You’re in a bookstore. The coffee’s fresh, the muffins are hot, and book spine titles of every genre sparkle like Saturday night movie marquees. As you browse the shelves, suddenly, like a nugget of gold among stones in a stream, one title jumps out at you. Plucking it from the shelf you begin to read and, low and behold, its everything you’ve been searching for. Grinning, you head for the checkout counter with your find under your arm.
Now, book titles don’t always portend you’ll have the greatest read of the past half century. But, they should evoke excitement, anticipation, inquisitiveness, or at the very least mild interest.
No doubt, book titles are important. So, how do you come up with a good one? One that will help sales?
Sometimes a title can hit you like a bold of lightning and immediately you know it’s the right one. At other times you may have to search, mining a vast wealth of knowledge (yours and others) to come up with just the right one.
In my new novel, The Peril Protocol, I had the title as soon as I fleshed out the plot. One of the main characters, Dr. Francis Peril, has created a protocol to cure a particular virulent form of meningitis. The Protocol goes on to become a significant point of contention throughout the novel. It just followed that The Peril Protocol would be the title. The name had a certain flow and air of mystery (at least in my mind).
This brings me to one category of book (or film) title and this is the MacGuffin. MacGuffin was a term popularized by the famous movie director, Alfred Hitchcock. Basically, its "a plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story". Obviously, the MacGuffin doesn’t have to be the title, but if the MacGuffin is a cool sounding name, it makes a great title. The paradigm of the MacGuffin is the John Houston film, The Maltese Falcon based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett of the same name. The story is about a detective dealing with three shady characters all in pursuit of a valued statue (the Maltese Falcon).
Other novels using MacGuffin’s as the title include The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins; Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda; and J. K. Rowling’s books in the Harry Potter series such as Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
If your book contains a great sounding MacGuffin and needs a title, why not consider using the MacGuffin?