Mar 4, 2011
Picking a title for your story
Agatha Christie used quotes from nursery rhymes. Isabel Allende tossed a coin to decide on The House of the Spirits. Terry Pratchett started his success with the intriguing Colour of Magic and has relied on the power of his own name, rather than the title, ever since.
Meanwhile, Shakespeare's Sonnet XXXIII could hardly qualify as inspirational - the name, that is. He should have called it Full many a glorious morning have I seen.
So what's in a title? Would The God of Small Things by any other name not have secured all the awards?
Many published authors start writing their books by thinking up the title. They claim that the title is what sets their imagination on fire; that deciding to call their next book The Slipper is what makes them write another best-seller. Some of the big names even confess to visiting a library or a bookshop in order to find a title they really wish they'd thought up, then writing their own book based on the unread one. Remembering to change the title before they send it off, of course.
Whatever works for the grand-league players, Rule Number One when titling your writing is that you shouldn't use titles as an excuse to procrastinate. It's so easy to sit in front of the computer, the short piece of fiction ready in your fingertips, it's about a housewife who loves home-making, you can picture her milk-stained tracksuit, you can hear her daughter's babble, you can smell the vanilla in her kitchen. But should you call your work Utopia, Non-Working Girl or While My Baby Sleeps? Procrastination stations! Two hours later, you go to bed, your story untold.
Rule Number Two is the converse. It's possible to generate so many gripping titles per day that somewhere along the way they simply fail to inspire you anymore. I have a file full of titles for potential novels, including I, Claudia (which has since been written by somebody else). And in the file they'll remain.
The irony lies in the fact that even when your beloved Saga Of The Rainbow Land is at long last accepted for publication, the publisher is likely to change its title to something they think will sell. MURDER @ PLAY, for example, was first titled THE BUTLER DID IT. And no, the title did not give away the plot!
A gripping working title is essential in today's cutthroat industry. Agents and publishers are busy people, and they may not even bother to read your covering letter unless the title of the work sparks their interest. Emma means nothing. Oranges are not the only fruit, on the other hand, is interesting enough to warrant a glance at the opening sentence.
Slightly altered quotes ("Driving Miss Crazy", "Teatime Of The Soul", "The Knight Of Shallot") seem to work well for fiction, as long as they don't appear too contrived.
Whenever in doubt, remember that a bizarre title is better than a faceless one. I mean, would you rather read Japan at War or I Was Kamikaze?
Personally, I love Philip K Dick's quirky titles:
I'd love to author something equally unforgettable. My publisher, though, insists they don't work well on book spines.
Murder @ Play
EVERY MARRIAGE NEEDS A TOUCH OF MYSTERY. OR DOES IT?
In the new free South Africa of 1994, men are still boss, women carry handguns for self-protection and some mistakes can change your life forever. When a body is found during their weekend away with friends, Christine Chamberlain must use her brilliant mathematical mind to prove her husband’s innocence...
... whether he’s innocent or not.
When it comes to your loved ones, is it possible to know too much?
Daniel punched in Christine's number as soon as he got off the aeroplane at Johannesburg International Airport. He was aware of the looks he drew. Admiration from the women, envy from the men. All because of his cellular phone, the latest technological trump in the game of Show Off Your Business Status.
"Hi, Tom," he said into the brick-sized phone.
Damn it! He didn't want to speak to Christine's husband, not today of all days.
"Daniel." It was an acknowledgement, not an invitation. "I'll get Christine for you."
One of his fellow passengers bumped into Daniel's briefcase.
"Hello, Christine. Are we still on for lunch today?"
"You're back? I thought you'd still be in Hong Kong."
"I managed to get an earlier flight." He didn't mention he cut the trip short in order to make it to their regular lunch date. "I tried to call–"
Please don't say you have other plans.
"No problem. Same time, same place?"
He refused to have his good mood spoilt by the you're-on-my-time look of the passport control officer.
"Your passport, please? Thank you." The official stamp fell in a sausage-machine gesture. "Welcome home. Next!"
Daniel jammed the passport into his pocket and headed towards the green customs exit. With more nonchalance than needed, he swung his overnight bag past the crowd gathered around the conveyor belt. One of the customs officials stifled a yawn, rubbed his eyes, and signalled for Daniel to stop.
"You've just arrived from…?"
"Hong Kong," Daniel kept his face calm and relaxed. It was easy, because his whole body felt awake, not only because his internal clock showed midday even though it was six A.M. South African time.
"You don't have much luggage." It was a question, even if it didn't sound like one.
The official laughed and waved him through.
Daniel waited until he was in the parking lot before he exhaled.
His phone rang just as he was loading the suitcase, with the contraband, into his car. Alice's number. He sent it straight into voicemail.
"Hi," he heard the throaty voice. "I hope you've had a wonderful trip." The words sounded artificial somehow, as though
she had rehearsed in front of the mirror. "Please call me back when you get this." A pause, then a quick, "It's important."
Important, sure. Important to her. In her world, it was always Alice, Alice, Alice. She was the axel–what she thought, what she felt, what she wanted–and everything else revolved around her needs.
The Porsche yielded to his touch like a loving woman should. A loving woman…. It had been a while. Nobody since Alice, in fact. Why was that? Was he losing his charm? Getting old? Twenty-six already. Even without glancing in the rear-view mirror he knew his face was still that of a naughty boy, with smooth skin and sharp cheekbones. He tensed his abdomen muscles with satisfaction.
So, what is it?
Deep down, though, he knew well enough. He'd had a loving woman, once, long ago, and he had let her walk out on him. Today, though, today he was going to tell her. During their regular lunch date.
PRAISE FOR “MURDER @ WORK”:
"A great read. Very witty. Very fresh."
"An insight into South Africa without being bogged down with facts."
“... a very hard book to put down, and is a great weekend read. The chapters are short and you quickly make progress. The characters are engaging, and well constructed, the plot is more complex than it first seems, and it will have you guessing until the last page. “
Check out Yvonne here:
book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJpbOiFkPkU
buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Play-ebook/dp/B003CT30GC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=A3QI763M62X7GQ&s=books&qid=1274234575&sr=1-2
Yvonne will be visiting blogs Today - March 4 and will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to the host with the most comments and to a randomly drawn commenter. So come on guys! Start commenting away! Ask questions, leave a comment, Say hi to Yvonne!
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