What’s In A Title?


So. The Project. Nice and enigmatic, but I doubt people will be flocking to Amazon to download it to their Kindles. Mrs. Alchemist keeps asking me why I haven’t given it a real title.

Honestly, it’s because I can’t pick one.

What we have here is a story with a fantasy setting. The protagonist, Asherian, comes from a magocracy of floating cities that exist behind a protective wall that is part stone, part magical whoseewhatsis. He’s an apprentice and his class takes a field trip out into the ‘Wilds’ on the other side of that wall. Let’s just say that doesn’t end well.

The idea is that his life has been somewhat cloistered up until this point, and he’s stranded and alone out in a world he’s unfamiliar with, where his use of magic might end up killing him for one reason or another. So it’s something of a hero’s-journey/fish-out-of-water deal. So what am I gonna call this thing? I’ve had a few ideas, but none of them really seem to be sticking.

Arrow of Fate

Ash’s instructor gets arrow’d which dooms the field trip. Now, this was what I originally called it back when this was a short story instead of a novel, and Ash was a chick with a different name. However, it has a few problems. Ash isn’t an archer so the title isn’t about him, arrows don’t play a huge role in the overall story, and the title in general feels kind of Harlequinesque. So I’m inclined to scrap that one.

Beyond the Wall

Since 80-90% of the story will be happening, well, beyond the wall, this one makes more sense. There’s something about it that bugs me, though. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe it just feels too much like other fantasy novel titles. Maybe I want to avoid the whole “blank the blank” formula of title creation. Maybe it said something nasty about my mom. I don’t know.

Asherian’s Journal

Ash happens across a book a classmate of his had just bought which is blank, and he starts keeping track of his adventures in it. It’s something of a device to help us get a view of things from his perspective between chapters, but it’s not a very big part of the story. Mrs. Alchemist also pointed out that it “tells [the reader] nothing.”

What am I missing, here? Why can’t I pick a title? Which title do you think I should pick? Let’s make some alchemy happen, folks. Bring your disparate elements into the mix and let’s see if we can’t transmute some of these random ideas into the handle for the next bigass fantasy epic of all time. Or at least a little yarn about magic, dragons and interesting people that doesn’t suck.


  1. For my money: “Beyond the Wall” is the best of the above. It’s got a nice feel, tells you nothing specific but already sets your mood. Plus it’s the most accurate by your own admission.

    “Arrow of Fate” as a runner up, but you’re cheating. Which is fine, Fantasy titles cheat all the time. It’s more likely to ping the radars of Fantasy fiends who’ll read anything with “of Fate” in the title.

    Avoid using your character’s name or names of fantasy places. These drive me nuts, and without context just sounds like “Made-up Name’s Journey to Made-up Place!” Save that for sequels or revisitations.

    Hope it helps.


  2. Thanks, Marty.

    Think I can get away with Beyond the Wall if it’s been used for a collection of essays?


  3. I suck at titles, too. What I usually do is pull up bartleby.com and search on key words from the manuscript and see what quotes come up. Then I steal a cool chunk of that quote and use it for a title.

  4. I know of books that have similar or same titles, so I don’t think it’s a huge issue. I think Beyond the Wall gives you the best out of those. Or maybe Beyond the Gate. Run with it for now, once it’s up to be published, the editors may drop kick it anyway, you don’t have complete control over the title once you get to that stage unless you’re Steven King or someone 🙂

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