You’ve done it! After weeks and months of nonstop writing you’ve finally finished your book.
But now a new challenge confronts you… what’s the perfect book title?
And this step is important too. In fact, it’s everything.
It’s one of the first things reader see before opening to page one. Next to cover art, this is the most important marketing decision you can make.
Why Most Book Title Generators Suck
Let’s face it… most book title generators out there are completely useless.
What’s the point in generating random titles for your book if the titles have nothing to do with your story?
I’m currently working on a fantasy project right now. Here are the first ten book titles suggested to me by one of these random generators:
- The Splintered Bow
- The Ember in the Fog
- The Oracle in the Winter
- The Creed of the Raven
- Dragon’s Return
- The Masked Axe
- The Shadow Warrior
- The Tangled Oracle
- North of Light
- The Tomb in the Dust
While those might actually sound like real book titles, they’re all worthless. None fit my story. You can’t pull random titles out of a hat and think one is going to work for your unique story.
My novel doesn’t revolve around anyone with a bow or who can see the future. Dragon’s Return is way too generic. Shadow Warrior sounds like a bad action flick. And I have no idea what the hell a masked axe is even supposed to mean.
Not just any story… YOUR unique, individual, one-of-a-kind story.
This article shares every single method, trick and tip for creating book titles as I could think of. They’re the result of many all-day brainstorming sessions with some of my writer buds. We researched thousands of story titles in the process for both movies and novels.
The result is 25 time-tested techniques for creating unique, original, and interesting titles for your stories. I’ve also included dozens of examples to draw inspiration from.
Whether it’s a book, screenplay, or short story… this process works.
25 Book Title Ideas To Title Your Novel
Below you’ll find 25 unique and distinct book title ideas. Try using each one to come up with at least 5 titles for your novel. By the time you’re done you’ll have over 100 potential titles for your book!
Book Title Idea #1: Use Three Words or Less
The shorter your title is, the better. If a brief and direct title fits your story, go for it. There’s nothing stopping you from using a one word title either.
There are plenty of examples:
Lolita (1962 / 1997)
The Swimmer (1968)
The Godfather (1972)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Bourne Identity (2002)
It’s said that stories with titles of three words or less have a better chance of becoming a bestseller. Less is more.
As you try some of the following methods, aim for shorter titles if possible. Try to keep your title as brief and easy to remember.
But if a longer title suits your story better, go for it. There are plenty of lengthier titles out there that still grab the attention of readers.
Just be aware that the longer your story’s title is, the more trouble you potentially run into. So choose wisely.
Book Title Idea #2: Use The Name or Title of The Main Character
Who is the story always about, no matter what?
The main character of course!
If your main character’s name or position would also double as a catchy story title, go ahead and give it a shot.
Titles such as “The Boxer” or “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” promise intimate character study that will attract readers.
There are thousands of stories out there that use this method. To list them all would be redundant.
But here are some popular ones from the past century:
Doctor Zhivago (1965 / 2002)
The Godfather (1972)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Coach Carter (2005)
Book Title Idea #3: Use The Story's Setting
If your story is set in one prominent place, consider using it as the title. You can also describe the location rather than naming it directly.
Stories often take place in a sub-culture of some sort. And those different “story worlds” come with a distinct set of characters, plots, and themes.
For example, if the story is titled “New York, New York!” we know that it isn’t going to be about the country roots of southern Georgia.
A big trend in children’s fantasy is to use both the main character and setting and give them silly names.
Take “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” for instance. It’s uses big, silly sounding words and names for its characters and setting. It instantly gets the attention of the target audience — young children.
But your story doesn’t have to be a child’s tale to include the setting in the story’s title.
Here are a few more “serious” films that also use this technique:
Peyton Place (1957 / 1964)
Lonesome Dove (1989)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Cold Mountain (2003)
Mystic River (2003)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Town (2010)
Book Title Idea #4: Possessives
Possessives are story titles where one object is in the possession of another.
For example, if your story is about stealing your best friend Jesse’s girlfriend, you could title you story “Jessie’s Girl.”
In fact, that might make for a pretty damn good song too!
The possibilities with this method are endless. Every story has several characters in relation to one another. As well as several items or places of importance.
Here are a couple possibilities off the top of my head:
The Junkyard Dog
Helen of Troy
You can also rearrange the words too for different variations. “Helen of Troy” could also be “The Troy Helen” or “Troy’s Helen”. Play around with it a bit and see which one works best for you.
