Post 46

Author: Nola Published: about 3 years ago
Tags: creativity, ideas, titles, clichés, quotes, brainstorming Category: Writing tips

Book Titles Part 2: Generating Ideas

In Part 1 of this series, I gave four reasons for using original titles for your books. However, it’s not always easy to think of unique titles. Here are some ideas to get you started.


This is one of the easiest and hardest techniques for generating titles. Give your mind free rein to come up with as many options as possible that relate to your book. Consider the main themes, characters, settings, genre, tone and pivotal plot points. Write down any words or phrases that jump out at you and then think laterally from there. Could you link a couple of your ideas? Perhaps there’s a key line of dialogue or introspection that would make a great title. It’s important to jot down everything that comes to mind, without censor. You can always cull the poorer ones later. Nothing is off limits when brainstorming. When you’ve run out of ideas, use the following techniques to add to your list.

Mining Other Sources

Many authors have procured titles by using quotes from other sources, such as books, movies, plays, poems, and songs. For example, Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side and Alan Bradley’s I am Half-Sick of Shadows are both lines from Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott. Bobbie Houston’s nonfiction book I’ll Have What She’s Having comes from a famous line in the movie When Harry Met Sally. One problem with using popular quotes, however, is that other authors may have had the same brilliant idea. Try gleaning more obscure works or alter the quote in some way. For example, instead of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, you could have Shadow Sick. Well, that might not be the most exciting title, but you get the idea.

Creating a Unique Spin

A related strategy is to take a title or phrase and give it a different spin. Adrian Plass’s satirical work The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾ is a take on Sue Townend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾. Alexander McCall Smith’s The Unbearable Lightness of Scones is a twist on Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Are you writing a wholegrain cookery book? Instead of calling it A Pocket Full of Rye (from the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence), why not have A Pocket Full of Ryvita? As all good writers know, we’re supposed to avoid clichés. However, even clichés can be used to good effect if you can put a twist in the tail (pardon my cliché). A crime novel called Birds of a Feather Flock Together may be a bit passé, but Birds of a Feather Murder Together could be a winner. The following site lists over 600 clichés just waiting for your spin:

In my next post, I’ll look at some more ideas for generating titles. In the meantime, why not take a quote or cliché and suggest an original twist that could become a book title? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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