I’m afraid any advice I can give on titling will have to be taken with a grain of salt, since it’s such a challenge to me, too! But here are some of the things I’ve tried or heard to try.
- Recurring or significant imagery in your story. Is there a person, place, or thing that plays a pivotal role in your piece or that can serve as a metaphor for the piece?
- A phrase one of your characters thinks or says that sums up the essence of your story.
- A play on other titles or word combinations that are easily recognizable. For example, I titled my retelling of Sleeping Beauty “Waking Beauty.”
- A common saying, line from a song, or other recognizable cultural reference. “All the Pretty Little Horses,” or “She’s Come Undone,” are titles that fall along these lines. I think of this method as being one where you let someone else do the work for you!
- The name of a central character in your story or a specific place that is crucial.
One thing I think I’ll have to resort to is making lists of all the words I associate with a story, then mixing and matching them as if I were coming up with an IM name for myself or something. Imagining the title on a book cover also helps, as does entering it into the first page of your document to see whether it’s placement there feels right. I also discovered LuLu’s Titlescorer, which is fun despite the fact that it’s probably only about as accurate in predicting the future of your book as a Magic Eight Ball would be. Still, using it I discovered what I feared: “Go to Hell” stands up as a title better than anything I’ve come up with since.