The title should be short enough to fit on the spine of the book and still be readable. Many thrillers have one- to three-word, like Robin Cook’s Coma or Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. Accordingly, my most recent thriller is called Riddled with Clues. Mystery novels often have longer titles, e.g. John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. That title suggests a good idea trumps rules when naming a book.
The title needs to be catchy. It is difficult to define catchy. I think D. H. Lawrence’s The Man Who Died is a catchy title, but I’m not confident in my ability to judge catchy titles. So, I asked a writers’ group to help me name my mystery novel. I gave them the choice of “Death of a Diet Doctor,” “Murder: A Way to Lose Weight,” and variations of these two. They immediately chose Murder…A Way to Lose Weight. At book fairs, readers often laugh when they see the title. I think this suggests a third rule to selecting a title: Funny titles sell.
The title should tell you something about the book. The Book Seller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad is an informative title, which tells the reader about the setting and a major character. Most titles are more symbolic, but hint at the topic. Examples are Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, which is a memoir about his mother.
I struggled to name my latest novel, Riddled with Clues. Here’s the blurb:
A hospitalized friend gives a puzzling note to Sara Almquist. He received the note signed “Red from Udon Thani” while investigating the movement of drugs from Cuba into the U.S. However, he doesn’t know anyone called Red, and the last time he was in Udon Thani was during the Vietnam War. After Sara listens to his rambling tales of all the possibilities, both are attacked. He is left comatose. As she struggles to survive, she questions who to trust: the local cops, her absent best friend, the FBI, or a homeless veteran, who leaves puzzling riddles as clues.
Early in the writing process, I realized that a number of the clues in the book could be riddles. That way I could add tension to the book. My heroine, Sara Almquist, and the law enforcement agents in the novel knew they important clues but they couldn’t make sense of them. I thought a play on words might be fun. Riddled can mean filled. Certainly, “Riddled with Clues” sounded more interesting than “Filled with Clues.” Do you agree?
What are you going to name your next novel? Will it be short, catchy, and informative?
Bio: J. L. Greger likes to include “sound bites” on science and on exotic locations in her Science Traveler Thriller/Mystery series, which includes: Riddled with Clues, Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers [PSWA] annual contest and finalist for New Mexico–Arizona book award), I Saw You in Beirut, and Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA annual contest). To learn more, visit her website: http://www.jlgreger.com or her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008IFZSC4.