Coming up with Titles

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by solojones, Mar 15, 2004.

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  1. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 10

    Sep 27, 2000
    We've probably all been there, scrolling down the FanFic boards in search of a random story that looks interesting. You see one title that sounds so-so, and another that's really interesting. So you read the second fic. It grabbed your attention.

    So how do you come up with a title that fits your story, sounds interesting, and isn't too cliché?

    I know it's hard for me as an author to do that. With SW Fics, it can be difficult because the material you're working with is often similar thematically to what other authors are working with. As a result, we get a lot of stories titled with things like 'shadow' and 'darkness'. Guilty here myself. But it's not always a bad thing. A title can have those words and still be catchy enough to fit.

    It's not all (or sometimes even at all) about catching a reader's eye, of course. How do you find a title that fits the message you're trying to get across with your story? Where does your inspiration come from? Do you title your stories before, after, or during the writing process?

    This topic is something we've all dealt with as writers and which has plague our kind for a long, long time. I'm interested to hear what all you authors feel about this topic, and how you feel about titles from a reader's perspective as well.

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
  2. Calandria

    Calandria Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 12, 2003
    eeek titles... I usually go through about 20 title ideas before I just randomly pick one.

    The worst part is making an interesting title that reflects the story. (which is why I usually end up with inane titles like "A small backwater Adventure" or "Failure to Comply may Endup in Wookie Arm ripping."

    Once, for lack of a title. I randomly opened a dictionary, picked the first word I saw... It was for a poem... and it ended up being hilarious.. the title meaning the opposite of what the poem said.

    But all in all I'm pretty bad at finding decent titles for my stories.

    AERYN_SUN Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 1, 2001
    How do you find a title that fits the message you're trying to get across with your story? Where does your inspiration come from? Do you title your stories before, after, or during the writing process?

    I don't always come up with a title right away. If I can't, I try to look at phrases in the story itself that could be the title.

    Working on Defining Us, I remember I had at least 15 or so possible titles but what helped narrow it down was that I really wanted my first Sabewan fanfic to be different than all the others I had read in the past. 'Defining Us' helped convey that feeling.

    Other times, a title can be inspired. You get inspired to write a story, why not a title? I think, I thought of "Trickster" as the title for my last Jacen/Tahiri fanfic, it was because of Anakin (solo) role in the story at that point. He fools everyone around him, except Jacen. And I wanted to keep with the "one word" title, too.

    Songfics titles are easy to come up because most of the time, the title you use is also the title of the song.

    Or the title can be inspired by other things. Fan art, for example. So many of my fanfics, past and present were inspired by fan art (mostly my own). I would be working on a fan art in photoshop of the same name, and then seconds later, write either a fanfic or a poem of the same name.
  4. RebelScum77

    RebelScum77 Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Aug 3, 2003
    I usually look to song titles or lyrics. They're like poems in the way they have to express so much meaning in so few words. There's a few angsty bands that match the tone of most of my stories ;)

    Too Much of Not Enough and A Day Hasn't Gone By are my favorite titles I've used, they're both from songs.

    But I'd rather the title express a feeling, and leave a little intrigue, rather than being completely literal.
  5. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 6, 2003
    It can be tough... I just go with whatever hits me first, that can be good or bad. lol

    For the saga i'm working on The main title, as in "Star Wars", is Coruscant Girl... because it's centered around a girl from Coruscant. ;)

    The title of the first Episode is called "Knightshift" because 1) she works the nightshift as a waitress in the first episode and 2) the story, because it is a romance story involving Obi-Wan and has to do with Obi-Wan's focus "shifting" somewhat from being all about becoming a Jedi Knight to other more confusing matters. lol

    And the second Episode, "The Brood" is titled not only for the infamous gang of street children in the episode, but for a theme of "family" ties, and also reflecting some of the darker aspects of the story as certain characters are "brooding" over each other. ;)

    I've already got a title for the far from written Episode III but I can't reveal yet what my reasons are for that. :p

    that's my answer anyway lol...

  6. Lilith Demodae

    Lilith Demodae Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Oct 1, 1999
    Titles. Yeesh, there's a loaded topic. Sometimes I find a title right away and sometimes I agonize over it until I can't stand it any more.

