Monday, 16 October 2017

Titles by Lynda Alsford

Recently, while standing in a queue at Valencia airport in Spain, I noticed that the man in front of me held a book in his hand. It was called Does anything eat wasps? I was too far away to read the subtitle or the author’s name, but the title made me want to find out more about the book. I decided as soon as I was back at home again I would google the book to find out more. The title leaped of the page and grabbed me. In fact I was so inspired by the title that as soon as I had boarded the plane I got out my notebook and wrote this post.

What makes a good book title?
I started wondering about titles. As far as I am concerned Does anything eat wasps? is a great title. Some of my other favourite book titles include; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared and To kill mockingbird. These titles make me wonder about the story. They entice me into the book, making me want to know more. So, how do we choose our own titles? When we have finished that article, poem, short story or book how do we choose a title for it? Or do you have the title in your head first and then write around it? Do you find it easy to come up with a title? Or is it something that takes a lot of thought and effort?

Giving my book a name
I have limited experience of this. For my first book, I didn’t know what to call it for quite some time, so at first I just concentrated on writing the book. It was a very cathartic experience getting the words down on paper. I was an evangelist who stopped believing in God and had to evangelise myself back to faith. Writing the book helped me make sense of my story. My book spoke of God’s faithfulness in the face of my faithlessness. One day at church we were singing the Matt Redman song You Never Let Go. The words of the song spoke to me powerfully and I realised God had never let go of me no matter how far I tried to get away from him. ‘He never let go’, I mused to myself. Light bulbs immediately flashed in my head. That was the title of my book - He Never Let Go. There was no work on my part in coming up with a title. It was divine inspiration. My second book, Being Known, took more thought and the title didn’t come as easily.

What about you? How do you come up with titles for your work? Is there a set process you go through? What is your favourite book title? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about Does Anything Eat Wasps it is a book written by the New Scientist magazine and the full title with subtitle is Does Anything Eat Wasps And 101 Other Questions. It is a compilation of the best questions that get submitted to the New Scientist every week. Actually I think it may be quite interesting and will probably buy it one day.

Lynda Alsford is a sea loving, cat loving GP administrator and writes in her spare time. She has written two books, He Never Let Go describes her journey through a major crisis of faith whilst working as an evangelist at a lively Church in Chiswick, West London. Being Known describes how God set her free from food addiction. Both books are available in paperback and on kindle on  and She writes a newsletter called Seeking the Healer, in which she shares the spiritual insights she has gained on her journey. When she finally starts her blog, it will also be called Seeking the Healer and you can find out more about both at


  1. The titles I love are the ones that seem the most mundane. 'Diary of a Nobody', for instance, or 'Bleak House'. I once gave one of my short stories the title 'A Family Day Out', because that summed it up. It was all about a teenager going out with his family to the the D-Day Museum at Arromanches, believing such things were beneath him and finding it moving. Wiser counsels made me change it but I still preferred the original.

    1. Diary of a Nobody would entice me as I wonder why does someone think they are a Nobody. I wonder if as writers we view titles of our own work differently as we know the whole content of the book, while readers don't yet know.

  2. I think titles for my poems and blog posts tend to come to me in the way you described. Although, if I feel the title is wrong, I dislike the whole piece! The strangest titles I have come across are 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' and 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,' - both very good books but I wouldn't have chosen them from their titles, had my book club not been reading them! Great post - thank you.

    1. I would not pick up either of those books with those titles either! But I might investigate them now.

  3. What a great post! Coming up with one’s own title isn’t easy …so here are some favourite titles of books I love, like or admire:

    The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien: title is EPIC, so of course is book. Funnily enough the central villain hardly appears!

    The Summer Queen, The Winter Crown, The Autumn Throne – Elizabeth Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy. I like this kind of title, simple but vivid.

    The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng - lovely title for a beautifully written, moving novel

    The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock (my favourite book in that wonderful series is The Long Fall, but this is my favourite title, the first book from which the series takes its name)

    Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann (an odd title, but a fabulous book)

    Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

    Black Narcisuss by Rumer Godden – such an intriguing title (and a great book)

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – a great intimation of the dark battle young Harry must face

    Jane Eyre – such a strong, arresting name, short but punchy …. just like Jane herself!

    The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The title already raises the hairs on the back of your neck. The story is incredibly creepy (and very, very sad).

    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. A strong name for a strong character who is actually dead but dominates the entire plot.

    The Summer After the Funeral by Jane Gardam – a title that makes you want to know more.

    Non-fiction Christian books with strong titles: Philip Yancey comes to mind, e.g. What’s so amazing about grace? ; The Jesus I never knew.

    1. Ohhh, I do like the sound of some of those titles. I will look them up.

      I have read some of them. Rebecca is interesting as we also never find out the first name of his current wife, the narrator, which increases Rebecca's domination of the novel.

    2. In considering a title, it might be wise to also ask yourself 'Could this turn into a series?' In which case, you want something that is not only catchy in itself but which can be extended to other books in a way that shows continuity. A good example is James Herriot's vet books: 'All creatures great and small' and sequels like 'All things wise and wonderful', etc. - all of course using lines from the same hymn.

      I may be running into trouble with this. A few years ago I started a short story about the death of a poet: the title was fairly obvious - 'The Local Poet'. Then it got expanded into a novel and Lion Hudson published it as 'Local Poet'. They asked for another one, so I wrote 'Local Artist' (due out soon). But where do I go from there? I can't use 'Local Hero' - that's been done - so at the moment I'm working on 'Local Legend', but I can see myself running out of 'Locals'! I may end up with 'Local Anesthetic'!

    3. Excellent point. That didn't occur to me but it is a good point. Mmmm, I wonder what other locals you can have. 'Local guide',