Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Fricassee

Quite a response to yesterday's post on titles!  Clearly I'm not alone in my title-challengedness.  It was interesting how, after I called for title-writing advice in the comment box, most folks who came forward said things like, "I suck at this, too!"

Commiseration is a wonderful thing.

It's interesting, too, how the title dilemma, like writing in general, brims with subjectivity.  While there are, truly, some Very Bad Titles out there (and in my .doc files), there's always debate on whether a particular titles "works" or "grabs" or "sings".

And now I will humble myself.  (Again.)

The title of my Very First Novel (the YA fantasy with two protagonists--one who is the decidedly-not-YA-age of 12--and absolutely no concept of what POINT OF VIEW means) is: The Seeds of Perin Faye.

Okay.  We can give it a little more breathing room, perhaps, because this IS fantasy.  But here's where I really went wrong.  I came up with the title before I wrote the story.  And, somewhere in the middle of writing it, I realized I had to come up with some way to fit SEEDS into the story.

For, you see, I was desperately in love with my title.  And was compelled to make the seed thing work no matter what.  Because, DANG, I had a GREAT TITLE and there was no way I was going to change it.

No. Way.

You can imagine how lame the seed part of the story turned out to be.

Okay.  The entire thing is lame.  It's my LEARNING-HOW-TO-WRITE-A-NOVEL novel.  I'm still using printed-out pages for scrap paper.  And my husband is still reading them out loud and making me laugh.  And die a little.

So, yeah.  I've definitely got title baggage.  But one thing's for sure.  I am determined to NEVER become emotionally attached to a title again.  I've watched friends have their titles changed, and I've taken silent notes.  And I've realized--wow.  In the end, it doesn't matter if you end up with a title that's nothing like the original one.  Or nothing like you'd imagined.

Somewhere along the line, someone on your team, whether it's a crit partner, agent, or your editor, is going to capture the soul of your story in a title you'll end up loving. Or at least feeling intense gratefulness for.

Okay, then. What are some of your FAVORITE TITLES, from both contemporary and classic novels? And why do you love them?



  1. Fitzgerald and Hemingway were both spectacular titlers. The Sun Also Rises...The Beautiful and Damned...This Side of Paradise...A Farewell to Arms...I mean, come on. Titles clearly as epic as the books themselves.

  2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

  3. Orson Scott Card seems to have it pretty well in hand with titles like, "Ender's Game" and "Seventh Son". Both make you wonder what's the story before you even read the back of the book.

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  5. I totally got attached to my book title, but ended up having to change it b/c another book was coming out with the same title (I didn't know that until well after I finished the book). Woe! lol

    I'm fond of 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone.'

  6. A few of my favorites:
    Across the River and into the Trees For Whom the Bell Tolls
    East of Eden
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    Coming up with a strong title is definitely a daunting task.

  7. If I'm just taking the title into account, and not focusing on the books themselves (which I also enjoyed) I love the single word titles and the 2 word title that start with the same letter. For example-'Twilight', 'Eclipse', 'Shatted Souls'...those titles really popped at me. I actually took that concept and hit the thesaurus (months ago) and I came up with things like...'Lasting Legacy', and 'Impenetrable'...,but like you said, I'll wait until the novel is complete before I make up my mind.

  8. It depends on how far into the process I am and the story itself.

    Sometimes the title is something I can't explain, then, as I'm writing (a true pantser), suddenly the title is like a piece of the puzzle which locks together all the disparate pieces and everything makes sense.

    Or I keep writing and eventually *find* the right title.

    A few titles I really found drew me to pick up the books were:

    Too Small for Basketball
    Bad Monkeys
    Like the Red Panda
    Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
    The Brief History of the Dead
    Wave Theory of Angels
    Alice Falling
    The Dominion of Wyley McFadden
    Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith

  9. There are so many great titles out there... this is a toughie! I think my top favourites are:

    The Lovely Bones (I love that not until the end of the book can you honestly say that phrase makes sense).
    Never Let Me Go
    Blue Moon Rising
    Silence of the Lambs

  10. I love A Curse as Dark as Gold; Wolves, Boys, and Other Things that Might Kill Me; and The Dark Divine.

  11. Some of my favourites come from Christopher Moore.

    1. The Stupidest Angel.
    2. Island of the sequined love nun.
    3. The lust lizard of melancholy cove.
    4. Practical demon keeping.

    If you like dark humoured quirk, then you can't go wrong with him.