Here are some classic examples of type of title:
Portnoy’s Complaint (1969)
The Optimist’s Daughter (1969)
Charlotte’s Web (1973 / 2006)
Angela’s Ashes (1999)
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
My Sister’s Keeper (2009)
Book Title Idea #5: Use Symbolism, Metaphors and Analogies
These types of titles often have a double meaning. They may refer to more than one thing in the story. Or they may describe the entire story as a whole.
For example, let’s say your story is about a young widow who leaves her home in the country for the big city of Miami, Florida. There, she meets a her soul mate in the middle of a hurricane.
A fitting title for this story could be “Eye of the Storm”. An eye of the storm is a region of calm weather found at the center of strong tropical cyclones.
The title would have two meanings. One, the main character meets her love in the eye of an actual storm. And two, she meets her lover in the “eye of the storm” of her life.
Her husband died a tragic death, which could be viewed as the beginning of the storm. Then she meets her lover in the calm middle, the eye of the storm. What comes next is the other side of the storm when the new lovers face some obstacle to true love.
Will their love be strong enough to “weather the storm” of a chaotic relationship?!? Stay tuned to find out!
Pretty cool, huh? And the possibilities are endless.
If you put your mind to it, you’ll likely come up with a good analogy or metaphor to title your story.
Here are some popular movies that have used this method:
The Eye of the Needle (1978)
The Dead Zone (1983)
Silver Bullet (1985)
Lie Down with Lions (1985)
Book Title Idea #6: Use a Line of Dialogue
A key line of dialogue from your story can sum up what the theme is all about.
These are often called “tag lines”. They’re often used in business as slogans that get the main benefits of the product across.
These can work well as a title as well. We’ve all had that experience when one of the character’s suddenly says the title in a line of dialogue. Then we say to ourselves “Ahhhh, so that’s what it means.”
Dialogue is a huge part of your story. Often one of your characters will mutter something brilliant that perfectly sums up what your story is all about.
Plus, it’ll create a cool moment for the audience when they finally hear the character say the words. They’ll make the connection behind the meaning of the story’s title.
Here’s a few famous movies to have a character speak the title:
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969)
The Eagle Has Landed (1976)
Back To The Future (1985)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Born on The Fourth of July (1989)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
Tell No One (2006)
Book Title Idea #7: Use an Event or Activity from the Story
What do all good stories have?
Action! There are tons of events, twists, and turns within a story. Often the story revolves around one central incident that can be used to describe the story as a whole.
These types of titles often use a verb at the beginning of their title, ending in ING. That’s the instance of an action or process.
For example, right now you are read-ing this article and hav-ing a good time learn-ing lots of cool ways to come up with story titles.
Here are some prime examples of how to do it:
Flying Misfits (1976)
Romancing the Stone (1984)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Swimming With Sharks (1994)
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Riding the Bullet (2004)
Raising Helen (2004)
Running Scared (2006)
Pleading Guilty (2011)
Book Title Idea #8: Use a Hidden Meaning
Sometimes your title can have a hidden meaning that will be revealed at some point in the story.
For example, in the movie Dances with Wolves (1990), “Dances with Wolves” is the Indian nickname Kevin Costner is given by a local Indian tribe after they watch him playfully interact with a wolf.
You don’t find this out until well into the story. Suddenly the title of the movie becomes relevant. The story is about the main character, Lieutenant Dunbar, A.K.A.“Dances with Wolves”.
The sources for hidden meanings are endless. There’s all kinds of information you could use. A character’s nickname, his favorite song, how he feels about himself, the possibilities are endless.
Try thinking up a few that could work for your story. Trust me, you won’t have to think long.
Here are some major Hollywood movies that used this strategy:
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Rain Man (1988)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
The Green Mile (1999)
Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
The Shipping News (2001)
Red Dragon (2002)
Book Title Idea #9: Use Catch Phrases, Idioms & Popular Expressions
Some story titles use a catch phrase or popular expression from American culture.
They’re easy to remember, seeing as we already use some of them on almost a daily basis. Or we’ve at least heard of them before.
But if you can’t think of something off hand that would fit perfectly, don’t make the mistake of using some phrase no one’s ever heard of. The whole point of this method is the familiarity of the phrase. And if not familiar, don’t use it.
