I am a member of several Facebook groups that are dedicated to writing. The people who post and the people who comment are writers, readers, novelists, editors, fans, and a few trolls. One of the more popular topics is the Choosing of a Title. A writer might be near the end of her first draft of a novel and still not have a name for it. Others may have little more than an idea, but need a title as a goal to lead them on. I rarely comment on these threads – not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I usually have a whole raft of opinions and I don’t think a long essay would be well-received.

But I would like to address the subject here. I decided to set a game for myself. I first went to several different sites that offer writing prompts and randomly picked out ideas in five different genres. Here they are:

Contemporary Fantasy – A Faustian musician who’s trying to resurrect a dead musician so they can jam together.

Romantic Fantasy – A knight who spends five years trying to break a spell cast on him by a witch, only to slowly fall in love with her.

Science Fiction – The first mission to land a human on Mars succeeds. The astronauts are exploring the planet for themselves, and they meet humans who landed thousands of years ago and have evolved for the Martian climate.

Romance – A student on a study abroad trip falls in love with the bartender at the pub down the road, and on the last day of classes before she leaves, she confesses her feelings.

Mystery – A woman researching her genealogy finds that several people from different branches of her family all died in the same mysterious location — of unknown causes.


I will try to come up with four different possible titles for each idea using my four Title Formulas. I will also try to keep in mind that there are words that are closely linked to each genre that can only increase the titles’ appeal to readers of that kind of fiction. I get to put in “The” or “A” whenever I feel like it. Here are the formulas:

Gerund  (verb + ing)

Adjective + Non-Matching Noun

Stand-Alone Adjective

Stand-alone Noun


Contemporary Fantasy (The musician thing) –


Discordant Magic

The Cavalier

The Symphony

Romantic Fantasy (The knight and the witch thing)


Dangerous Enchantment

The Powerless


Science Fiction (The astronauts on Mars thing)

The Seeking

The Freezing Warmth

The Abandoned


Romance (The girl and the bartender thing)

The Comforting

In Silent Gardens


The Hawthorn

Mystery (The genealogy thing)

The Uncovering

Dishonest Blood


The  Document


How did I do? There are, admittedly, some real clunkers up there, but some others that I think are not too bad. What do you think?

When I was a kid, I was crazy for cartoons. My older brother Chuck would see me trying to draw something, take a look, and sneer some insult. My response was always, “Let’s see if you can do any better.” I was on safe ground then, because Chuck couldn’t draw his way out of a wet paper sack. With a little more trepidation, I’m issuing the same challenge to you.

Create as many or as few titles as you want for these five story blurbs. Use my Title Formulas or just put down anything that puts some elastic in your drawers. Send it to me and I’ll put it in the next newsletter.

Thanks for your attention and we’ll talk in a couple of weeks.