Post by Divides the Waters on Mar 9, 2008 20:29:25 GMT -5
I've always been fascinated with the power of a well-titled story. There's an art form to creating something that intrigues, captivates, tantalizes ... and still manages to say something meaningful about the story you're about to read.
I've had discussions about whether or not "the" is necessary in most titles, and whether or not series titles are beneficial or unnecessary. I would be interested in hearing some thoughts on the way you title your books, the titles that stick most in your head (whether classic or modern), and just what it is you think makes an effective or memorable title in general.
Post by Spokane Flyboy on Mar 9, 2008 23:22:28 GMT -5
Of all the series I've read, not one of them have a common title. Which just off the bat says that I've never read any of the Harry Potter books since they're all Harry Potter and the _______.
Though most of the books in C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series have Hornblower in the title except Beat to Quarters, Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours.
I've also read a lot of R.A. Salvatore and his books are generally grouped in trilogies despite being all the same series, with the most prominent being the Dark Elf Trilogy and the following Icewind Dale Trilogy (even though the Icewind Dale Trilogy was written before the Dark Elf Trilogy).
With all that said, I believe a series title is important for the fact that it links the books of the series, especially if you've published - or plan to publish - a lot of books that are not linked.
You may have separate titles for all your books and link them with a subtitle, which is a common method I've seen. The cover of Stephen R. Lawhead's Taliesin has "Book One of the Pendragon Cycle" in smaller font below it.
That series, also just brought up another thing to think about. It could be worded as a topic title of "What's in a name?" Stephen R. Lawhead's name is the dominating text on the cover, with the title's font being nearly a third the size. However, it is a reprint with a new cover design likely reflecting that the author has more note than his specific books do. R.A. Salvatore's name is the dominating feature on his newer works as well, and seems to get bigger the more recognized he gets. Eventually he may just stop putting titles on the covers because he knows people will buy them for the name on the cover.
In regards to the usage of "The" in a title, I feel it's a matter of how the title sounds with out it. I find The Magician's Nephew sounds a lot smoother than if it had been Magician's Nephew. The same could be said for sentences in your story; some sentences just don't sound correctly without it.
John Morgan[br][br]"There is a feeling about an airport that no other piece of ground can have. No matter what the name of the country on whose land it lies, an airport is a place you can see and touch that leads to a reality that can only be thought and felt." - [i]The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story[/i] by Richard Bach
Post by Divides the Waters on Mar 10, 2008 2:07:30 GMT -5
I've debated back and forth about giving my own epic fantasy series a title.
As it stands, the first two books are BID THE GODS ARISE and WORLDS BEYOND THE WELL. The next two, tentatively, are WARDEN OF THE GATES and SILENCE THE STARS.
This touches on a couple of things I already mentioned. For instance, I was going to title the second book THE WELLS OF THE WORLDS, but it was argued in my writers group that it sounded too much like WAR OF THE WORLDS. Then I decided to drop the "THE" from THE WORLDS BEYOND THE WELL, because I thought it was redundant and that the title resonated more poetically with the first book that way.
Then I thought of giving the series the title THE WELLS OF THE WORLDS, as it is a linking theme, or possibly (less interesting, in my opinion) THE GATEKEEPER CHRONICLES. I haven't fully decided on that yet; I'm not overly fond of any of the series titles I've come up with.
Going to Tolkien with the "the" discussion, I think that HOBBIT would definitely have lacked something in the long run. THE HOBBIT has a much better ring. On the other hand, is there any significant difference between THE LORD OF THE RINGS and LORD OF THE RINGS?
I rather like the Harry Potter/Indiana Jones titling system; it's a bit like the old JAMES BOND 007 in THUNDERBALL or PERRY MASON solves the case of the WORRIED WAITRESS. It just formalizes it a bit by actually including the name of the starring character in the title rather than simply giving it equal billing. That having been said, I could never give any of my own stories titles like that ... perhaps because none of my characters are that iconic, and most of my "adventures" tend towards deeper themes.
I know what you mean about "what's in a name?" Danielle Steel novels have virtually no cover art; just her name in HUGE font, then the title in a font about half to a third the size. Stephen King, same thing. But these authors all earned the right to have their name be the selling point by simply being who they are. If I were to do the same thing with my own novel, for instance, people would quite reasonably ask who this young upstart is that thinks he can sell a book by the strength of his unknown name.