Here are some movies that use common catchphrases for titles:
The Horse’s Mouth (1958)
The Grass is Greener (1960)
All That Jazz (1979)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
Something for Nothing (2012)
Book Title Idea #10: Use a Pun or Play on Words
This method has a certain “cute” factor to it like the previous one. If you can find a fitting title that uses a pun or a play on words, it can be a real hit.
A pun is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings. It does this by exploiting multiple meanings of words or similar sounding words. It always has an intended comical effect.
Take the following joke for example:
I bet the butcher the other day he couldn’t reach the meat that was on the top shelf. He refused to take the bet, saying that the steaks were too high!
Steaks… not stakes… get it? Hardy har har.
You can also take a popular phrase or expression and put a little bit of a twist on it.
It will still be memorable and familiar to people reading it. Plus it will stick out when they say “Hey! Wait a minute… that’s kinda like _____!”
There are plenty of sources for puns and plays on words all over the internet. So if you want to look for one, they’re not hard to find. The challenging part is finding one that’s the right fit for your story.
Here are movies that used puns or a play on words in their title:
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Burglars Can Be Choosers (1971)
Live and Let Die (1973)
Tongue Fu! (1997)
A Hearse of a Different Color (2001)
The Cancelled Czech (2007)
Book Title Idea #11: Hint at Suspense or Conflict
What do all good stories have?
Conflict between two or more opposing forces is integral to a good story. And the central conflict can also work for a title to your story.
A title is a lot like the premise. It makes a promise to the reader about what they can expect in your story.
For example, if your story title has the word “shark” in it, there’s a good chance there’s gonna be a shark somewhere .
And if not a shark, at least a lawyer or car salesman 😉
But another thing to hint at in your title is the inherent conflict or suspense within a story.
Good words to use are ones like Fight, Danger, War, Secret, Hidden, Battle, Mystery, Angry, Spy, etc.
All those words have power and emotion behind them. They convey an emotional tone of suspense and conflict.
If the main conflict can be summed up with a few concise words, try giving this method a shot.
All these titles are perfect examples of how to do it:
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935 / 1962)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
War of the Worlds (1953 / 2005)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Battle Los Angeles (2011)
Book Title Idea #12: Convey Emotion or Mood
All stories have conflict and suspense. But sometimes they’re much more about softer emotions like love and joy.
Your story’s title can intrigue your readers or communicate a certain mood. They will have a rough idea of what your story is about by the association with their feelings and emotions.
This method can be a little tricky. If you choose the wrong words you’ll convey an emotion that you didn’t mean to.
For example, let’s go with a story about two people who fall in love, break up, and then fall back in love again.
If you title it something like “Angry Love” it paints and entirely different picture than a title like “Romantic Love” or “Easy Love”.
See how the tone of these stories shifts just by changing a single word?
It’s easy it to change the emotional tone about it just by choosing a different word. Pretty powerful stuff.
Here are some examples of how to do this:
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Book Title Idea #13: Pick a Color
Sometimes a color might help you get your story idea across to an audience.
There have been studies into the psychology of colors. They explain which emotions, moods, and meanings are most commonly associated with each color. You can find free resources for this information on the internet.
But don’t just pick any color at random. You want to make sure that the color properly matches the emotional tone of the story you’re attaching it to.
For example, imagine how silly it would sound if you decided to give your love story a title like:
“Brown Hot Love”
What? That make me think of brownies with melted chocolate if anything! Not a tender love story!
Here are some examples of stories with a color in their title:
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Purple Rain (1984)
Pretty In Pink (1986)
Men in Black (1997)
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Brown Sugar (2002)
Book Title Idea #14: Take a Number
Pretty self-explanatory. Numbers are often used in combination with some of the other methods of titling a story.
This is a lot like the pick a color method. But you don’t have to be as discerning about the number you choose in most cases.
For example, take the movie 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997). Why eight? Why not seven? Or nine? Doesn’t really matter.
The only time it would matter is when the number already has some meaning associated with it.
Take the numbers “3” and “7” for instance. They are already commonly considered lucky numbers, while number “13” is considered unlucky.
So it would be a little odd to title your story “Lucky Number 2” when three would be a much better number. But you may catch some attention by the juxtaposition of something like “Lucky Number 13”.
