Choosing the right title for your story

Finding That Killer Title

Tips on Choosing a Story Titles

One word or multi words. Abstract or concise.

Choosing titles for your stories and screenplays isn’t as easy as most writers think. Titles that are too abstract can leave potential readers and audiences confused, pondering its significance to the story you want them to read or the movie you want them to see.

Some writer’s think abstract titles are artsy. But are they?

Does your abstract title conjure an image in reader’s minds that’s relevant to your story? Or are you trying to tease reader’s and audience’s curiosity?

Why risk confusing your intended audience?

Choose Your Title Carefully

Consider how much or how little you want your title to reveal about your story.

Consider the following titles:

  • Unbreakable – movie
  • Lost – TV series
  • Game of Thrones – HBO series
  • Jaws – book & movie franchise
  • Sweet Home Alabama – movie
  • The Bourne Identity – movie franchise 
  • The Maze Runner – book & movie series

Even if you haven’t seen these movies, each title conjures an image in your mind that is relevant to the story conveyed through the movie or series.

Here are a few abstract movie titles:

  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Vanilla Sky
  • Layer Cake
  • Cloverfield

Hard to imagine the stories behind these four titles. Yes, each title has some relevance to the movie’s story, but that relevance is minimal. The titles aren’t key to the story being conveyed.

Your Title Should Be Relevant To Your Story

Your audience should come to understand the significance of your title, before, during or after they have read your story.

Consider the movie Oblivion, the post apocalyptic sci-fi thriller with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman.

By definition Oblivion means “the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening.”

In the movie, The main character, Jack Harper, played by Tom Cruise, is “oblivious” to who and what he is, and what his job as a drone repair tech really entails. The alien antagonists have practically blown the moon and human race into “oblivion.”

Thus, the title is quite relevant, integral to what the story is all about. It’s not abstract.

Even though there are successful short stories, novels an movies with abstract titles, concise, relevant titles that hint at the story to come work better to attract audiences.

They are the titles audiences and readers remember.

Titles for Thrillers

When choosing a title for a thriller, keep with the tone of your story. Thrillers entail suspense. Some have slow burn suspense, nail-biting scenes where lurks around every corner. Others are high octane rides, filled with chase scenes, high-stakes danger, shifting levels of intensity that keeps audience pulses pounding.

You want your title to hint at the type of thrills to come.


  • Pacific Heights
  • Get Out
  • The Meg
  • San Andres
  • TheHunger Games
  • Sae House
  • Fatal Attraction

Steps To Consider When Choosing A Title

So when you’re thinking about the title of your story:

  1. Consider your overall story. What is the overall story about.
  2. Consider what your main characters want. What is your main character trying to achieve?
  3. Think about your central theme, how it relates to your characters.
  4. Make a list of concise words that depict your story and your characters.
  5. Try combining those words, or using one as the title for your story.
  6. Does that word conjure a vivid image that reflects the essence of your story?
  7. Test that word as a title with friends and family. Look at their facial expression as they respond to hearing your title.
  8. Google your chosen title on to see if a similar title using that word or words exists.
  9. For short story or novel titles, Google your chosen title as: “chosen title” story by, or “chosen title” novel by.
  10. If either search on Step 8 or 9 result in similar story titles, read the reviews of those stories, books or movies. Are the reviews positive or negative? If negative, do you want to have that “ chosen title” associated with such negativity? Ah, no. Try a different title.

Choosing a title can be fun. But take this step seriously.

Your story is important to you. Your title is important too.