Articles submitted to magazines are often renamed before publication. Publishers frequently publish novels with different titles from the ones dreamed up by their authors.
Titles are rarely counted as part of competition or submission wordcounts. With a limit of 101 words, this title was cleverly used to signal what the story was about. Without it, I might have struggled to understand the narrative.
So how can I find a killer title?
When I struggle to find the word I want in the pea soup that is my brain, I resort to online thesauruses (or is that thesauri?) which seems a good place to start for my title. Take, for example, the story prompt Recovery for a competition.
Word’s built-in THESAURUS (activated by pressing the Shift key and F7 together) suggests a number of alternatives, and clicking on any of these will offer more. I’m sure other word processors have similar options, but you can Google “recover synonyms” or “thesaurus” to find alternatives. I often use thesaurus.com.
From the alternatives offered, I might fancy playing with retrieval, restoration, reclamation, recapture, rescue, healing, upturn, renewal. . .
Already spin-offs present themselves with ideas to weave into my tale that would give its title layers of relevance.
PUNS work well in titles. Recovery might be a tale about upholsterers. New Day Dawning could be about a girl called Dawn coming out of rehab. Likewise, jargon is an option; Rebooting or System Restore set the tone for a computer-related background.
There is NO COPYRIGHT on titles. If you want to call your story Back to the Future no one can sue you (although you might have some disappointed readers). Don’t forget song titles. . . We Can Work it Out, Walk Right Back. . . How about nursery rhymes – London Bridge is Falling down, Nuts in May?
Then there are LINES from poetry. Not With a Bang, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Things Fall Apart have, sadly, been hijacked already, but everyone has a favourite poem. . . Am I wandering from my Recovery theme?
Beware of song lyrics though. Those are copyright and are jealously guarded.
We’re told to avoid CLICHÈS in our writing, but clichès are fair game for titles. Our Recovery synonyms might be replaced by New Leaf; One Step at a Time; Good as New (Bad as New?)
Having given myself some ideas, I’ll go and revisit that story prompt that failed to inspire me; although it’s the competitions that blithely propose “any theme” that leave me totally blank. Maybe I’ll spend an afternoon researching old proverbs or finding a website of poems I learned at school.