Here are some movies that use numbers in their titles:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Two for the Money (2005)
Three Kings (1999)
Fantastic Four (2005)
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Seven Samurai (1954)
8 Mile (2002)
District 9 (2009)
10 Things I Hate About You (1997)
Ocean’s Eleven (1960 / 2001)
Twelve Angry Men (1957)
I could go on for days, but you get the idea…
Book Title Idea #15: L is for Letters
Not so common in film, but author Sue Grafton has made a habit of using letters to begin her book titles.
A is for Alibi (1982)
B is for Burglar (1985)
C is for Corspe (1986)
D is for Deadbeat (1987)
E is for Evidence (1988)
This could be used for practically any letter. So as long as the word it stands for clearly communicates what the story is about or hints at its theme or genre.
If you wanted to take this idea a step further, you could base your premise on exploring the “ABC’s” of something.
For example, two producers once released an anthology horror film containing 26 short films about different ways to die. Each way to die began with a different letter of the alphabet:
A is for Apocalypse
B is for Bigfoot
C is for Cycle
D is for Dogfight
E is for Extermination
And so on, and so on…
In fact, this is a pretty damn cool idea now that I think about it. I’d love to see a movie about the “ABC’s” of things like love, or money.
Feel free to take this idea to a new level.
Book Title Idea #16: References to Time
If the time period that your story takes place in is critical to the story line, you can title your story after it.
This is a lot like titling your story after a character or a setting. Except that the time period in which the story takes place is more important than the setting or characters.
Maybe it takes place during a key historical period like the dark ages or pre-historic times.
Or maybe it happens in the summer of ’69, or cold winter alone in Iceland.
Or maybe your characters are “gone in sixty seconds”, but sometimes they drag it out for over “500 days of Summer”.
Like most of my other methods, the possibilities are endless.
Here are a few stories that successfully use this strategy:
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Spirit of ’76 (1990)
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Nine ½ Weeks (1996)
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
Summer Catch (2001)
28 Days Later (2002)
Ice Age (2002)
Prehistoric Park (2006)
88 Minutes (2007)
10,000 B.C. (2008)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
Book Title Idea #17: Rhyming
Don’t think that because this method is used in children’s literature that it won’t work for your story title as well.
Rhyming titles have that same “cute” factor to them and will instantly grab a reader’s attention.
Rhyming is used in song lyrics & business slogans for a reason: it’s catchy and makes them easy to remember.
Here are some prime examples of rhyming story titles:
The Cat in The Hat (1957)
Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Into the Blue (2005)
You, Me, and Dupree (2006)
Good Luck Chuck (2007)
Book Title Idea #18: Repetition and Alliteration
Alliteration is using the repetition of a particular sound in the stressed syllables within a group of words.
And repetition is using the same word over and over for added emphasis.
Used together, they are pretty powerful.
This is used all over the place: business names, commercial products, song lyrics… you name it.
It’s an easy way to make something catchy and easy to remember.
Here are “Major Movies” that “Make Mad” use of this method:
King Kong (1933 / 2005)
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Mad Max (1979)
Blues Brothers (1980)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
What Women Want (2000)
Coach Carter (2005)
Fantastic Four (2005)
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Book Title Idea #19: Feel the Rhythm
Some titles become catchy because they have a certain rhythm and cadence to them when spoken. Sort of like a song lyric.
These work well with longer story title because it’s hard to get some rhythm going with only three words.
You’ll also notice that story titles like this often use rhyming, repetition and alliteration to help give a certain “flow” to the words.
While there’s no scientific formula, the best way to test this method is to say the title out loud and see how it sounds.
You’ll just know when one sounds right or if it sounds a little off.
Here are some good examples of story titles that have rhythm:
The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961)
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991)
The Bridge of Madison County (1995)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2002)
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Anna Karenina (2012)
Book Title Idea #20: Reference Something Well Known
Sometimes your title may already be chosen for you if it’s a remake.
Or if it is a derivative work and uses some of the same settings or characters from something already well known. It would be a good idea to include something recognizable in the title. That way readers can make the association and get the hint.
This is known as a “spin-off” – a derivative work that “spins off” a character, theme or setting of an established story.
This happens all the time in television. A minor character gains so much popularity with the audience that they end up with their own show after a few seasons.
When writing derivative works, it’s important to include something in the title so people can say “Hey! I know that guy! I love his character on _____!”
This also works well for stories about famous celebrities, historical figures and politicians.
When the titles are named after something or someone people recognize, readers will get a clear idea what the story will be about.
