#20: How to Choose a Title

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Hello, fabulous Story Nurse! I was wondering if you have any advice about figuring out titles for pieces of writing. I feel like the titles that naturally come to me are either vague and unremarkable (e.g. my story “Free State,” which is about a queer woman shapeshifter in Bleeding Kansas, but you wouldn’t know that from the title) or entirely too on-the-nose (e.g. I was trying to come up with a working title for my novel-in-progress so I can put it on my CV, and the best thing I could come up with was “Stolen Sisters,” which is kind of okay, I guess, but one of the inciting incidents of the story is the protagonist’s sister getting abducted, so again, it feels a little obvious). As a result, then, any advice you might have about titles would be most welcome!

—What’s in a Name (she/her)

Dear What’s in a Name,

This is definitely a challenge, and it can feel like a really big challenge. A title is your very first interaction with the reader, and it carries significant weight. But if you think of it as communication, rather than as a summary that is somehow meant to encompass everything the story is while not giving anything important away, that can help you decide how to shape it.

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