historical fiction, self-publishing, Title for a book, Writing

A Good Title

Because a few readers said they did not like the title of THE GIRL ON THE MOUNTAIN, my current novel-in-progress, I conducted a survey of people who have and have not read the story. I gave a choice of fifteen possible titles to friends and family and asked them to pick one that might lead to a closer inspection of the book. From those who had not read the story, I wanted a gut reaction. From those who’d read it, I wanted to know if another title might work better.

Here are the results:

1. The Girl on the Mountain: 7 votes from those who have not read the story plus 2 from those who have. Amy, who hasn’t read the story, said the title suggests “historical,” which she likes. Jennifer, who has read it, said the title raises questions and better suits the story. Why I like the title: until she moves down from the mountain, May Rose, the main character, doesn’t know people call her “the girl on the mountain.” Throughout the story, she struggles to overcome their opinions.

2. Where Whispers Echo:  8 votes, all from people who have not read it. How this title works: A well-meaning character in the story tells May Rose it doesn’t matter if she’s innocent of the slander against her, because “nothing truly interesting happens here, so a whisper echoes all over the mountains, and people don’t know or don’t care if it’s true or not.”  This title is poetic but may suggest a romance, which the story is not.

Votes were scattered among nine other title ideas.

Before as Strangers: A quote from Longfellow’s Evangeline, used in the story.
Sounds of the Rude World: A quote from Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” used in the story.
Fair and Young: Evangeline

Never Falter, Never Fail: A phrase from “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad” (old hymn). A theme in the story.

As Leaves to the Light: Evangeline
Company Town: Appropriate because most of the story is set in a company town in 1899.
Prayers and Lies: I like this one because the main character prays constantly and also lies, as do others in the story.
Down in the Valley: The site of the company town. 
Unsafe: A theme.
I had fun with this exercise, which confirmed my belief that titles create different expectations. A title, however, is only one lure. The cover must also be appropriate and interesting to people who like a certain kind of fiction, and the cover blurb has to suggest an intriguing story. Finally, the first few paragraphs must capture the reader’s imagination and cause him or her to read the whole story! 
Next Round: Reactions to a cover and cover blurb.
Thanks, everyone!


2 thoughts on “A Good Title”

  1. I've realized that people who don't like The Girl on the Mountain (title) probably wouldn't care for the story, except for my sister Diane, who likes the story but no title suggestion so far. I've a few weeks to be persuaded.

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