I want to revisit the subject of titles because they are so important, and so few writers (me included) really bother with them as much as they should.
Why do titles matter?
This is why.
The Great Gatsby" might have been called 'Under the Red White and Blue', then
Fitzgerald seriously considered 'The High Bouncing Lover'. Would you buy a book called 'The High Bouncing Lover'? I can't imagine I would.
Dickens was a prolific titler; 'David Copperfield' was at various times 'Mag's Diversions', 'The Copperfield Disclosures', 'The Copperfield Records', 'The Last Living Speech and Confession of David Copperfield, Junior', 'The Copperfield Survey of the World as it Rolled', 'The Last Will and Testament of Mr. David Copperfield', and 'Copperfield, Complete'.
‘Schindler’s List’ was actually published by Thomas Keneally as ‘Schindler’s Ark’- Spielberg changed the title for the film version.
Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ was originally called ‘The Hours’ and again, the original title has surfaced as a film.
I've just sold a $10 flash fiction - all of 300 words - called 'The Unbearable Being of Lightness'. It's a play on Kundera's 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' and my story is about somebody who burns in sunshine ... it's a silly title, which has been buzzing around my head for at least six years, and I've finally got rid of it. The flash placed in three hours, because the title was 'great' according to the editor.
So why are at least half the stories I look at editorially so boringly titled? Because writers think the title doesn't matter? Because all their energy goes into the narrative? I don't know, but I wish people would use their undoubted ingenuity and craft to come up with snappier, or funnier, or more intriguing titles. I am sick of stories that are titled with the female protagonist's name, or called the 'something-or-other coffee shop' or 'The day that something-or-other happened'. A title that sticks in my mind is a title that carries its story to the top of my 'worth publishing' pile and a title that bores me rigid earns its story a place on the 'reject' pile.
I feel it's disrespectful to readers to fob them off with something anodyne, it implies I haven't given any thought to what will attract or entice them to my work. I try not to deliver boring story titles (my favourite of my own stories is, 'The Allicholy Tale of the Dispunged Dark Lady' which I think is at least intriguing) but fall into it worryingly often. Now I ask my trusted friends to comment on my titles and often they'll come up with three or four better ideas than I have managed myself. Good titles are important and we shouldn't neglect them.