    I like to use Shakespeare quotes, though some people find them too obscure. I like to link my titles in some way to the characters or what's happening in the story, but I also like to keep them short and catchy. It's a hard line to walk and sometimes they just come put sounding dumb, but you need a title, so what can you do?
  7. Happy_Hobbit_Padawan

    Happy_Hobbit_Padawan Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Feb 3, 2003
    Many times I take a word or phrase that's in the piece and use it as the title. And that's given me such wonderful titles (note the sarcasm :p) as Quite the Charmer, Perfection, The Dead Never Truly Die, What have I Done?, and Did He Know it was me?

    When I choose a title, I often try to think what would catch the reader's eye. Two of my stories' title have been questions, which I don't see very often and thought that might be a bit unique.

    I'm also guilty of the 'shadow and darkness' thing. :p I wrote a series about the dark side, so I tried to come up with darkish titles.

    I also taken two titles from other sources: 'Through the Shadows' from a passage by Tolkien, and 'Saints, Captive in Chains' from the Shakira song, which sorta-kinda reflected the story. :p
  8. Stormtrooper_Shrink

    Stormtrooper_Shrink Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 11, 2004
    Don't ask me for assistance in this area. I have no imagination when it comes to titles, and people read my stories either because they know who I am, or because of the people it involves.
  9. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I use a lot of sources for my titles, but here's the main list:
    1) Religious texts (Then Comes the Night is from scripture)
    2) Shakespeare quotes (When SOrrows Come is from Hamlet)
    3) Quotes by SW characters (All the Wrong Places was inspired by "They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes.")
    4) Poetry (Dying of the Light was from "Rage against the dying of the light")
    5) Blunt references (I like "Attention, moron: Your pal is stealing your gal!" or "Me, my padawan, his girlfriend, and a bunch of handmaidens.")
  10. DarkDroid

    DarkDroid Jedi Youngling star 3

    Feb 3, 2004
    The title for my fan fic just randomly popped into my head while I was writing it. I guess I took the basic plot of my story and summed it up in two words, 'Dark Interventions'.
  11. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 10

    Sep 27, 2000
    I love your title Too much of not Enough! It fit with that piece brilliantly, and it gave the last line of it this really great punctuated summation that wrapped up the whole poem-ish thing ;)

    I have to tell you, when I noticed that Episode I of CG had a title for the first time, it just hit me immediately how great it was!Knightshift is so perfect on so many levels. :)

    I love using Shakespeare quotes as well! I think that even if the readers don't get the reference (especially if it's really obscure), the lyricism of his words still makes for great titling. For instance, this novel I'm writing (not a fic, an original) I've entitled Fiend Angelical (from Romeo and Juliet). I really love that title and it fits with the idea of light/dark dichotomy that the novel is about as well.

    I don't always think that 'shadow' and 'darkness' titles are bad. You just have to be careful about how you use them. It seems sometimes they are used very generically because they just sounded nice. The only time I've used one is In the Shadow of the Chosen: The Obi-Wan Kenobi Saga. I decided it would be ok to use because it was more of a specific reference to being in someone's shadow as opposed to using shadow as a generic term for evil. In this case, it's not meant to convey evil at all.

    That name... as in "Thank Ishtar!"...?

    Anyway, I also use religious texts (well, just the Bible) when searching for titles. Because of my own Christian beliefs, a lot of my themes in stories reflect Christian values that are shared with SW. I don't know that I've ever actually used scripture as a title, but I've considered it. For instance, I love the Biblical quote "with much wisdom comes much sorrow", but I couldn't figure out how to make that a title.

    Dying of the Light is a superb title and I'm completely jealous that you took it first :( "Do Not Go Gentle" is such a powerful piece of poetry, and that's a really awesome line.

    You bring up a good point about blunt titles. I think a lot of the time people think they need something with a really 'title' feel to it, when sometimes a phrase will work just as well and be more original. I have to say I don't think I've ever really gone that direction. I should try it. I have this fic that I'm writing that is as of yet untitled...hmmm... ;)

    What are everyone's favourite titles of fics they've written and fics they've seen? What are your personal titles of fics you've written that you wish you could change in restrospect?

    I've mentioned some of my favourite fic titles that have already been posted in this thread... I can't think of others right now for some reason...I'm sure they'll come to me.

