Monday, January 12, 2009

Title Anyone?

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? Whether the tale be crime or horror, novel or short story, the title is critical. This is the first thing the reader will ingest; well, not exactly the first. The first will be your cover art. Unfortunately, a lot of us really don't have a whole lot to say about that, especially when it comes to your first few publishing accomplishments. So, let's just bypass the cover art issue and deal with the title. How do you choose it?

Well, one thing to consider when selecting an appropriate title for your work is to consider what drives the story, events or characters. This is tough to put into words, but readers, and writers alike, will understand. You can tell if a tale is event driven or character driven just by reading it. Which is not to say that an event driven piece does not have interesting or well developed characters or character driven pieces have no relevant occurrences. This is simply to say which has more power in your story. Are the events in and of themselves where your focus lies and the characters an integral component of them? Or, are the characters, their lives, the workings of their minds, their pasts, and their relationships the foundation of your story and are the things that happen to them simply a result of who they are, and therefore, inevitable?

I know this sounds like a lot of double-talk, but you really can tell the difference. It's, as I said before, just kind of hard to explain. Anyway, depending on what drives your piece, that will most certainly play a big role in what title you choose. A lot of books concerning the old west are titled with the names of the towns they are based in. A lot of mysteries, and horror stories as well, are titled with the name of the main character. You know which ones I mean. These are perfect examples of what drives those particular stories.

Horror story titles can do well with the name of a creature or a spooky place or some such thing, but crime fiction is a bit different. There's no reference that can be utilized to the crime itself since it didn't really happen, or the perpetrator since they don't really exist. So, what do you do?

For me, I try to look at the relationship between my 'good' character and my 'bad' character and try to come up with some phrase or image that sets the tone for their interaction, and I begin with that. Oftimes, my 'working' title remains as my 'final' title; although, there have been occasions when, following completion of a project, I replace the title in its entirety after I have a better feel for where the story has gone.

It's not an easy process; for me, anyway. The title is very important and it has to be 'just right'. How many times have we glanced on the rows of books on a store shelf and slid right by most of them just based on the title? There may have been quite a number of very interesting stories in between those covers, but we pass them up based on our first impression, which was based on the title alone. Crazy? Maybe. But, books ARE judged by their covers...

1 comment:

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