Monday, November 23, 2009

Insert Title Here

In her most recent post, Colleen talks about titles and how they matter to her as both a reader and a writer. It's a great entry and it got me to thinking about how I view titles from both standpoints as well. She briefly mentions covers too; because I am lame-o and skipped my turn last week, I'm going to subject you all to another post this week, on covers this time (probably on Wednesday).

As a reader, the title is usually the first thing that draws me to a book, especially when I am wandering around the bookshop without a game plan in mind (game plan when bookshopping? oh yes, sometimes I come up with one). Like Colleen says, titles can convey a lot in a few words. I tend to spend most of my browsing in the mystery section, horror too if there is one. Because there are always more books than there is time to look through them, titles help me sort through the stacks and skip over the books I am not interested in checking out. For example, while I enjoy them on occasion, so-called 'cozy" mysteries are not my thing so when I see titles with obvious puns such as Crime Brulee or Pointe and Shoot, I know to keep on moving down the shelf. I do love a good, grim mystery, however, so titles such as River of Darkness and Blood on the Tongue are going to stop me in my tracks. Sometimes a title is misleading, which can be an exciting thing for me as a reader (i.e. The Doll who Ate his Mother by Ramsey Campbell is actually not about an evil doll who comes to life) or it can be an utter disappointment (Fangland by John Marks springs to mind).

As a writer, I understand that while the title I choose will most likely change down the line- whether by me or (pleasepleaseplease) my publisher-I need to come up with one that I feel conveys the heart of my story. Sometimes they come easily and sometimes they don't, but I like to have a title when I begin to write. That doesn't mean it's always the right title. For this year's nanowrimo project, I selected a title that came to me so effortlessly, I just had to use it. Unfortunately, it goes with my story as well as oil does with water and to be honest, I think that's one of the reasons why I've failed so horribly at the challenge this year. I kept trying to make the two mesh when they so clearly did not. No matter how I changed my plot, I could not disconnect it from the title. Bottom line is that that particular title is meant for another story, one that is slowly percolating in my brain, and I just need to save it for when the time is right.

I'm going to echo Colleen's words in her entry: what do you think about titles?


Sheila said...

Yeah -- after coming up with what I thought was a clever title for "The Vedia Gamble," I'm now realizing that it's not that great of a title. I mean, it makes perfect sense once you've read the story, but the purpose of the title is to encourage the reader to pick it up and read it -- which this does not do. So I'm back to the drawing board on that one. Perhaps, "Phoebe and The Damned Strumpet"? Would you pick up a book with a title like that? Then I could call the second one something like, "Phoebe and the Pashman of Parvana"... Hmmm.

Andrea said...

"The Vedia Gamble" is not as strong a title as "Phoebe and The Damned Strumpet" in my humble opinion.