    I just have to say, though, if ever I've written anything at all inspired, I think it's this title: Jedi Don't Let Jedi Fly Their Sleek, Sexy Starfighters Drunk. I just love that title, and that story, it's what happens when you get random comedy ideas at 2am ;)

    As for titles I don't like... hm... Coolness is stupid. :p That viggie is just meh all around.

    And I have to complain about something. I had a set of stories called Rebel Strike and then Lucasfilm goes and makes that into the title of the new Rogue Squadron game! :eek: I'm suing ;)

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
  12. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 30, 1999
    Hmm, I like titles that reflect the story more then anything.

    The Rohnin Darkhil/Black sheep trilogy was about the son of a Jedi Master (who hadn't a midichlorian to call his own) trying desperate to fit into society, his family etc. The first was called "Fitting In", the second (after he'd been captured and sold to slavers) was called "Standing Out" and the final one where he accepted himself was "Following the Crowd".

    Others are similar like "Meeting Monty", "Lost but Searching" etc. Others allude to something "So last season" deals with the ideas of one of the characters. "Flying lessons" deal with *ahem* thoughts of sucide.

    Mostly I look at the story for an idea, but they also just seem to spring an attack me in the form of small wild ferrets. :p

  13. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    Favorite title I've written: "In the Eye of the Beholder"--it's an AU in which Padme is dying as Vader searches for her and the Force gives them one more chance to save her. THey have to spend one night in each other's company and resolve themselves to see if they still want to spend their lives together, but they can't look at each other. So using a title about eyes for a blind date is so awesome, i personally think.
    Favorite title I've seen: By the Grace of Lady Vader. I think it's from the quote in there that says "People would live and die by the grace of Lady Vader."
  14. jedi_keladry

    jedi_keladry Jedi Youngling star 2

    Jan 25, 2004
    I love all the ideas previously posted here, and will be stealing them without shame in the future!

    Ever try free-association writing with this? I read everything I've written so far, then take pen in hand (not pencil, so I can't erase) and, to quote Yoda, clear my mind. I start writing everything that comes to mind. Even if it's plagiarism or hokey alliteration, just write it! This practice has yielded both hits and misses for me, but it's worth a shot.
  15. Excellence

    Excellence Jedi Knight star 7

    Jul 28, 2002
    There are many titles, ranging from silly to ominous to outright cliche. Star Wars titles are the worst you could ever find. Too many authors just have "Jedi" in them:

    Jedi Trial
    Jedi Healer
    Jedi Apprentice
    I, Jedi
    Jedi Eclipse
    Children of the Jedi
    Jedi Under Siege
    Jedi Bounty
    Ghost of the Jedi
    Legacy of the Jedi
    Trail of the Jedi
    Jedi Outcast
    (three more from that cancelled NJO trilogy, before Edge of Victory Duology)

    Then you have funny titles like The Hand that Wrote the Page or The Mouth that spoke those Words. Or the two-word titles like Kushiel's Dart, Survivor's Quest, Manta's Gift, Destiny's Way.

    I abhor one-word titles. They're cheating the book, and are criminally easy to think of. Look at the NJO: Traitor, Conquest, Rebirth, Ruin, Onslaught---what an easy and lame attempt to name a book.

    Every second fantasy book has "Dragon" in its title. How this doesn't put readers off I can't fanthom. I won't even touch the book unless it's name is something more original. Here are a range of fantasy titles.
    Dragon's Kin
    Dragon Reborn
    Eyes of the Dragon

    The list is endless but I'll stop there. What originality!

    The best titles have multiple meanings. Take Dark Forec Rising for instance. It refers to the dark side inherent with C'baoth's attempts to corrupt Skywalker, and alluds to the Katana Fleet's nickname, the Dark Force. The Evergence Trilogy is a good example of titles. Each means exactly what the book's about. Things like Whipsers of Tomorrow and Shadows that Never Was have a ring to them: mystique, evocative; so long as your wording of the title allude to what's within the book.

    I've always had a title before any book is written. I wouldn't dare title a book without it being as creative as possible. Its isn't hard, and with such bland examples out there, it's all the incentive you need!
  16. Drabbo_Fett

    Drabbo_Fett Jedi Padawan star 4

    Feb 5, 2003
    I agree about one-word titles -- or titles with "The" and one word -- most of which are generic, and some of which are cliche.

