Insecure Writers Support Group badgeBook titles or character names, which gives you more difficulty?

The question for the June Insecure Writers Support Group completely slipped my mind, I was so intent on my 30 Days Wild challenge.  So I’m doing it for the Fourth of July instead, since many of you will be off celebrating, parading having barbecues and eventually fireworks.  Here in England it’s just a regular day at work.  Or golf, as the case may be.

My Strategy for Book Titles

My best strategy for book titles is to get a great title and then write the book.  The book generally works out to be relevant to the title.  There is one catch in this – some titles have been taken already.  Many times.  Then I don’t write the book.

My second best strategy is to write the book with a working title, e.g. X Series book 2. Then I have an inordinate amount of trouble finding something that resembles a decent title.  I can scan through the book looking for a catchy phrase, like The Left Hand of Darkness.  (It’s taken).  Using Shakespeare quotes doesn’t work either.  I’m never any good at making puns on quotes either, like The Taming of the Brew – a good cozy mystery title, I think.  Check whether it’s been used and you can have it, I don’t want it!

I always check my titles on Amazon.  If there’s more than one using the same title, consign it to the bin.  If you think it’s a good idea, well, off you go, but remember, if you look it up on Goodreads, and people get 25 pages of the same title, or titles that start the same, they may well give up before finding yours.

Then again, I suppose there’s a chance of them finding yours by mistake.  Maybe it’s a greater chance than them finding my unique one.  Hmm.  Maybe I should change this strategy.

My Strategy for Character Names

I don’t have one. I make them up as I go along. Maybe it’s because I have read tens of thousands of CVs (resumes) in my time, that I don’t have too much difficulty finding names, although I could improve my diversity ratings.

Character names for alien species are slightly more difficult. As someone pointed out, K’ddith Sk’ortag is all very well, but how are the readers supposed to pronounce it in their heads? and…. can you guarantee you’re going to type it correctly through your entire manuscript?  I was very proud of Arko Fanwester as a name.  Although at one point I changed him to Zarko.

Fred and George 2008One thing though… if you name your characters after your own and your friends’ guinea pigs, and you (and they) name the guinea pigs after fictional characters, you could end up with plagiarism problems.

Just like my princelings Fred and George.


This was a very late contribution to the June Insecure Writers Support Group, because I preferred this question to the one for July.  I hope you enjoyed it anyway!


Book Titles vs Character Names #IWSG
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13 thoughts on “Book Titles vs Character Names #IWSG

  • 4 July, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Well, if you named them after the actors who played the Tarleton twins in “Gone with the Wind” there’s no problem, is there? And it’s not like your princelings are redheads with magical powers… Until someone does something crazy (again) and puts a trademark on a name or combination of names, I think you’re good 🙂

    As for titles: there’s no copyright on them and sometimes having something in common with other books can help people accidentally find yours (as long as there aren’t 25 pages to go through, as you said).

  • 4 July, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    I like your strategies. Happy IWSG!

  • 4 July, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    I think that having a title similar to one or two others may be helpful, as people will see your book when looking for the others. But if there are even 6 books with exactly the same title… not so good. Makes you seem unoriginal. I have avoided using any title that’s already been used, but did get a boost when a mainstream series came out using almost the exact same title as one of my books!

    Agree about the problem with character names you don’t know how to pronounce. “Real world” characters are pretty easy to name, but you are so right about fantasy ones! I have a lot of trouble with that

    And I’m not the person to write it, but your “Taming of the Brew” sounds to me like an excellent start to a mystery series set in a brewpub. Probably in Portland (OR) or Seattle 😀

    • 10 July, 2018 at 10:08 pm

      I am beginning to rethink my strategy… and I saw another series involving viridian out last autumn. Maybe we’ll help each other!

  • 5 July, 2018 at 2:52 am

    I’m with you on titles leading to the novel – works most of the time. For the sequel to my current police procedural WIP (Fates Maelstrom), I found a quote from Goethe that gave a vague idea more substance and firmed up the title – Seeking A Knife.

    • 5 July, 2018 at 6:18 am

      My last 2 mysteries have come title-first. I’m not even sure how I got to “Death By Trombone.” I think I was just looking for something absurd 🙂 But once I’d thought of it, I had to write the book.

    • 10 July, 2018 at 10:09 pm

      Oh, that’s nice. I suppose the Dictionary of Quotations might come in handy…

  • 6 July, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I don’t often have titles for the stories when I start writing. I just cross my fingers that I’ll figure it out eventually.

    • 10 July, 2018 at 10:12 pm

      It’s taken me a long time to come up with some of them.

  • 7 July, 2018 at 12:09 am

    Huh. That’s so interesting how you start with a title and write from there, and if you can’t think of a title you don’t write the book. I’m the opposite. I don’t put much thought into my titles. In fact, I once wrote an entire novella (never to see the light of day, by the way; it was an exercise just for me) titled “This title is temporary.” Ha! Isn’t it interesting how different folks’ writing processes can be? Thanks for the post, and happy writing to you. 🙂

    • 10 July, 2018 at 10:12 pm

      I think it was because I didn’t believe I could write fiction, but I wanted to write my princelings books so badly… and there would be three with those titles…. I’ve eventually got there with the later books, but it’s not as easy – or else it’s easier to get my plot straight if I have a title.
      The same applies with flash fiction – I’d rather have a title to start with. It’s easier!

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