Choosing a title is something we all have to do. If you’re a writer, you need to title your stories and novels. If you’re an artist, you need to name your paintings or drawings. You could bypass this step, but when you plan to pursue your creative ventures as a career, even if part-time, you need titles on your work to be taken seriously.
And while naming your work may be easy for some, for others it’s not. For some of us, myself included, titling our work is sometimes harder than creating the work to begin with.
So how do we get past it and come up with the perfect name for whatever we’re working on?
Well, we can do a few things.
There is no wrong way to do it. How you go about naming you project is really up to you. But here are a few things you can try to get started.
Words, words, and more words
Grab a piece of paper and a pen. A notebook works as well.
Got those? Okay good, let’s get started.
Start writing any words that come to mind. Obviously you want to focus on your project for this. But start writing words down. You can list them neatly or write them all over your page, it doesn’t really matter, just get them down. Character names, major themes, important objects or elements, whatever you think has some importance to the piece. Keep going until you run out of words to associate with it.
Once you have those words, highlight the ones that stand out the most to you. Cross off anything you have second thoughts about (with a single line so you can always refer back to them later if you want). You’ll know what will and won’t work just by looking at them. If you’re on the fence with certain words, leave them there for now.
You can take as long as you’d like to do this.
The point is just to get it all out so you have some ideas on the paper, even if you end up not using them.
If you’re writing a novel, you can start this process in your brainstorming and planning stage and use the sheet to refer back to throughout the writing process to add more or take some words out as the story develops.
When you’ve finally got those words narrowed down to just a handful, you’re closer to finding your title. At this point you should have some key words to help you create a good name.
Keep in mind you might also want to have an idea of how long you’d like the title to be. Short titles are easier to remember, which is good for authors, but longer titles are more likely to be unique. Artists don’t generally have to worry too much about title length as most artists create a library of work every year and most people will search for the artist’s name rather than a specific piece.
Now pick up your list and stare at it some more. What stands out? Is there only one word that really stands out as being perfect for you? If so, does it work as a stand alone name, or will you have to include it in something longer to make it work?
Can you add a single word, or maybe just a pair of words, to complement the one that stands out? Take the one that stands out the most from the above list and try writing out a few titles to see how it sounds. Combine the word with other words that you like from your above list, or turn it into a statement or sentence.
Do some classic brainstorming
Because choosing a title is sometimes really hard, relying on brainstorming is a good way to go. We’ve already covered brainstorming as a way to get your creative juices flowing again, so now it’s time to talk about using it for titling.
I’m a firm believer in brainstorming on paper. I find that ideas flow a little better when you aren’t typing and you can scribble things alongside and scratch stuff out and whatnot.
So how do you go about this method? Just like above, you start writing. But this time you write out full title ideas as they come to you instead of just words.
Did a cool title come to mind while you were writing or drawing? Writer it down. Then write some other options. Try to vary things up enough so you aren’t just writing the same thing over and over in slightly different ways.
The first name that comes to mind isn’t always the best one, so it’s always good to have several options should the original idea turn stale in some way. And you don’t want that!
At this stage, a lot of people go online and search for their title to see how many others are using it. It’s not a a bad idea, and it will help you narrow down your choices based on which titles are already in use and which genre those works are.
Choosing a title this way requires the same process for narrowing down as the method above. Scratch out whatever doesn’t work and narrow things down until you find the right name. You can even ask for opinions from friends, family, or fellow creators at this stage if you really can’t decide between two or three of the names you’ve come up with.
Steal titles from other creators
Okay, so I’m not talking about actually stealing from anyone. That’s wrong. But borrowing is okay if you do it right.
What I’m talking about with this one is doing a search on your favourite search engine, or even on Pinterest, for the genre of your work. Look through the books or art that show up and take note of the titles.
If you’re writing a thriller, do a broad search for thriller novels. Even if it’s just images. As long as you can see what the titles are, it will work.
Start writing down the words or concepts that seem most prevalent in the genre you’re working. Are there certain words that show up more than others in the titles? Write them down. The rest plays out the same way as both of the above methods with narrowing it all down, but keep going until you think you’ve got enough.
A perk of doing it this way is that you can get an idea of what sells and what doesn’t, along with what is overused in your genre and what may end up setting you apart from your peers.
You can also go through your own book shelves and art collections and use those. Assuming you have art or books or the right genre, anyway. (I still highly recommend looking online even if you do go through your own collection, though, as it will give you a wider variety and more ideas to work with.)
Use music to help you figure it out
I’ve talked about using music to fuel your ideas before, and I’m going to do it again.
Just like in that other post, do yourself a favour and turn on some music. Write down any titles or lyrics that stand out and help enhance your work.
If you use song names to help you name your own work, make sure you aren’t overstepping any copyright boundaries. Try to choose a song name that isn’t super unique, but still works for you.
I personally prefer to use song lyrics rather than the name so that it’s not always as obvious that you’ve borrowed it, but it’s really up to you.
Choosing a title from a song name or lyrics is an option you can look at, and I have found it’s great for naming art, but I wouldn’t really recommend it for a novel or series or any sort. If you choose a song name and alter it to suit your project, that’s great, but be careful when reusing an existing name.
Things to keep in mind when choosing a title
- Make sure the title you choose actually works for your project. You don’t want to confuse your audience when the name of your project has nothing to do with the content of your work.
- You might not get it right the first time, and that’s okay. Just keep thinking on it. Maybe step back and take some time away from it entirely before you come back. *Taking time away is better for people working on long haul projects like novels or comics. Obviously you don’t want to spend a ton of time working out a title for a piece of art that took you a day or less to create.
- Just because someone else is using a title you desperately want to use, or something close to it, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it too. Just keep in mind that if it’s something really unique, it may be under copyright. Make sure you check into it.
- If you do choose to use a name that is already being used by someone else, remember that there is more competition that way. People may have a harder time stumbling on your work if you choose a name that someone much more well-known is using the same name for one of their projects.
- Try to choose a name that not only works with your work, but also enhances it. It should complement the work and give it some more dimension. It should speak to your ideas and themes.
Hopefully one of these things helps you figure it out! There are countless ways to help you in choosing a title for whatever project you’re working on. You just need to figure out which way works best for you.
The methods listed above are just to get you started. So go get creating and naming your stuff!
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