name-tagI don’t know about you, but when I’m writing a story it’s very rare for me to start with a title.  I tend to come up with a character or a first line and go from there, or if I’m entering a competition I’ll maybe take the theme and start with a related scenario, scribbling away until I’ve got my story.  On the occasions when I have begun with a title, I’ve often had to change it at the end because what I ended up writing had no relation to that original idea (see also: university dissertation). 

This quite often leaves me staring at a story, scratching my head and wondering what to name it.  I imagine it’s the same feeling new parents get when looking at their tiny human. 

Parent A: ‘What name could possibly encapsulate the wonder and potential of this new life?  He’s tiny and beautiful, and he could change the world!’
Parent B: ‘I dunno, how about… Barry?’

But in fact it is easier for new parents to deal with this problem, because Barry – although arguably a strange thing to pop into your head when staring into the face of a lickle baby – is a legitimate human name.  I can’t very well call my story Barry.  There are no characters called Barry in it, for a start – it just wouldn’t make any sense.

So, what to do in this situation?  I have a few suggestions.

  1. Make someone else read the story and suggest titles. 
    1a. If they have nothing, heap scorn upon their ideas safe in the knowledge their weird suggestion has actually sparked quite a good one in your superior writer brain.
  2. Take a line from the story and use that.  Preferably one that relates to the text somehow, or is vaguely poetic/literary sounding.  ‘Then they all had a drink of juice’, however important to the narrative, may not be the one you want.
  3. Nick a song lyric or line from a poem.  That way if it’s terrible you can blame Oscar Wilde, or One Direction.
  4. Use a pun.  People love puns.
  5. Just call it Barry.
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