    For example, look at how many modern-era Star Trek episode titles fit that description. [There are about 250!] You could scramble them and reassign at random across the four series, and more than a few would fall on episodes they fit just as well.
  17. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 30, 1999
    I strongly disagree about one word titles - I actually think that they often work well in situations where a longer title would end up missing the point, or losing the force from what you were about to say. I did a story about substance addiction and simply titled it "consumed" there was nothing else to really say in the title. The word fitted perfectly with what was happening to the character as well as to what she was feeling.

    Repetative titles work well in a different sense. I know what I'm about to pick up is a fantasy book and I know it most likely contains dragons (dragonlance is a series by the way) and so it's fine by me. Personally, I'd rather make up my mind by what is inside the book rather then it's title alone.

  18. The_Jedi_Ambyr-Rose

    The_Jedi_Ambyr-Rose Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 24, 2003
    I use adjectives or one word nouns a bunch. I flip through lyric books to find phrases, too.

    A Graying Rose- popped into my head.

    Leave The Light On- Came from a John Mayer song.

    Intuition- looked it up as a language arts assignment.

    Tradewinds- that was on a worksheet at school.

    Those blunt references work, too.

    Just Keep Telling Yourself That.

    Of Course You're Not Crazy...Now, What Size Jacket Do You Wear?


  19. Excellence

    Excellence Jedi Knight star 7

    Jul 28, 2002
    Give us some examples, Kithera. What's a good one-word title that springs to mind?
  20. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I have one to nominate for 1-word title.

    INSATIABLE by Amidala_Skywalker.

    AERYN_SUN Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 1, 2001
    I think the thing about one word titles is that they're simply that, one word titles. You wouldn't want to write a fic that had a really, really long title. It's best to keep them short and to the point. It's also appropriate to think about how many characters you can squeeze in without something being cut off when it is finally posted.

    If one of my fics needs a long title, I try to go with at least 3-4 word title. No more than that. If not, a single title will work fine.

  22. Dev_Binks

    Dev_Binks Jedi Knight star 6

    Aug 7, 2003
    I find that I have to write a chapter or two before the title comes to me. Unless it's like Voyage of the Praxeum, which is self explanatory.
  23. Drabbo_Fett

    Drabbo_Fett Jedi Padawan star 4

    Feb 5, 2003
    To reiterate, my issue with most one-word titles isn't how well they fit with the stories to which they're attached. They usually do fit well, just as they could (and often do) fit just as well with a lot of other stories in a lot of other fandoms. They're generic. I could list a few one-word titles here that have been used not only for dozens of SW fics, but also for dozens upon dozens of Trek, X-Files, and Potter fics, as well as a few for just about everything else.

    [Frankly, the reason I'm not is that for each and every one, it's nearly a dead cert that someone reading this thread has used -- or has a good friend who has used -- it for his or her beloved magnum opus, and I don't want to be accused of picking on specific people.]
  24. Katana_Geldar

    Katana_Geldar Jedi Grand Master star 8

    Mar 3, 2003
    i usually start my stories without titles and find that comes along while i'm making it.
  25. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 30, 1999
    So what if they are generic? They are like names, in that there are only a few thousand or so to chose from and the best ones have usually already been used. Therefore people use the same one. Repetitiveness or reuse of a title is not a bad thing - nor does it mean the writer is uncreative.

    Good one word titles ( went thorough the Jemmiah's Chronicle pages and picked out the good ones. Be aware that the majority of these are vignettes so the title only has to refer to the goings on of the short story and not of the entire work):

    [link=]Consumed [/link]
    [link=]Feelings [/link]
    [link=]Choices [/link]
    [link=]Beginnings [/link]
    [link=] tea [/link]
    [link=] Vengence [/link]
    [link=] Duck [/link]
    [link=] Daddy [/link]
    [link=]Introspection [/link]

    I linked to all of them because ultimately when it comes down to it the title doesn't make the book. Having a bad title doesn't detract from an author's writing. Neither does a good title bolster the writings of a bad author. A title is a title - it's there to give a hint of information for what the story is about (aka. See dragon titled books for fantasy adventures). Whether you pick up and read that book is up to you. However, if the book is good and you reject it because you found its title too 'generic', 'boring' or 'repetitive' then more fool you.

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