Do you start with the Title to the story? Or something else, and the title is a temporary collection of words strung together to give you something to hold it in place? Following is a few ways different people start their story, and how they place the Headline (Title to the rest of us).
One way: (see Snyder: Save the Cat) search for the title that best reflects what you’re going to do with the story; set the genre, the audience, the style. Have a title before you go further.
Two way: use something like a short sentence if you don’t have a title. Something that does all of the above: sets the genre, calls to the expected audience, hints at the story. Later, the words can be refined (or redefined) to better suit the expectations.
Three way: Use a ‘stay’ word or number to indicate it’s not ready for a title yet. Yes, some people use numbers. Consider the movie ’47’ – but it only has relevance because of what’s gone before, doesn’t it? So be careful with these things, or the title may put off even the writer. Using a stop-gap like this can take away from the inspiration to continue with the work, so unless you’re very confident it works for you please try to put at least some words to indicate what’s going to happen in the story. Something like the ‘big’ event of the story, or the main character’s name, or something that jogs the juices to want to continue the story.
Four way: workshop the idea until the title pops up and won’t go away. This is a good one, but only if you have people who are willing to do their part as well. It needs to be ‘no strings attached’ and ‘no holds barred’ until a quorum is reached (and even then, author/writer has last say). That will most likely be the title that says: what it is, who it’s for, and what it’s about. An example of this one: Title = Pick, Lick, Roll, Flick (thanks, Cage). It says it’s a story for young people, specifically for young males, that the content is going to be a bit disgusting, and most likely contemporary. (It hasn’t been used yet, but is still on the burner!)
Five way: Look at all the titles in the area this story will belong. Find a title that says the closest to what it is, etc., and make a title similar, but not too similar, different, but not too different.
So, that’s five ways to find a title for a story. What do you do?