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I have come up with a way to make it easier for myself and others to come up with titles. I am in need of advice to tell me whether or not if it is a good system for coming up with a title for a sci-fi story.

(verb or adj.) in (the) (setting)of (setting)

Example: Lost in the Jungles of Venus

16

Short answer: no.

Long answer:

A title is a very important part of a novel. That and the cover are the only two things you have selling your book to someone browsing the bookshelves (or internet). The title is what gets them to open the book. From there you should have them (assuming you have a good grip as your opening line), but you'll never get there without a good title.

The first rule of a good title is that there is no formula. I've tried to make a formula. It would make my novel writing endeavors a lot easier. It doesn't exist. What does exist is a collection of guidelines, certain characteristics that a lot of (if not all) of the good titles seem to share. I'll list them below.

  1. Make the title short, clear, and memorable.

That's the essence of a good title in a nutshell. It needs to be short so that the reader can see the whole thing in a glance. That way, when he's perusing the shelves, he'll see the whole title, and not just part of it as his eyes slide from one book to the next.

A title also needs to be clear. This doesn't mean its simplistic. It means the reader knows what he's read. For example, I could title a work Oshgohash, but it wouldn't be clear. It's short, but the reader needs to pause to figure it out. Consider Hunger Games. You don't immediately know what it means (unless you've read the book), but there is no doubt in your mind that you read it correctly.

Finally, a title needs to be memorable. This one is vague, because we don't all remember the same things. A good rule of thumb is to get the reader to ask himself a question. If I go back to Hunger Games for a moment, you can see how someone unfamiliar with the story would not know what the phrase means. It would stick out. We are naturally curious about things we don't understand; use that to your advantage. And that is actually point #2.

  1. Make the title a grip.

There are a few ways to do this. You can use contradictory words, like the Hunger Games. They don't belong together, so you naturally want to find out more. You can also use phrases that inherently require more knowledge. Dances with Wolves makes no immediate sense. To Kill a Mockingbird also raises questions, actually more so if you are slightly familiar with the story line. All of these ideas follow the same pattern: make the reader ask himself a question. He will want to answer that question, and the obvious way to do so is to open the book and read the first line.


How do you come up with the title though?

This is where the problem lies. A.N.M. is on to something in his answer, when he says that using words from the book is a good idea. You can narrow down which words to use though. For novels, the main conflict can be a good place to look for contradictory words or phrases. Look to what is central in your novel. Look for ideas which the novel revolves around, scenes which are powerful to you or your characters, objects with special significance, and sometimes even the characters themselves. Avoid simply using the name of your main character. It rarely gets the reader to ask himself a question.

As A.N.M mentioned, the end of your book can also be a good place to look for titles. But it is important to understand why. Any good novel ends with a resolution; a time where the conflict is finally resolved after the final battle. In the resolution, you will usually find that the central ideas of the novel are summed up and resolved. This is why it is a good place to search for titles - it contains the central ideas of your story.

So the 'formula' for a title can come down to this:

  1. Define the central parts of your novel.
  2. Look for short, clear, and memorable phrases.
  3. Choose the phrase which asks the most powerful question.

You won't always find a title, but you will at least be going in the right direction. With luck, you'll have some things to think about, and you will find the right title soon.

Best of luck in your writing!


Post-Answer Edit: I will mention that the phrase The Jungles of Venus does use two words not commonly associated with each other: jungles, and Venus. However, the length of the title cuts down on its power. Point in case. I only now realized that 'jungles' and 'Venus' aren't commonly seen together. If you are set on that title, I would suggest shortening it and focusing on those two words.

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I think it's a system for coming up with titles, yes, but as Thomas said there's no one formula.

One of my fiction workshop professors once gave us an exercise in which each member of the class had to examine their piece and choose one possible short title, one long one, and one strange one, just to get us started on figuring out what we wanted the title to feel like.

Example: Venus (short), Lost in the Jungles of Venus (long), or Solving Golubkina (strange)

The key is to choose something simple but enticing. Prompt us to ask ourselves, "What's this book about?" but don't give away the answer just yet. Just put enough out there to get us to read the summary/book jacket. I usually find the "strange" type titles work best for this for me, but it depends.

Hope this helps!

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I would make the title close to the plot. My story is called "Secrets" because it is full of the characters having held secrets from each other. They all don't want to reveal something to the other or something.

So you see, it doesn't need to be complex at all. `

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I mean, usually using words from a sentence in the book is a good idea. That's title would be nice, but I learned to take a sentence from the end and use it as my title.

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A good title will pull a potential reader's attention. Generic titles will pull nobody's eyes. A good title will at least make people understand the theme or kind of story, e.g.

  • Romance: My Autistic Boyfriend, I Hate My Playboy Husband

  • Fantasy: Elven Threads, The Demonic Princess

  • Sci Fi: Replicant Rebellion, Tainted Space

  • Horror: 3 Days Later, Sarah's Bones

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Something like that would be better as a subtitle but it just gives away too much within the title. Look at the show Lost for example. It wasn't called Lost in the Jungle of an Island. It was just called Lost. It makes people curious... who was lost, what was lost? Brings them in to reading the story. Titles are the initial gotcha of a book. If it doesn't create intrigue or wonder, it is less likely to be read.

A title and system like yours doesn't make me want to read it simply because you added in the jungles of Venus. It allows me to assume too much about the book. Okay, some guy get's lost on the planet of Venus. Why do I want to read more about someone/something/a group of species being lost on a planet? Not much draws me in to that and then you would need to then rely on a good back page/summary in hopes I am curious enough to give that a chance. Effectively you are taking away from, what could be, one of the best books I have read simply because the title is boring or bland.

Book titles need almost as much effort as writing the whole book itself. Bad titles can imply a reflection on how the writing of the story will go. If it sounds cheesy or boring, then the book may be assumed cheesy or boring too.

Thomas' answer definitely provides the best thought process on creating a title.

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