How to Find your Title

Goldener Drachenkopf

Just a Dragon.

So yesterday, I finished writing a little short story. It takes place in the Cloud Lands Saga world, and is about a side character. In fact, it’s a little adventure in his youth, which does help to understand how he became the man he is in the series.

And now the little story needs a title.

Which made me think about titles and how I go about them. And maybe you’re interested in the thought process. So these are things I tend to think of when mulling title ideas.

1. The title needs to be connected to the story

This is not quite as idiotic as it seems. I’ve seen titles that had nothing to do with the story. They were just meant to catch attention. Of course, that can really mislead readers and lead to disappointment, if not anger.

So the title needs to have a connection to the story, and it needs to express something of the story. In my case, it gets the main character’s name.

2. The title must not give away the solution

My little story is about a rescue. But if I put that word into the title, it totally gives away the solution. In fact, making the rescue possible is the whole challenge for the main character. If I put “rescue” into the title, I take away the challenge, at least for the reader.

The story would become boring. And that’s why the story won’t be called “Dragon Rescue”.

3. The title should create interest or curiousity

Now, in this story, I assume that my readers have read the series and are aware of one of the biggest longings of the main character, and how far it is out of his reach. Just to make sure, it is expressed in the story, as well.

But in fact, the title I have in mind states something that should not be normal for that particular character. And that’s why it should generate curiosity at least for the people familiar with the world and the series, because the person’s title is “wrong” for the one they got to know in the series.

Which is also why I put the the character’s name in the title I have in mind.

4. The title needs to be short and to the point

There are exceptions. One that comes to mind is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime”. Of course, that title works especially well in combination with the main character of that novel, and it’s certainly unusual enough to draw attention to it.

The same goes for “The Martian”, on the other hand, because as far as we know, there are no Martians. And this one is definitely short, catchy and interesting.

In addition, a short and catchy title helps people remember the book and the story.

I got the name of “The Curious Incident…” wrong when tried to remember it and had to google it to give you the correct version. This is important because you want your readers to recommend your book to their friends, and if the title is too difficult to remember, that’s a problem.

5. The title should be unique

This is not easy at all. There are billions of books out there, and there is no way to check them all. But it’s a good idea to google your intended title. I did that for a German novel I wrote (“Finderlohn”), and discovered there is a book with that title out there written by Stephen King.


So my book gained a subtitle. Because while it’s nice to have your book high up in search results, the potential for confusion is just as high. And you don’t want confused or angry readers.

So what is the title of the story I wrote?

“Prince Elsen’s Ride”

And I’ll let you know how you can get it as soon as I have it formatted and all that.

About Hannah Steenbock

Hannah Steenbock is an author, dreamer, and coach. She has published several short stories in English and German, as well as one novel in German. In 2013 she started self-publishing her work. In 2014, she has won two awards for her short story "Sequoia".
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