Titles. Must be my weakest point. I have so much trouble coming up them, but, as no one will read a book without one since they'd never know how to find in online, they all must have them.
One project I'm working on now has two titles, both just working titles. It will either be The Fallen One or The Unchosen. And considering that the character this refers to is not the protagonist, I don't know that I may not have to change the title altogether. It may become something to do with the Tri-throne of Glenharrow or some such nonsense. It's still shaking out.
The science fiction series I"m working on all have their titles, and I only have the first dozen or so pages even written. This trilogy is, in order Redemption, Redemption's Promise, and Beyond Redemption.
I personally like titles that play on words, which is why I really like the title on my book that's about to be released (shameless advertising here, beware). It's non-fiction, but it's main title is Caste Aside. The subtitle is "Hope for Orphans from the Heart of India" and knowing that gives all sorts of layered meanings to the title. When I see things like that on the shelf, I'm naturally drawn to them, even if I don't end up reading all of them. They do get my attention.
As for some of the rest of my stuff, well, lets just say most of my working titles will not end up as the final thing. They just start out too lame or end up having nothing to do with the final product and then I have to come up with something new.
If you learn a secret to doing this title thing really well, please share. I need all the help I can get.
I actually saw something on TV recently about titling books. I can't remember what the show was or even when it was that I saw it but they were talking about titles nonetheless.
It was really interesting how authors and publishers go about this process. Some the author picked. Some the publisher insisted on. Some they collaborated on. And then one author couldn't decide between two different titles for the book and they asked the reporter to pick one. He liked both titles equally so the author and publisher are doing something completely new: releasing one book with two titles (and completely different cover art too) at the same time. Should be interesting to watch sales and reception on that idea (really wish I could remember some details to share with everyone but I'm sure you'll hear about it).
I just started reading All Creatures Great And Small by James Herriott. I noticed on his "Other Books by James Herriott" list that all of his books derive their titles from a different line of a favorite poem of his, which he conveniently included after dedication page.
I know my teachers always taught to wait until the story/essay/novel is completed before giving it a title that resonates with the entire piece. However, I'm ignoring them completely at least once more with the series of fantasy tales I have planned. The series will be "The Weapons of Our Warfare" or somesuch with each book in the series being a one- or three-word descriptor of what weapon is detailed (e.g. "Sword" or "Sword and Spear" respectively). I've yet to make a final decision on that and I'm open to suggestions, either now or from some publisher some day.
I know most teachers taught that about naming after it was done; nice idea when it works. Caste Aside was a lonely little title before it ever became the book it is. And some of my stuff, even after it's written, I don't know what to call it. So, I don't think there's any right or wrong way, I think you just do what works for that particular project at that particular time. But as I've already stated, I need help in this area, so I'm probably not the one to ask.
I like the Weapons of our Warfare thing, though. Brings the reader right into it as a participant. Cool.
Titles are not my strong point either. I'm trying to create a detective series so maybe the old "Perry Mason" trick will work for me.
[url=http://www.firstsalvo.com/][img]http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/6263/tsumibar2na3.png[/img][/url]_______________________[br]Check out my WIP's at [url]http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/user_id/kouter[/url]
Post by Divides the Waters on Mar 11, 2008 22:35:47 GMT -5
The title comes when the title comes. I came up with the title for the first novel about midway through the rewrite. Likewise, the title for the second came several chapters into it. I think there's a kind of literary arrogance that says you can't possibly know where you're going until you've gotten there. While some people can be stuck with a title that no longer fits because they have changed their concept since the titling, I honestly don't think that happens nearly as often as these people would have us believe.
Some people have a gift for titling. In fact, sometimes that's their primary gift. I used to work with a person in publishing who would come up with amazing titles--mostly for nonfiction, but not exclusively. He would literally sell the book to committee based on the title alone (and the concept it suggested). Then he'd go out and try to find an author who could write a book to that title.
Other people, like me, are pretty awful at titling. I titled my first (and forever unpublished) full ms. as the very last words in the rough draft. I liked how they sounded. I realized later that it was a terrible title that gave completely the wrong impression not only about the story but about even the genre. Duh.
But I wouldn't worry too much about this. Publishers have a meeting every publishing season to sit down and think about the title and subtitle or series title (if any) of every book they're about to publish. Some, they realize they have awful titles for and they keep working until they come up with something better. Others, they decide the working title is, well, working, and they leave it be.
