Jul 22 2010
Does your title help readers answer at least three of the following questions about your novel? If not, it probably doesn’t say enough about the work.
- What’s the genre? (Action, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, horror, etc).
- What’s the subgenre? (Are we talking about an action with… Superheroes? Military/espionage? A natural disaster? Adventurers? Vampires/supernatural creatures? Mythological figures? etc).
- What’s the inciting event? (What event throws the main character out of his status quo/comfort zone?)
- What’s the main character like? (Anything that makes him more interesting to prospective readers or suggests his role–please note that using the character’s name in the title does not necessarily accomplish either)
- What’s the main antagonist like? (Same as for the protagonist)
- What’s the setting like? (Time and/or place)
- What’s the central goal of the main character and/or what’s at stake if he loses?
- What’s the author’s style like?
- Is there an interesting contrast between elements of the title?
If the title doesn’t nail at least three of these, I’d recommend rewriting it and/or starting over. Here are some examples that I enjoyed.
- Main character: a highly self-entitled, egomaniacal superhero, maybe a parody of Superman
- Goal: celebrity and recognition
- Contrast: The idealistic, lofty name “Captain Freedom” vs. his preposterously petty goal.
- Author style: I’d totally pick this up, assuming I could survive the cover.
Saddam Hussein and the Hippies from Space
- Main character and antagonist: Either Saddam Hussein and the space hippies or vice versa
- Genre: science fiction/comedy
- Author’s style: Wow. I love the contrast, too.
Autobiographies from Death Row
- Genre and subgenre: autobiography -> true crime
- Main character & setting: Readers can infer most of the stories feature violent felons in prison and/or crime-ridden areas
- Interesting contrast: Death Row inmates as authors. Also, Death Row inmates writing in a genre that emphasizes introspection.
- Genre/subgenre: comedy -> superhero
- Main protagonist: a struggling supervillain seeking power
- Author’s style: I liked this character voice.
- Contrast: It sounds like the character wants vastly more for himself than he actually has or will ever achieve.
The Taxman Must Die (the comic book I’m writing)
- Genre: action/comedy
- Main character/premise: a tax-collector running for his life
- Author’s style: I hope that readers can tell it’s got a wacky style.
- Contrast: Taxmen are about as unsuited for violence and assassination attempts as it gets.