Naming Novels and Narrative Non-fiction

Yes, I’ll admit it. I do judge books by their covers. And their titles.

Which may explain why I’m having such a hard time coming up with titles for the three works I have in progress. That’s right, three, with two more in the planning stage.

But back to titles. If readers judge books by titles, then the wrong title can kill sales faster than an alien death ray. So now I’m paralyzed, afraid to pick a title that could make all my efforts come to naught.

My first book, Beyond the Rapids, named itself. The story is set mostly in the city of Zaporozhe, Ukraine. The word Zaporozhe means “beyond the rapids.” A major theme of the book was that the principle characters were able to survive horrible persecution for their faith because they were able to look beyond their problems, the trials and hardships in their lives, and focus on God. The idea of river rapids became a good metaphor for the suffering they endured. A title was born with almost no effort.

It’s not been so easy for the others, especially for the memoir I am ghostwriting. This is a story of a woman born in India, raised as a Hindu, who struggled to obtain an education in a culture that didn’t routinely educate girls. Through hard work and determination, she finished medical school and moved to the United States. After many years she was a successful allergist and had converted to Christianity. Then she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and was given weeks to live. Through experimental, risky treatments and much prayer, she has survived three years.

It’s a great story, but what to call it? I was stumped.

So I was thrilled to see this wonderful blog post giving some suggestions for coming up with titles. So using their tips, I got to work, and looked over my list of possibilities

The first thing to consider is what emotion or mood do I want the title to convey. For the memoir, the mood is one of hope after great trial. Rats. Many of my favorites had an element of whimsy or humor. Not the overall mood of the book, so they are doomed to the elimination pile:

Flight of the Coconut
Freeing the Coconut
A Coconut’s Escape
The Trapped Coconut
The Uncaged Coconut
Setting the Coconut Free
The Unchained Coconut
She Didn’t Know I am Really A Coconut

The next tip talks about genre vibe, and the need to have a title that somehow fits the genre. My coconut suggestions work well if I’m writing a humorous memoir, but that’s not the main mood of the book.

Reader Expectations are also important to consider. While the coconut titles have that element of whimsy, the book itself doesn’t. Unless I’m prepared to do some massive re-writing, they just don’t fit.

Fortunately, the wonderful blog post didn’t end there. It suggested including names of people and places, phrases that capture the soul of the story, describe the story, themes or concepts, or the character’s goals, among other things. From this, I was able to add to my list:

Freed from a Trap
Always Another Trap
The Key to Freedom
Better than a Blue Jay
Search for Freedom
No Escape on my Own
One Trap Leads to Another
The Hidden Trap
Freedom from the Hidden Trap
The Truth will Set You Free
India’s Trap
Shadow Freedom, Real Freedom
I Need to be Free
Nagging my way to freedom
Fleeing India
Fleeing Oppression
Unseen Idols
Invisible Idols
Surviving Oppression
Conquering Every Obstacle
How I Conquered by Giving Up

What do you think? Do any of these grab your attention? Spur your interest? Make you want to read the book? Or should I throw out the list and start over?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *