Aspiring grimdark authors: Have you finished your gritty, bloody opus, yet still don’t know how to create a title that will adequately express its edgy nature?
Well, I’ve just done you a favor. Behold the Grimdark Book Title Generator!
To start, pick three or four elements from this list.
- Destructive weather events (wind, storms).
- Some sort of pointy weapon (blade, sword) or a metal used to construct a pointy weapon (iron, steel). In a pinch, you can substitute a pointy plant, a la Prince of Thorns.
- A military unit (company, army). If you’re less fixated on the minutiae of military maneuvers, use “battle” or “war.” That way the reader knows there will be blood!
- Blood, now that I think about it. Just skip to the blood!
- An animal that would look awesome airbrushed on a t-shirt or the side of a van (wolves, dragons).
- A title for a male ruler (king, emperor, prince, lord). Make sure that you pick an important-sounding title–nobody wants to read about a margrave or a baronet.
- God. Or Gods. If mortal rulers aren’t good enough for you.
- A negative emotion, such as rage, wrath, or fear. This often will be expressed by your male ruler or presumably male god (see above).
Now that you’ve picked your elements, you’re ready to arrange these elements around a colon. No, not that kind of colon—I mean the punctuation mark. Whatever goes before the colon is the individual book title, whatever comes after is the series title (you’re not going to be stupid and write a stand-alone novel, are you? Thought not).
I’ve provided you with some examples.
- A Company of Wolves: Book One of The Fear of Kings
- Wind of Thorns: Book Three of The Gods’ Battle
- The Iron Storm: Book 23,492 of The Wrath of the Blood Princes
Some of these titles may sound kind of familiar, but your reader wants something comfortably bloody or lordly or wolf-y (hey, Angela Carter and Norman Spinrad were pretty badass, but not as badass as you are!)
Now get to it, aspiring grimdark author! May your chronicles be as gritty and bloody as iron dentures in the mouth of a grumpy dragon prince!
I’ve read many comments that compare the structure of fantasy novels to the pacing of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, but I want to throw another game in the mix, for thematic rather than structural reasons. The term “grimdark” is derived from promotional material for Warhammer 40K, which is, duh, a wargame. Commenter “Captain Fluffy” makes the good point (on Prince of Thorns author Mark Lawrence’s blog, no less) that Warhammer’s grimdarkness is a sales tactic–since all the sides are equally terrible, no one “race” is privileged over another, and since there’s no way to make peace, the game never has to end.
I wonder how many of today’s grimdark authors got their starts as Warhammer GMs.