Ideally, a title is what initially draws a reader to pick up your book. Sometimes, though, it can put potential readers off entirely.
A title has to be catchy, intriguing and capture the essence of your story as much as possible with just a handful of words.
A bland, misleading or boring title isn’t going to get you any more readers.
Black Mirror is a huge TV show right now and whether you’re a fan, you’ve simply not watched it, or you saw the first episode of the first series and noped out, you’ve definitely heard of it.
Each episode in itself is unique, unconnected and utterly brilliant (okay, minus a few from the newest series). They all have titles that don’t make it apparent what the episode will be about, and usually don’t even make sense until after you’ve watched the show.
However, what amazes me at its brilliance is the title of the whole show – Black Mirror.
In my opinion, it’s one of the best-named TV series ever.
At its most basic level, it literally means the black mirror you see when your phone or tablet screen is locked. This is because the show is primarily about technology.
It’s also the mirror we see ourselves in the most often. It is the way we now view ourselves – and it’s not light and optimistic, it’s just black and dark.
When you switch your phone off, what you see is the caught-off-guard version of yourself that you truly are. Not the Instagram-pretty version or the Facebook-interesting version or the Twitter-funny version. The real you.
Technology is the way we choose to reflect who we are, and when you think about it, is that a positive thing? Or are we reflecting a fake version of our lives, selecting only the best bits, creating an unhealthy competition within society to be the most perfect and Instagram-worthy version of ourselves?
The show itself is sci-fi, or speculative fiction, but each episode is a reflection of society as a whole, normally a hyperbole of how we use technology now, or an exaggeration of the problems technology is presenting to us and the complicated ethics behind it, or a prediction of where it will lead within the coming years and the issues that could have.
The whole show is a black mirror pointed at society, showing us the harsh reality of the way we live our lives using technology. It shows us all the dark bits we pretend not to see, and holds it up to our face so we can’t help but to face the truth.
I honestly think it is so clever that the more you think about the title, the more meanings it has. This is the level of genius detail we should all aim for when we’re looking to name our work.
And, bonus round, I can give you an example of what not to do.
The Maze Runner: The Death Cure.
The death cure? Really? Who approved this generic, boring, inane name? I have a few ideas for better names:
The Final Cure
The Cure for Death
The End of Death
The End of Days
The End of Creativity as We Know It.
Whatever – any of the above would have worked better. And what we got is The Death Cure. There’s no mystery or intrigue or double meaning in that.
When you’re looking to name your work, just remember that it is how the words after the cover are going to be judged and represented. Make it count.
So, my final point is, be a Black Mirror – not a Death Cure.