Sunday, October 6, 2019

What To Call Your Story

Story Step Six

As some point in this writing process, you’re going to want to hang a title on your story. Don’t worry over what to call it this early. The purpose of giving a work in progress (WIP) a title is to differentiate it from any other story you’re writing. Finding the perfect title isn’t as important as writing the story.

The role of a working title is to give substance to your project. Ideas for possible titles will hit you as you wrestle the story into submission. Rather than change the working title every other day, just keep a list of possible titles.

Titles are not my strong point and I set myself up for headaches with my Tassanoxie series (all the stories are set in one town, but can be read in any order). It all started with the first book, Feather’s Last Dance. I was rather proud when I thought of it. Then, the second book ended up being titled Ellie’s Song. Hmmmm, by happy accident both books contained the heroine’s name.

Two published titles containing the heroine’s name gave me the (crazy?) idea to include the heroine’s name in all my Tassanoxie titles. For someone who lacks the coming-up-with-a-great-title gene, this probably wasn’t a good idea.

A holiday short story was the next entry into the Tassanoxie family. I set about choosing a heroine’s name that would reflect the season. Then I wrote a story the editors ended up calling A Christmas Diamond for Merry. It’s a mouthful, but my first and catchier choice (sorry, I don’t want to confuse you when you go looking for it!) had a lot of competition. It seems we writers share some of the same ideas for titles, especially ones for Christmas stories.

Susannah’s Promise, a novella, followed Merry. It took several tries to arrive at a title my unofficial committee of title approvers liked. I think the title for The Courtship of Selena Smith took longer to choose than it took to write the short story.

While it can seem a little daunting to come up with story titles, my advice is to write your story, get to know your characters, and your world. Stick with your working title, but keep your mind open to other possibilities. As I said earlier, jot them down. Let them age like a fine wine. What you thought would work well when you started your story may not feel right by the time you reach the end.

Then again, the working title might end up being the best title!