Anyway, so how to choose awesome titles? An internet search will find plenty of pointers. Most of them are things like, a title shouldn't be dull. In other words, "The Tree" or "Dog and Cat are Friends" don't make good titles. The title should pop. It should make people interested to read it. I've said this before, but I've run across several books that I would read just because the title is so great. For example, John Brown has a series entitled Servant of a Dark God. I've never read these books, so I can't say how great they are, but I would totally read them just for the title. It's one of the coolest titles I've ever heard! Just sayin.'
Granted, not all titles will make people go, 'Wow! That sounds awesome!' but even so, it should make them at least mildly curious. If someone browses titles and comes to something that piques their curiosity, even just a little bit, they'll probably look more closely. If your cover and/or blurb do their job correctly, then the title is the first step to getting browsers to buy your book!
RULE #1:MAKE SURE YOUR TITLE ISN'T DULL!
Okay so what else? How about relevance to the story? This may seem obvious, but I've come across a surprising number of books that whose titles have nothing to do with the story. I think you most often see this in murder mysteries and medical thrillers. Crime dramas and the like often have titles like 'Pure Evil' or 'Fearful Intent.' I'm sure these types of titles are a marketing gimmick to strike fear into the readers heart or something, but I'd rather the title told me something intriguing about the killer or the main character. To me, generic titles are a red flag for generic stories. For medical thrillers, I've read several that were just called, 'Shock,' 'Trauma,' 'The Heart,' or some other generic thing that's loosely related to the medical profession. Now, these books/stories weren't bad by any means, but the title just didn't fit them. Maybe it had something obliquely to do with the story, but I've read a few where, try as I might, I couldn't find a single thing that the title had to do with plot or characters.
RULE #2: MAKE SURE THE READER UNDERSTANDS HOW THE TITLE RELATES TOT HE STORY
Okay, so these were kind of both things not to do, so how do you come up with a good title? The thing that's worked best for me is using theme. You might see this described as using a metaphor for the title. Pride and Prejudice is a metaphor for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, but when you think about it, it was also one of many themes for the novel: what happens when we are proud or blindly prejudiced and how we might end up accidentally destroying our own happiness.
Now, if you're a decent writer (and we all know you are!) you must know what you're trying to say with your story; what message you're trying to bring across. So, brainstorm some themes and then pull out your thesaurus. Work from the themes to get a good title. Now, keep in mind rules # 1 & 2. Something like 'love conquers all' is a common theme, and not a bad one by any means, but it would make a horrible, generic title. Be more specific to your characters and conflicts. What specifically do they learn in the novel? What are they up against?
I'll give you an example. I already talked about the title to my dystopian novel in another post last week. If you want to know about it, scroll back. In 2013, however, I have a historical fiction slated for release. It's going to be a trilogy set in medieval Russia. I decided to call the series as a whole Kremlins. My main character is a maid in the Kremlin palace and she's been told her entire life how little she is worth. At the beginning, she's not a strong character. This story is about her journey toward strength and freedom, but for her it's a free mindset. She's offered physical freedom more than once, but doesn't have the enlightenment to be able to grasp it. Very late in the story (probably book 3) I have a secondary character say, "Sometimes I think we put up walls around ourselves, to protect ourselves, but it keeps us from living the life that God would have us live." So you see, this is about breaking down our own walls so that we can be happy. Kremlin is the Russia word for wall, so it was a fitting title for the story.
RULE #3: USE A THEME/METAPHOR OF THE STORY FOR THE TITLE
So there you have it: my formula for coming up with titles. That said, this is something I still struggle with a lot, and I would love some advice from others. How do you come up with titles for your stories?