Rhobin’s topic: How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book?
Where I live, some mob call themselves The Good Guys. I don’t know what they sell, I think fridges and things, because I have never bothered to find out. The title makes me think they are a bunch of crooks.
There is also a real estate agent (realtor to Americans) that calls itself Integrity. Ditto. If I wanted to buy or sell property, I’d look elsewhere.
What has this got to do with book titles?
Words, including titles, have meanings at several levels. The surface level of these business names is “Trust me!” My reaction, the deep meaning for me, is, “Only a conman would say that.”
In the same way, a book title has a surface meaning. In addition, it needs the deep meaning, “Read me!”
That’s why finding the right title is so difficult. In a very few words, it has to tell a potential reader what the story is about. If I am looking for an adventure book, the title needs to indicate that this is what I’ll find.
Here is a case in point. I’ve recently edited Tony Mangan’s book, The Irishman Who Ran Around the World. This got me interested in such accounts, and I found a book by a man who cycled across the USA, Pilgrim Spokes. The title told me it was about long distance cycling. However, the contents turned out to be something else, better served by the title “A long-distance cyclist’s introspections,” or less originally, “The Zen (or Tao or philosophy) of long distance cycling.” It was well enough written, and had interesting content, but the cycling was only a skeleton to hang the story on, not the story itself. If I were a cycling enthusiast, I’d be disappointed, and probably wouldn’t have bothered to finish reading.
My stories usually generate their own titles. Soon to be published Hit and Run does actually start with a hit and run crime.
My short story collection Striking Back from Down Under is stories from an Australian, many set in Australia, in which the underdog finds the resources to vanquish the bully. Examples of titles of individual stories are
So, how do you find a title for a story that’s begging for one? This goes back to last month’s topic, Is my writing right for you?. The directions are there. Get the story clear in your mind. Go to sleep, or do something that takes concentration and time like digging in the garden, or going for a long swim, or whatever. Then with full confidence, expect the title to be there, inside your mind, waiting for you to attend to it.
People who have read something from my still-to-be published Doom Healer series will realise, the full confidence is necessary, because that’s how reality is created.
Other participants in the blog round
Please read the contributions of my colleagues, and leave them a comment. But first, leave a comment for me. As a reward, every commenter will be randomly chosen to receive a warm glow of satisfaction.