, and then narrowed it down to our top 10. We then compared our top 10s and prepared for discussion. We hadn’t expected both of us to have Julia in our top 2 names. Despite neither of us talking about that name before, it felt right. It was not an unusual name, yet it wasn’t wildly popular in the US at that time. There was no fear of her being one of five kids with the name Julia in her class, nor was she in jeopardy of never finding her name on those fun vanity souvenirs.
I’ve taken a similar approach to the titles of my books. I don’t make a list or anything, but I do look for what feels right and then I check to make sure there aren’t several other books out there with the same name. I like book titles that are short and punchy—one to three words. I personally find them easier to remember.
The title for my first book, Kingston’s Project, popped into my head as soon as I started writing. Kingston is the last name of one of the primary characters, and his ‘project’ drives the majority of the plot. When I decided to write a sequel, at first I wasn’t sure what the title would be. I knew I wanted it to also start with Kingston, but I wasn’t sure beyond that. I stared at the title page for a bit when suddenly my fingers replaced Project with Promise. I didn’t know at the time what the ‘promise’ would be about, but I knew it felt right. (A little behind the scenes knowledge—I didn’t figure out the full meaning of the promise until I was almost finished writing the book, and it was perfect). I was just as lucky with my third book, Shattered Angel, and the tile was there from the start.
Now I’m a little more than halfway through my current WIP. Based on past experience, I’ve figured I needed a name right from the start. And I have one. It’s just that now I’m not sure if it’s right.
The story is about a fifteen-year-old boy who is angry, mostly because his parents got divorced and his mom moved him and his sister to live with their grandparents in Indiana. It’s mostly about his journey as he learns to control his feelings. It’s also about how or feelings and beliefs about people can change depending on the perspective we use to view them. One of the people who helps him through this transition is a girl he meets one day when he climbs a tree. I want to keep the reader wondering if the girl is real, a figment of Ben’s imagination, or a ghost. The title I’ve been using so far is The Tree Sprite. Ben’s little sister is obsessed with sprites, and when they first think they hear someone up in the tree she suggests it’s a sprite. I like the sound of the name, the relative uniqueness of it, and how it hints to a key setting of the book (the tree). However, I don’t want readers to assume it’s a fantasy book or heavy on the magical realism.
I’ve also started to wonder if it places too much emphasis on the girl. While she is a critical character in the book, it’s not her story. When I first started to draft out the storyline, I did think I’d get more into the mystery of her background. I write organically, and it’s turned out that the story took me slightly away from that. I may still include some of it, but it hasn’t been a primary plot driver of the story as I first thought it would.
Now I feel a bit stuck. I’ve been trying to think of other titles, but nothing comes to mind. I know there is still the possibility I’ll be struck with a lightning bolt in the last half of the book, but I’m feeling anxious. I’d like to start promotions before I finish completely, but I need a solid title for that.
How do you come up with your book titles? I’d love any advice you can throw my way!