You wouldn’t know this from my blog posts, but I’m reasonably good with titles. I can pick that one killer phrase, the thing you deleted, the great image, and slap it at the top of my work or other people’s work. I even came up with some chapter titles for Dr. Cougar.
I hate clickbait titles, or obvious titles. If it sounds like the subject line of an email it’s a shitty title. If it involves the words “amaze” or “crazy” or “blow your mind” it has no place in a creative writing setting. The poets say that your titles in the table of contents should compel a person to turn to the poem itself. That’s not true of every poem in a manuscript, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
A good title can be a striking image, a good turn of phrase, or something that has two meanings. A little action is good. I like a shorter title. “Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form” is my least favorite title in the world. Try not to be pretentious. Imagine an event director at a bookstore introducing your book. Imagine your engineer relative asking for the book in a bookstore.
My book has six or seven chapters and a bunch of chapterlets, which are titled. For the most part, the titles are pretty strong. There was a correlation between the right title and the focus of the chapterlet that can’t be ignored. But I have two chapterlets with the same name and for the life of me, I cannot come up with a good title for them.
How do you determine titles?