Friday, April 6, 2012

Titles: How do you pick them?

Man, when they say "full-time mother" they aren't kidding. Lately the bug has been limiting his naps to 30 minutes at a time, and only about three of those a day. And the rest of the time, he demands constant attention. Even as I type he's fussing. ::runs over to crib::

::returns after entertaining the baby with his toy monkey and giving him a paci::

And yet, I've managed to finish part 2 of the serial novel, which is as yet unnamed.  Which brings me to the question of titles.

For The River and the Roses, the title came after a lot of deliberation, and while I think it's the best of the options I was debating at the time, I don't know if I really like it. It's long. It doesn't really say, "This is a mystery novel about a woman coming to accept her psychic ability." But I do like the gothic quality of roses, and I like the cover, which mirrors the title. So... I'd give it a B, I guess.

Broken Ones was tough, too. I wanted to address the emotional damage the characters are coping with, as well as make a reference to the several broken windows in the story (which are tied symbolically, of course, to the emotional damage). I also wanted a title that was original, and there are a lot of titles with "broken" or "broken windows" or whatnot. When I chose Broken Ones, it was the only book with that title that came up in an Amazon search, although since then more have popped up. But I wonder if it sounds too angsty, and maybe that's why people haven't been downloading it. I changed the (VERY) brief description I've been sending out with my "thank you for following message," though, and there have been three more downloads in a week, so I do think calling it "paranormal" was part of the problem there. It's very hard to capture what Broken Ones is about in three or four words, though, so the new description says "a novel of escape & survival of abuse." Which has a weird feeling to me, syntax-wise, and may give the impression, again, that the novel is angsty. Which I guess it is, a bit, but I wouldn't describe the narrator, Louise, as angsty at all. I think what makes Broken Ones stand out is her voice, which is very matter of fact. Louise has a lot of humor and she tends to see things in fairly cynical terms--she's not the "woe is me" type. Anyway, so I'd give that title a B, too.

Veronica in Paris is the best of my title choices, and it was totally easy. There was no debate. It was my working title, and it stuck. It gives a pretty accurate impression of the story, I'd say--it's about a woman named Veronica who goes to live in Paris for a year. Paris is pretty strongly associated to romance in people's minds, so the fact that there's romance involved probably comes as a shock to no one who reads that title. So, A for that one.

Anyway, so now I'm working on this new book, and the working title is the name of the city, Helésey, where most of it is set. Which isn't going to tell anyone anything about the book, and may even mislead them into thinking it's French in some way. It actually draws on Norse mythology for some of the culture, although I've altered a lot of aspects. I also draw inspiration from America and Italy in the 1920s, as well as Germany in the 1930s. But there's really nothing French about it--the word "Helésey" is an altered version of the name of an island in Norse mythology, and the city is on an island, so it seemed to fit. The accented e comes from the original word, too.

My main character is named Miadar, which is not a common enough name, I think, to put it in the title--I suspect most people won't recognize it as a woman's name at all, which isn't surprising since I made it up by combining the words for "honey" and "hair" I found on a site claiming to have words in old Norse. I have no idea if the site is legit, and it doesn't really matter--I often choose names for characters based on what they mean, but it never comes up for the reader, so if it only means something to me, that's okay. The first part of the novel revolves around a coronation, and Miadar leaving her home because she's summoned to Helésey, the capitol, to witness it. So I've thought about The Coronation as a title, and also Summoned. The former may work, but I'm not sure about the latter, although I like the idea of having a verb in the title. Summoned conjures images of magic and demon summoning to me. Maybe I've read too much urban fantasy. The second part revolves around a night out Miadar participates in, where she visits an illegal gambling hall (think speakeasy). So I thought about Invited, The Invitation or The Gambling Hall for that one, although I'm really not in love with any of them. The next part will have to do with a seduction... so The Seduction, perhaps. Seduced, maybe. Parts four, five and six I haven't worked out completely yet, but they will have something to do with a vigilante, and probably at least one debauched party, and a betrayal. The last parts (not sure how many there will be total) will involve fighting for freedom, bringing down an evil leader, finding someone who is lost, and escaping. It's fairly murky in my mind at this point, and I don't like talking in detail about stories I haven't written, but you get the idea.

I'd like the titles to all work together:
The Coronation - The Invitation - The Seduction - The Betrayal - The ???
Summoned - Invited - Seduced - Betrayed - ???
The Capitol - The Gambling Hall - The [location] - etc.

Or I suppose it could be something like: Miadar Summoned, Miadar Invited, Miadar Seduced, Miadar Betrayed...

What do you think? What makes a good title? How do you choose your titles? Are you satisfied with the titles you've chosen in the past? Do you think about parts of speech or other specific characteristics of titles when you're trying to choose one?

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