#ISWG: Book titles or character names – what’s hardest to come up with?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeI’m a recent recruit to Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (the link takes you to details on what that means and how to join. You’ll also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge – do check them out).

On the first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

The awesome co-hosts for the June 6 posting of the IWSG are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

This month’s question: What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Book titles – without a doubt. Although, to be fair, it’s not coming up with the title that’s hard, it’s coming up with the right title that’s the tricky bit. And that’s important – right?

There are books that you read regardless (or in spite) of the title, but that’s usually because you know (and like) the author, you’ve read a glowing report from a trusted review or it’s been given a high recommendation by a fellow reader who shares your taste.

But when you’re new, when you’re an unknown (even relatively so), the title, the cover, these are things that can make or break your draw, your shelf appeal. My usual method for choosing a book in a bookshop is to pick it up and read the first few pages. But I don’t pick up every single book in the shop – no, I pick up those which catch my eye. And what catches the eye other than the cover – the graphics, the colours, the font, the title.

I’ve WIPs which have had more name changes that those proverbial hot dinners. The stupid thing is they’re not yet even close to being finished. But something about getting the right title makes me keep re-naming the document and amending the title page. Whilst that seems silly, each title change has helped me drive onwards. Something about the fact that I’m honing what I feel the book is about in my choice of name inspires me to continue writing.

Mind you, some of the titles I’ve chosen in the past do make me wonder what on earth I was thinking at the time …

Any and all advice for this tricky process would be most welcome!

© Debra Carey, 2018

15 thoughts on “#ISWG: Book titles or character names – what’s hardest to come up with?

Add yours

  1. OK, my first piece of advice would be “chill”. Regard your title as a working title, as a means to find your files! Secondly, You only need to angst about titles if you are self-publishing or e-publishing; if commercial publishing your publisher will (probably) devise an eye-catching title. The only author I know of who steadfastly refused to let a publisher change his titles was Neville Shute – but there may well be others.
    Thirdly, time spent fretting about titles is time you could be spending polishing your prose or getting on with the plot. What catches my eye first is name of author then title.
    But then again, what would I know? My books tend to have scintillating titles like ‘A Guide to the Theological Libraries of Great Britain and Ireland’! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alan, you do a grumpy old girl good by making her chortle! 🙂

    Your advice is absolutely sound. I realise my main problem with one or two WIPs is that I never knew where I was going with them, I just sat down and started to type, so the title changing has been born out of my trying to decide what my story is going to be about. I’m coming round to this planning malarkey, despite being a pantser by inclination.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No advice. I’ve never written fiction so I’ve never been faced with these challenges. How about I just say something supportive like “you’re doing great” [because you are] and then skip away… back into the easy [?] world of blogging. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Now that made me chortle even more (keep it coming world) ‘cos we *know* that the world of blogging ain’t easy to do as well as you do Ms Bean 🙂 But thank you for the supportive words, always (absolutely always) appreciated.


  5. I know what you mean about the right title providing inspiration to keep writing. That said, Alan’s point is well-taken about the lost time. The title doesn’t have to be perfect until it’s ready to be published. Now me, I waste my time changing the name of the main characters. I’m going to break the ‘find and replace’ feature of Word. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I saw this question somewhere else, not know it was part of the group.

    I actually come up with a title that I’m happy with pretty soon: I’m a Namer of Things. The hardest naming I ever had was with my theater company. I had three legal-size pages filled, in columns, with names for it. Finally came up with The Brothers Grinn after noticing a collection of Hans Christian Anderson on my shelf. Yeah, I’m not a real linear thinker, and I think you know that about me already.

    As to characters, esp my main ones, I need a name that has some meaning. Normally I like to find older versions of the name with the meaning I want so it’s not completely obvious. Sometimes I’ll go the opposite meaning just to be ornery.

    I also, like Alan wrote way above, I don’t worry if down the line I might change a title or name. The important thing is to get the words down in a reasonable amount of sense. That’s why editors created editing, why beta readers were invented. And your friend’s neighbor’s dog who poops on your lawn and you get a mental break that you refuse to take until you get that one last passage finished and you’re stubborn as anything to stop…ahem.

    What was the question again?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think as I become more of a planner and less of a pantser, the title will become less important and possible the character names will become my bug bear! 😉

    Can you imagine life before the ‘find & replace’ feature? Oh the horror …


  8. Natalie, as always this question has identified a problem which I’ve been half-heartedly dealing with by changing titles. I can see now that I need to go back to basics and hammer out what the darn story is about before I proceed further. I hope to join you in the ‘New Story’ world soon 🙂


  9. And we’re back to chortling 😀 😀

    Seriously though, I’m not a ‘Namer of Things’ as you (and David are). I just chuck whatever name comes to mind at my characters and keep on writing. This is why I have such problems with the Title. Having decided I need to plan more (not the full detailed type, just knowing where I’m going and how it ends) I could also stop worrying about naming and call my friend Stu to come up with something suitable, or even suitably ornery 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It is amazing how much more interesting this month’s question turned out to be than I had first thought. Your approach and relationship with your titles gave me pause. Manuscripts are living documents as we work on them and I like to think when they’re renamed it changes everything in them just a bit. In that sense, the right name is important – and not just to attract a new reader. Thanks for the new thoughts on the subject of titles and names.


  11. Welcome to IWSG. This is only my second week. I also change titles of my novels often, but decide on character names fairly soon. I agree that once a title is chosen, the writing flows more readily. Unfortunately, that is usually late in the process.


  12. Thanks for following my blog – reciprocated so look forward to reading more posts. For me, titles come with the concept or at least the outline. However, I reserve the right to change it. I’m sure they evolve with time – or marinade.


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