Atomic-powered titles

Writing a great title for a book or article is often a challenge. Here’s how to brainstorm titles. It looks like atomic fission. (Or fusion? I never can remember!)

Start with the subject in a circle in the middle of a blank page then start adding circles for synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, rhyming words, associated nouns and verbs, biblical phrases, twists on quotation etc. Let the atomic reaction begin. (This is brainstorming, not editing, so don’t judge anything. In fact, through the atomic process tell your inner editor to stay out of it!)


Once I have brainstormed until fission has slowed down, then I start looking for relationships between the various circles.

For instance, I was asked to write an article for a funeral director on the importance of showing emotion. I wrote GRIEF in the middle circle and fission-ed out to topics such as EMOTIONS, FEELING; FUNERAL HOME, CEMETERY, BURIAL PLOT; etc. I then made the connection between FEELINGS and BURIAL and came up with “Don’t bury your feelings.”

Here are some of my favorite titles that came out of this atomic reaction:

Synonyms: Over the Hill Unto the Mountain Top, Turn Your Shaft into a Mine

Antonyms: Perfect love for imperfect people; Losing the Found: Why We Need Follow-Up; Breaking Up without Breaking Down; Falling in Love—and Getting Back Up

Homonyms: Are Authors in Their Write Minds?; Sects and Violence; on irritations in staff ministry, Staff or Staph?

Rhyming words: Mood-Altering Hugs; Pro-life from Womb to Tomb; From Stage to Page: Turning Messages into Manuscripts;

Familiar phrases: You Can Take it with You; Other World Wrestling Federation (on spiritual warfare); Encouragement: Affirmative Action; Hope in a Hand Basket; The Twelve Sites of Christmas.

Book titles and song titles are not copyrightable, so generally you are free to use them as is, but it’s much more creative to twist them just a bit. Keep in mind that title can be trademarked such as Chicken Soup for the Soul. However, you can spoof them.

Book titles: Seven Habits of the Purpose-Driven Writer; The Papoose-Driven Life; Fifty Shades of Grace; Rubber Chickens for the Soul

Bible verses, quotation In This World You Will Have Trouble; My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

Song titles: Lookin’ for Love in All the Right Places; Lord, I Lift Your Name in Vain

Plays on words: Crossing Over with the Cross: How to Take the Word to the world; Dying to Know: Questions on Death

Most of all, have fun and let the reaction begin.

Copyright © 1999 James N. Watkins

2 thoughts on “Atomic-powered titles

  • March 2, 2022 at 6:28 am

    Great title tool!! I see you mentioned “The Papoose-Driven Life” so could “Existing Book titles/Play on Words” be added? I imagine so according to the rest of the article. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • March 2, 2022 at 8:37 pm

      Title are not copyrighted–not sure why not–so you can have fun rewriting them for your titles. I think Left Behind in the Purpose Driven Shack would be a great title!


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