Why Titles are Literally the Worst

This is an Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. To join the group yourself, head over to their website and don’t forget to throw a ninja salute at our captain, Alex J Cavanaugh.

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The co-hosts for this month’s posts are Beverly Stowe McClureTyrean MartinsonTonja Drecker and Ellen the Cynical Sailor, stop by and check out their posts as you’re hopping today!

The question (totally optional, you little rebel, you) for June 6th is: What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Answer: Titles. Titles are the hardest thing ever. Titles are horrible, nasty, brain-killing beasts.

khan gif
Actual depiction of how I Shatner-yell “TITLES!” when it’s time to beg the muse for one.

Compared to titles, naming my characters is a breeze. I can use names I like the sound of, names which flow smoothly off the tongue. Alliterative names, names that pay homage to friends or family by sneaking in their name/nickname. I especially love to get in subtle digs at my enemies by including them as the villain with a slightly different name which still makes me think of them (this probably says a lot about my character and morals as a person and you know what I’m still going to do it, so mwahaha and all that).

I can go all J.K Rowling on my characters and imbue their names with lots of symbolic meaning and Latin-root hints. In my upcoming novella with eXtasy Books one of the main character’s names is Asher, which is Hebrew for joy, and that was very much deliberate and meaningful for the plot. Including little easter eggs like that is one of the obscure, probably meaningless, literary, sorta pretentious, bookwormy joys of my writer life. I love coming up with character names.

But titles. Ahhhh, titles. Such a different story.

How do you encapsulate all of the ideas in the story in one pithy little phrase? What magic enables other authors to come up with a wonderfully fitting, dramatic title? How do you shove the meaning of your entire book into one or two words? How do you make it interesting, apt, evocative, perhaps even punny, but not too long, or too vague, or too boring?

No, really, how? That wasn’t a rhetorical question.


Perfect title incoming in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . DENIED

Blegh. Titles are awful. In all honesty, I usually end up trawling Amazon to gather inspiration from which titles are selling well in my genre right now, then tweaking the different ideas for my own story. And I head over to the Kindlepreneur list of free book title generators a lot of the time, too.

For my own entertainment I used the title generators to come up with the worst titles of all time in several different genres and posted the results. It was way more fun than coming up with actual, serious titles, tbh. I mean, by the end of it there was a rejected children’s book titled “Forty Whacks and Bedtime Snacks, a Child’s Compendium of Famous Serial Killers” and really, I might as well retire right now.


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happy upbeat songs

Terrific work! That is the kind of information that should be shared around the internet. Disgrace on the seek engines for now not positioning this post higher! Come on over and discuss with my site . Thank you =)


A title generator??? No kidding, wouldn’t that be helpful. I have trouble creating meaningful, pithy titles for sure. Thanks so much for a great post. All best to you.

E.M.A. Timar

I have never tried a title generator, but after your post I am seriously itching to. I agree titles are completely challenging. I have a working title that I now know I have to change (thank you practice pitch at a conference). I just hope inspiration will hit when the time comes and I am pitching and querying for real.
P.S. Sorry for being late on my IWSG comment, got sick on Wednesday and finally out of zombie-mode.

Alex J. Cavanaugh

I couldn’t agree more! Titles suck. Well, coming up with them sure does.


I’m with you on titles being the tricky bit, so I was delighted to bookmark that generator, thank you 🙂

And yeah, great gifs …

Raimey Gallant

For my last book, I knew the title right away, but for this one, aghhhhh!!! I get it. It’s so hard. Happy IWSG day! http://www.raimeygallant.com


Just think temporary title and then take a poll. Adding stress or fussing will shorten your life. Heck it could evolve into a blog series. 😉

Anna from elements of emaginette


Okay, confession. I got mentally trapped by that gif of the dude busting his tailbone trying to cannonball his way into a frozen pool. Like, I stared at it repeating itself for several minutes! Bless that guy’s heart for trying to play it off as “hey, I’m okay,” but I’m betting it took him some time getting up to hobble over to the phone to call for transport to the local hospital. Holy Hannah! Anyway, I’m so sorry to hear that you stress so much over titles. Don’t sweat it! That’s what the publishing professionals are for, or if we self-publish, that’s what alpha and beta readers are for. No worries, my friend. Thanks for the post, and happy writing to you! 🙂

PJ Colando

I love, love, love the idea of generating a blog post based upon a gif! Emotion in motion – hahaha!

I’m new to Insecure Writers Group and trying to get the gist… I posted today and have no idea if I “did it right”.

Though, haha, I did write!

I didn’t know that was the meaning behind the name Asher. I should probably think more about the meaning behind my character’s names. I like your idea of having little Easter eggs related to how I name them and who they might represent in real life.

Tonja Drecker

I’ll have to try that title generator. Sounds like fun. It’s character names which cause me trouble. Titles seem to make themselves…but then, maybe they aren’t good titles 😉


LOL! Yes, let’s come up with the worst titles of all time, eh? You are the first person to say exactly what I feel–that names are attached to the meaning behind them, and how symbolism influences their choice. I don’t struggle with names either, because I know how to get at the heart of a character. Titles used to give me a hard time, until I had editors and a publisher, and then I didn’t have to worry about it. I think just taking the stress off allows the creative mind to function.

Teresa C.

Titles are tricky but for sure something I like to create.

Teresa c.

D.R. Shoultz

Good post. Love your clips. I’m not big on spending time on burying symbolism, history, subtle messages or anything else into my character names. I’m not that clever, and I don’t believe most readers find it all that intriguing. I do think book titles matter, and it takes me a while to come up with one that fits. I’ve never tried a title generator, but several writers have mentioned them this month. I guess I’ll give it a try… just for grins.

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