Here are some examples of referencing something well known:
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Shakespeare in Love (1999)
The Scorpion King (2002)
Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Evan Almighty (2007)
G.I. Joe: Rise of The Cobra (2009)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Book Title Idea #21: Use Common Acronyms
In a few special cases you might find that an acronym works well for a fitting story title.
But be very careful here!
This generally only works if the acronym is already well known by the public. Or, it will easily become apparent early into the story.
If it’s not, it’ll confuse everyone. They’ll spend the entire time wondering what the hell you meant instead of enjoying the story.
If you decide to create your own, it’s best if the acronym can be easily pronounced as a word
For example, the acronym “S.W.A.T.” is commonly pronounced “swat”.
But if you make up some hard-to-say acronym like “R.S.L.T.N.E.” because you’re a big fan of Wheel of Fortune, you’re just gonna piss everyone off.
Here are some examples of good use of acronyms for story titles:
D.O.A. (1950 / 1988) = Dead on Arrival
M*A*S*H (1970) = Mobile Army Surgical Hospital
JFK (1991) = John Fitzgerald Kennedy
S.W.A.T. (2003) = Special Weapons and Tactics
RV (2006) = Recreational Vehicle
Book Title Idea #22: Nursery Rhymes and Folk Tales
Many children’s nursery rhymes have some pretty strange and dark origins behind them.
For example, did you know that the folk song “Ring Around the Rosie” is actually in reference to the Black Plague?
A “pocket full of posies” was used as protection against catching the plague. It also helped ward off the smell of rotting flesh!
If a nursery rhyme fits the theme of your story, or you can make a play on words to give it an alternate meaning, give this a try.
This technique is also frequently used in fiction literature. Author James Patterson has used nursery rhymes to title some of his books.
Roses are Red (2000)
Jack and Jill (1997)
Four Blind Mice (2002) (see how it also uses a play on words?)
Along Came a Spider (2001)
Here are some movies that derive their title from nursery rhymes:
The Cat and The Fiddle (1934)
All the King’s Men (1949)
There Was a Crooked Man (1970)
Pretty Maids All In A Row (1979)
Red Riding Hood (2011)
Jack and Jill (2011)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
Book Title Idea #23: Target Audience Word Association
If you have a story that will target a specific group of people — whether by occupation, association, or specific interest — titling your story to get their attention may be a good idea.
Here are some examples of titling a movie targeting a specific type of audience or group of people:
Interest: War Movies
Occupation: Military Personnel
D-Day The Sixth of June (1956)
Universal Soldier (1992)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Stop Loss (2008)
The Farmer’s Wife (1930)
Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Field of Dreams (1989)
The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)
Promised Land (2012)
See how those titles directly target people that may be interested in seeing those types of movies? As well as fit the theme and tone of the story?
But like all other methods, make sure you’re using the right words. Paint the proper picture with your title and don’t mislead.
Don’t drag a bunch of action seekers to some sappy love drama. They’ll hate you for it!
Book Title Idea #24: Famous Quotes or Song Lyrics
You could search an online database for related lyrics or quotes to your story. You might be able find something that inspires your title.
For example, if you had a story about peace and war, you could title it something like…
An Eye for An Eye (Mahatma Gandhi)
Peace Begins with a Smile (Mother Teresa)
The High Price of Peace (Benjamin Franklin)
The Colored Ribbon (Napoleon Bonaparte)
Fond of War (Robert E. Lee)
Casualties of War (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Good War, Bad Peace (Benjamin Franklin)
Or you could take the lyrics from one of your favorite songs and go all kinds of directions with it.
For Example: Take the Rolling Stones song, “Brown Sugar”…
This could be a fitting title for all sorts of stories. From tales of the slave trade, to heroin usage, to a story about, well… actual brown sugar!
The ideas are endless, and so are the resources. There are millions of quotes out there waiting for writers like you to give a new meaning.
Book Title Idea #25: Combinations of the Above Ideas
As you may have noticed, many of the titles listed above fit into multiple categories. That’s because they’re using a combination of several different methods to create a catchy title.
While combining methods doesn’t always guarantee success, it can help you create an original, one-of-a-kind title.
But what’s most important is that the story title fits the story. Not how many different methods it uses. Don’t do it just to do it.
Here are some examples of story’s that do it correctly:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
(alliteration + character name + event + suspense)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
(character + setting + alliteration)
Murder at 1600 (1997)
(suspense + event + setting)
Try combining a few methods above to see if that helps you come up with a better title for your story.