I have been evaluating the title of my upcoming novel, The Emerian Order. Specifically, I am holding it up to the titles of many other epic fantasy novels, both new and old. Some of my research surprised me.
A few patterns emerge when analyzing the titles of the most popular (and best-selling) works of the last 100 years.
- Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
- The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
- Discworld, Terry Pratchett
- A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
- Inheritance Cycle, Chris Paolini
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan
- His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman
- Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
- The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
- The Sword of Truth, Terry Goodkind
- The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
- The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
I could go on, but already some telling patterns emerge in the titles. First, even though the worlds of most of these novels are otherworldly, with characters and locations that sound otherworldly, the titles are very grounded in words and language that everyone can understand. The name of the book is called The Way of Kings, not The Way of Highprince Dalinar Kholin. The title should tell the reader exactly what to expect, it shouldn’t leave them guessing. So, the first pattern is that while the stories are other-worldly, but the titles are not.
Second, many titles employ a blank-of-the-blank structure (NAME of the WIND, LORD of the RINGS, etc.) If I made this list 100 deep, you would be startled to see how many famous titles use this structure. How much of this is authors wanting to keep with convention as opposed to publishers wanting to keep with what sells is beyond me still, but clearly the pattern can’t be ignored.
So, what’s my point? Do all epic fantasy novels need to have plain English words with blank-of-the-blank structure? Of course not. But the pattern should give you cause to pause and think carefully about the title you give your next masterpiece.
Therefore, my book’s title is now under construction. I’ll keep you posted.