  12. A few of my favorites:

    - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    - Rosemary and Rue
    - Cat Among the Pigeons

  13. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is one I've always liked. Not a well-known one, but the sheer number of questions it brings up made me read it.

    I'm not sure my taste match most others, though; I never liked The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or The Lovely Bones or several others mentioned as titles. They just seem... she has a dragon tattoo, so what? I don't see any reason to ask questions or wonder.

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  15. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I picked it up thinking, "What the hell does that even mean?" It's fantastic, all the way.

  16. P.S. Some favorite titles: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle; Any Human Heart; Possession; Being Dead; The German Lesson; Tree of Smoke; The Inheritance of Loss.

    Why? Not sure--The Inheritance of Loss, Any Human Heart, The German Lesson, and Being Dead presage the depth of the themes explored; The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Tree of Smoke immediately summon strange, beautiful images; Possession suggests a fun, fast read--upscale trash.

  17. The Bridge Across Forever....loved the imagery.

    A Prayer for Owen Meany...Made me think "What an unusual name? And why does he need prayer?"

    Janet Evanovich's titles: One for the Money, Two for the Dough, etc. You know immediately who the author is and a great mystery read is at your fingertips.

  18. Ahhh...

    A Discovery Of Witches
    by Deborah Harkness. Nice...

  19. Maybe this comment is off topic and so not worth being printed, but, on the flip side, I get annoyed by titles that are derivative. Someone will have a great title and a popular book, and then before you know it, a host of other books come out with oh-so-similar titles. I wonder if this is something pushed on the authors by their publishers.

  20. The Forest of Hands and Teeth-
    To Kill a Mockingbird--BrokeBack Mountain-are several favorites. And, Authoress, I have totally tried to write a book after having fallen in love with a title. Then had the challenge of making the book fit the title--Ha! Ha! Live and learn. Nice to know I'm not alone.

  21. She's Come Undone
    Gone With The Wind
    Lord of The Flies
    The Hunger Games
    Thirteen Reasons Why (changed title - google it - good story of the original title)
    The Grapes of Wrath
    I'm Still Alice
    A Time To Kill

    I could go on and on! Sometimes movie titles can really bother me too - who chose that?

  22. @Georgia Girl, I totally agree. Maybe it's just me but there seem to be a lot of titles out there similar to Game of Thrones, and Daugher of Smoke and Bone. "BLANK of BLANK", or "A BLANK of BLANK and BLANK." Since I started hearing about DOSAB I'm sure I've heard of 40 other titles since then sounding suspiciously familiar...

  23. Doctorow's RAGTIME, Steinbeck's CANNERY ROW, Morrison's SONG OF SOLOMON, I like for the simplicity that makes you wonder, "What about Ragtime? What about Cannery Row?" And Anne Tyler's DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT. Who can not turn the page to see what that's about?

  24. Great answers, Mary! I'm going to add 'Anna Dressed in Blood' by Kendare Blake. Compelling.

  25. @Feaky Snucker: I'd never heard of that author before, but now I want to read ALL of those books. Thank you!

  26. You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers... brilliantly bizzarre book, and when the thought behind the title was revealed towards the end it was one of those moments where you shut the book on your finger, set it down, look up at nothing and think "Damn..."

  27. The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth are awesome titles. They make you ask questions. These titles are the initial hooks for the books.

  28. 'Counterfeit Son' by Elaine Marie Alphin. Mysterious. My daughter is sitting on the sofa reading it right now.

  29. The Elephant Vanishes
    The Graveyard Book
    Paper Towns
    An Abundance of Katherines

    Also, do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? had always been a personal favorite.

  30. Here are a few of my faves:

    Carpe Jugulum - Terry Pratchett
    A Hat Full of Sky - Terry Pratchett
    The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
    The Dreaming Tree - C. J. Cherryh
    Glimmerglass - Jenna Black

    Daughter of Smoke and Bone is also a good one.

  31. A title that's always stuck with me is Wicked Lovely. Another one is The Elephant Ate My Pants. You can't help but wonder "Wha-huh?" with a title like that!

  32. Ha! I was just talking to a prospective agent on the phone and I mentioned the novel she read was once called (TOO TERRIBLE TO TELL YOU ALL HERE) and she said, without a hint of laughter, 'That's the very worst title I've ever heard'. OW!

    I still love it.

  33. Oh, favorite titles: A Certain Slant of light, The Solace of leaving Early, Enna Burning, (and for the win!) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society!!!

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  35. Sorry, one more. Thomas Merton's 'Raids on the Unspeakable'!

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  37. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things