Tuesday, September 20, 2016
WHY DID YOU NAME IT THAT? BY CHERYL PIERSON
Ask any writer where their titles come from for their work and you’ll get a thousand different answers from “It just came to me!” to “My publisher made me use this one.” As an author, I’ve had both happen to me, with several other scenarios for my titles scattered in between.
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In my first book, FIRE EYES, the heroine’s name is Jessica—my own daughter’s name. She needed a name that she was referred to by the Indians, and my daughter had told me years earlier she wanted her Indian name to be FIRE EYES. So that was a given. And it worked out great! That story was the one that the title came easiest for, of all my books.
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Fast forward to my first contemporary romance novel, Sweet Danger. The story takes place in a deli that has been taken over by a very dangerous escaped convict, Tabor Hardin, and his men. His hostages just happen to include an undercover police officer, Jesse Nightwalker, who put him away in prison—supposedly for life. One of the other hostages is Jesse’s neighbor, Lindy Oliver, who is the retired police commissioner’s daughter. They’ve just met and are minding their own business over a sugar ring when a hail of gunfire erupts and—well, y’all know how I love my wounded heroes, and Jesse is no exception. I had titled the story THE SUGAR RING. But I was told by my publisher that that title would have to be changed. Period. SWEET DANGER was born, and in retrospect, is a much better title.
Titles should stick with the reader, be memorable, and make readers want to know more about the book.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Who would do that?)
SWEET SAVAGE LOVE (Tell me more!)
SHANE (Who is this person?)
ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN (Who were they?)
NOBODY’S DARLING (Maybe mine?)
THE GATES OF THE ALAMO (I’ve gotta know!)
THE CHRISTMAS SPIDER (What???)
HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE (Maybe I can learn something, here!)
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (Did I live there once?)
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TALES FROM THE OTHERVERSE (Where is this place, and what are these tales about?)
LOST SISTER (Who was she and why was she lost?)
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Who was he? Certainly not who we thought!)
The list goes on—but you get the idea. I know right now you’re thinking of titles you’ve read that have stuck in your mind—and the questions they’ve made you ask about those particular stories or books.
And I bet you’ve seen a phrase and thought, “That would be a great book title!” I know I’ve done that plenty of times. I’ve even written them down. Now, if I could only remember where I wrote them!
Another fun way to come up with titles is through a title generator. There are several of these online. They even have them for different genres: Sci-fi, westerns, fantasy…you name it. But they come up with some real doozies! Take a look at some of the ones a western title generator came up with for me:
THE GUITAR OF THE AZURE
THE PLAINS OF THE SAGE
THE DEATH’S RING
WOLVES IN THE MESA
THE WILLOW AND THE HOLSTER
THE REIN OF THE DWINDLING SECRET
THE BIBLE OF THE WHITE HEART
RUBY IN THE CHURCHYARD
LIGHTS IN THE SOMBRERO
ANGEL OF THE FINAL LIGHT
These are mainly odd, funny titles, but the beauty of them is that they get your mind working in ways you might never have thought before—and adding and changing some of the words in some of these titles can make for a beautifully creative experience!
What are some of YOUR favorite titles, and why?