Just realize that the publisher will have something to say about the title. So even if you turn it in as "Untitled" by "Anomymous," they'll help you out. They want to give it something that will help it sell well, after all. Contrary to popular belief, publishers really do want their own books to be successful.
Post by strangewind on Mar 12, 2008 15:36:36 GMT -5
Titles are rough, but in general, I like titles that have few words and a lot of meaning (at least a double meaning).
Terry Pratchett's Going Postal springs to mind. It is a novel about the re-establishment of a medieval postal service, a satire of the post office, the story of the new postmaster who seems to be certifiably insane, the old postal workers who are certifiably insane. There you go - at least four overlapping meanings are suggested by the two-word title.
None of the titles of Lewis' planet trilogy would pass muster today, except maybe the first. But I absolutely love "That Hideous Strength" as titile. A nearly meaningless title, converted into something very intriguing with the application of a simple "that." No, not this hideous strength, nor other hideous strengths in general, but THAT one.
I love obscure references to scripture, like "The Violent Bear It Away" or "The Grapes of Wrath" are good because, although they suggest biblical themes, they don't pound you on the head the way a novel titled "The Lord is My Shepherd" or "God So Loved the World" might!
Given that, there are titles that are bad enough that they turn me away. If it is a two-word title, two vague words kill it for me, but a vague word followed by a dynamic word (or vice versa) will do better for me. So: Rising Giants doesn't say much, but Barfing Giants does.
One word titles are really rare successes for me. I only picked up Perelandra because I liked Out of the Silent Planet. But overlong titles seem to be trying too hard i.e. "The Crazy Mixed-up Adventures of the Really Quirky Heroine with the Ironic First Name"
I love Confederacy of Dunces. I hate For Whom the Bell Tolls. I love A Clockwork Orange. I hate One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I love Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but hate The Great Gatsby. [As book titles, not necessarily for content.]
Speaking of long titles; as a kid, one of my favorite kid books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler. Two kids spend the night in a museum, on purpose, and the stuff they get in to. Great story for kids. So is A Wrinkle in Time. That's a good title.
I am having a real problem with titles in the writing I am doing. What I thought was a title for the book turned out to be a series title, leaving the book without anything. I never put much stock in what literature professors told me about writing because all of mine were so focused on the past that they thought there was nothing good that was contemporary unless it destroyed all literary forms.
There are those who say that no true story ever ends.[br]There are others who say that there is only one true story and we are all a part of it.
Post by Divides the Waters on Mar 21, 2008 11:00:44 GMT -5
Yes ... these are the same people who think that fantasy is useless as literature. I hate the sort of snobbery that says that unless you're mired in the nihilistic side of this world, you're not a real writer.
I really think that for those hard-to-title books, you have to look at underlying themes of a story, or else memorable quotes in the story. (The title from my first book is an example of both, but it doesn't always work that way.)
Post by waldenwriter on May 2, 2010 16:04:13 GMT -5
Since an author may have little or no choice on cover art, the title has to be good cause it is a selling point the author can control. I read that in an article. I personally don't mind the Harry Potter method; after all, Harry is the main character of the series. Plus, it is ultimately a children's series (targeted for a 9-12 age range)and children's books tend to have titles like that.
I don't think subtitles are as necessary for novels as they are for nonfiction. The most common subtitle I've seen on a novel is "A Novel." I guess they use that subtitle if the main title sounds like a nonfiction book. The "Book _ in _ series" subtitle is also used a lot.
Mostly in writing I just try to pick a title I like. My current novel is called Darkly Bound. I had intended that to just be a working title, but I'm starting to really like it. Short, catchy titles are supposed to be good anyway; for instance, Mein Kampf, which supposedly originally was going to have a longer title. (I'm having to do reading for history class on Nazis right now, which is probably why this book came to mind). A previous unfinished novel of mine was named Us Against the World, named for the song of that name by the Swedish band Play. I felt it reflected the sort of dystopian situation of the plot in which the four main characters are among the few resisting the encroaching of a fanatical New Age-based regime seeking to entrench itself in every aspect of life in London. (The song is actually about liking a boy and having friends to talk to about it).
So I think it's really hard to come up with a title, because it has to both sell your book and be appropriate to the content of the book as well.