When you write a story about yourself, one of the most difficult aspects of the creative process isn’t putting in the stories you want to tell. It’s coming up with a title for that story. Knowing how to come up with autobiography titles that are good is a skill set that requires some practice to get right. The first title you think up isn’t always the best title – but it could be.
Let’s go through the creation process step by step so that you can figure out that great title for your story today.
#1. Puns. Just don’t do it.
You’ll find a lot of autobiographies have incorporated puns as part of the title. From Wink Martindale’s Winking at Life to Tori Spelling’s sTORI Telling, a bad pun creates a negative first impression for many readers. Just be simple and straight forward with the title based on the stories you’ve told. If you were a war veteran, a good title might be The Battles I’ve Fought and Won.
#2. Humor. It can backfire on you.
Humor within a title for an autobiography can be a good thing. Take Joe Namath’s autobiography title for example: I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow ‘Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day. The humor fits with the public personality that Namath has always presented. It’s a good fit. If you can come up with a humorous title that fits your personality, then roll with it.
What you shouldn’t do is try to force the humor on others. When Russell Brand released his autobiography, it was titled My Booky Wook. Not as impressive.
#3. Describe what is important to you.
Ultimately your autobiography has one key point that you’re trying to make. It’s more than a collection of stories. It’s a commentary about what you’ve learned in life. What is that one key lesson that you’re trying to make? Or are there several key points that are being made? Figure that out and you may just have the title for your autobiography. A good example of this comes from Nelson Mandela and his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.
But that key point needs to be interesting. There must be a purpose communicated to the reader that they will have a valuable experience from reading your autobiography. Peter Marshall’s autobiography Back Stage With the Original Hollywood Square doesn’t quite make that grade.
#4. Capture the attention of the reader.
There are three ways that you can effectively capture the attention of a reader with an autobiography title.
- Be self-deprecating. If you take your biggest fault and make it your title, then the humble reflection will be something that will attract people to your autobiography.
- Be controversial. One of the best examples of this method comes from Charles Grodin: It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here. If you’ve done something that isn’t socially acceptable, it might make for a great title.
- Be short. You can’t get much shorter than the title of Katherine Hepburn’s autobiography: Me. If you can make your title be three words or less, then it will generally be more memorable to the reader who is interested in picking it up.
#5. Be evocative with your descriptions.
This is one of the benefits of being a relatively unknown person when writing an autobiography. You can choose a very descriptive title that brings about evocative mental images for the reader involved. Many of these “unknowns” have become reading staples in our society today. Think about stories like Girl, Interrupted or Reading Lolita in Tehran and then think about what you’ve done that could create similar emotions.
#6. Test out your titles with trusted friends and family.
In this final step, you’ll first want to come up with 3-5 titles that you’d be happy having for your autobiography based on the steps above. Then take those titles and test them out with your family and friends. See which ones they prefer. Have them give you one answer. Ask as many people as you like because the goal is to trim your titles down to 2 from this process.
Then take those two titles to everyone you know. Create a poll on Facebook or Twitter. Ask people for email feedback. Ask them to choose one title from the two. If the results are solidly in favor of one title, then that’s what you’ll call your autobiography. If the results are mixed, then go back to the 3-5 titles and ask again. If you still have mixed results, come up with 3-5 new titles and try again.
Although a bad autobiography title won’t kill your story off completely, it won’t do it any favors. A good title can entice more people to read your stories. Follow these steps and you’ll know how to come up with autobiography titles that are great as soon as today.