I 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nick a song lyric or line from a poem. That way if it’s terrible you can blame Oscar Wilde, or One Direction.
- Use a pun. People love puns.
- Just call it Barry.