People embrace stories based on the titles that they see. A great title encourages curiosity, which causes a potential reader to pick up a memoir to examine it some more. A poor title will create the opposite effect.
The only problem is that it can sometimes be difficult to find the perfect title for your memoir. These memoir title ideas will help you begin to develop the best one to use in no time at all.
A Good Title Represents the Journey
When someone picks up a memoir to read, what they are actually doing is agreeing to the unspoken contract that the writer has offered to them. This contract is dictated by the title that was chosen for the memoir in the first place. Everything must come back to the few words that have been given to it because the title invokes a specific image in the reader’s mind.
If the value of the story doesn’t match up to the value of the unspoken contract, then the memoir will never be finished.
So think of the memoir title as a name. When someone says the name “Orion’s Belt,” many will picture the constellation in the sky. What should people picture about your memoir? And what will help to draw them back into your story if they need to set it down for some reason?
Here are some titles of existing memoirs that have represented their journey very effectively.
- The Man Who Couldn’t Eat by Jon Reiner
- Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
- Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
A Memoir Title Must Also Be About Marketing
The title of a memoir is going to become a direct reflection of the writer’s personality. For that reason, it should be a title that is reflective of something that is extremely important to the author. If a writer has a great sense of humor, then the memoir title should be humorous. If the writer made a living as a critic, then the title should be critical in some way.
This is how the title of a memoir initially ties the reader to the author. It is also how the author and perhaps their publisher is going to market the memoir to potential readers.
Yet a memoir title must also make an attempt to understand the reader before it is finalized. A great example of this is the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Anyone who is familiar with the story Lolita, which was initially written by Vladimir Nabokov and turned into a very dark Stanley Kubrick movie in 1962, is going to picture this story when they see the Nafisi memoir.
This doesn’t mean Nafisi’s memoir isn’t fantastic. It’s a wonderful read. But the title forces many readers to get past their initial perception of the memoir because of the title – a title which, for many, is a disturbing tale they don’t wish to relive.
A Memoir Title Must Also Have a Life of Its Own
The contract that a memoir title offers between reader and writer doesn’t expire when the story has been finished. It continues on in association for as long as the story is remembered. Ask the average person if they know Frank McCourt and you’ll likely receive a blank stare as an answer. Yet many have read his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir Angela’s Ashes.
Readers remember titles before they remember authors. The titles are reflective of the story, so if the title is remembered, then the story is also remembered.
Now many will say that the goal of a title, in having a life of its own, is that it should offer an opportunity for a natural recommendation when the reader is asked about a good book. What it should really do, however, is offer a vivid image to anyone when the title is spoken.
Here are some fantastic examples of memoir titles which do just that.
- Freeways to Flipflops by Sonia Marsh
- Bohemian Love Diaries by Slash Coleman
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Ultimately a Memoir Title Is About You
If you’re writing a memoir, then the title must be about you. It should be something that friends or family would immediately associate with you. In a sense, this title is who you are, but summed up in just a few words. When you can find those words, you’ll be able to find the memoir title ideas that communicate the precise meaning to a reader that is needed for them to pick up your story.