Packing The Story – Titles
It’s Hard…Until It’s Not
Titles. Ugh. How can someone write a 100,000 word story, and then draw a blank for a title?
Why? Oh Why?
Some writers conjure them faster than a pop corn popper. With no apparent effort, they disgorge title after title, prompting an urge to slap their faces off. The rest content ourselves with Untitled Story. Gag.
So, where do we start? The same place our target audience goes…to Amazon. And, unless they know the title they seek, will they not type something like Fantasy Best Sellers?
If we did that, we would find these listed: Age of Myth, Red Queen, The Black Witch, The Man of Legends, Six of Crows, Shadow and Bone, Arcane, The Black River Chronicles, Three Wells of the Sea, and Fantasy of Frost.
Wow…of the ten, all but the bolded title form part of a series. The ones I like best…Six of Crows, Three Wells of the Sea, and Fantasy of Frost. I probably wouldn’t ordinarily click on the others. I’m sure the writers have their audiences locked in, and lose no sleep. But, I’ve no series with which to pull readers onward. Heavy sigh.
But that does raise an interesting point. From a business perspective, where do we intend to go?. Stand alone or series? Clearly, based on current binge reading habits, a fat story list might seduce readers, beguiling them into entering our world. Readers prowl book lists like sharks, gorging themselves on a series, then swimming onward into the deeps.
And titles surely play a role helping readers leap from book to book. And we have many ways with which to help. Consider Helen Bryan’s brilliant approach with the first two books in her trilogy — The Valley, and The Mountain. And film buffs traveled right alone with Nick and Nora through The Thin Man, The Return of the Thin Man, After the Thin Man, etc.
But, returning to titles. Most writers, mostly, are surprised at the effort required to find titles. But, why the surprise. If our stories did not emerge in a blinding instant, if we labored, endlessly, bleeding, sweating, and crying, to bring them to life, why should birthing titles come with less pain?
How do we get started? From googling, I found common-sense suggestions:
Make titles short
easy to enunciate
containing key words describing something important
something which will remain fresh and alive
represents the genre
tempts us with a preview.
What if we started by examining our story: the theme, memorable book lines, character perspective, visual setting, mystery, other books in the genre, random words, lyrics, change words, and free writing. If we shake ideas loose, get those corns popping, we’ve started the process.
And, sometimes, it works.
With regularity, I’m tempted to rewrite a story I wrote before taking up serious writing. Why? The title calls me back…Blossoms In The Snow. It takes place in a snowbound airport terminal, with a short-lived romance blooms between travelers, with such intensity that time all but stops, then melts away in the warm sun.
And, beyond that one, I utterly adore my first serious WIPs title — Moccasins On A Marble Stair. It captures two important visuals, the opposite natures of moccasins and marble. And, in the first scene, moccasins play a crucial role. With those images, I launch into a complex adventure as two cultures collide.
Where am I with this story?
The Curtain Drawn Back
Alas, It sounds like a mystery, or a romance, rather than the fantasy I wrote. I fear it belongs to another story.
Beyond that, does the title stand out in any fashion similar to those above? No…but it does touch on a central aspect of my MC. He opens on stage, in a play, finishes his scene, and withdraws behind the curtain. He absolutely adores acting and the stage. And his predilection for theater pops up throughout the story. Does that sufficiently bind things together?
No…it lacks the polar opposite I long for, maddeningly undiscovered.